WASHINGTON U.S. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry introduced a second batch of legislative proposals on Tuesday aimed at speeding up how the Pentagon buys weapons and making it easier for firms to retain their intellectual property.
Thornberry’s legislation follows an initial batch of reforms enacted last year with the 2016 annual defense policy bill, and continues efforts to make weapons programs more transparent.
The proposals are aimed at simplifying the convoluted U.S. Defense Department acquisition process, with a big push to fund more experimentation and prototyping of new weapons, while driving to get new technologies into the hands of troops faster.
Many big weapons programs are over budget and behind schedule, although Pentagon officials say changes undertaken since 2009 are starting to have a positive impact.
The new legislation aims to shorten the time it takes from the start of the design phase of a new program until a military service can start using a new weapon in combat to five-to-six years from around nine year currently, the staff said.
The bill requires all weapons systems to have “open systems architectures” that will allow the services to hold competitions for more components, and carry out quicker upgrades as new technologies are developed.
It authorizes the Air Force, Army and other military services to use certain funding to pay for prototype upgrades of components and to develop technology faster.
The bill also seeks to end a controversy about how the Pentagon treats private companies’ intellectual property that has made non-traditional suppliers reluctant to do business with the U.S. military and its complex defense acquisition rules.
Instead of automatically giving the government broad rights to control intellectual property rights that are jointly funded by industry and government, the bill would mandate that such arrangements would have to be negotiated between the parties.
The legislation would also continue a push to make the military services more responsible and accountable for weapons programs, requiring them to begin overseeing milestone decisions for joint programs after Oct. 1, 2019.
The bill also requires the secretary of defense, or his staff, to fix the costs and expected fielding date for new weapons programs, and then hold the services accountable for meeting those targets.
To ensure more transparency, the bill also calls for creation of an acquisition scorecard that would compare program cost estimates with those submitted by independent estimators.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Paul Tait)