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Air Force Materiel Command news service (Feb. 3, 2006): successful acquisition transformation tied to risk-based management.

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFMCNS) -- Many acquisition stakeholders say acquisition programs take too long, cost too much, and lack credibility. The consequences, however, are unmistakable: they result in the cannibalization of programs to cover other priorities, and they delay modernization. Ultimately what this means is reduced capability to the warfighter.

These issues were the foundation of an acquisition transformation briefing by Barbara Westgate, executive director of Air Force Materiel Command, during the command's fifth Sustainment Transformation Senior Leadership Conference. Headquarters AFMC hosted the event Jan. 26-27.

The Air Force is becoming unaffordable, according to Westgate. Fiscal realities of the Global War on Terror and domestic needs such as Hurricane Katrina relief are resulting in fewer dollars for modernization within the Department of Defense and Air Force. This environment is driving changes in the way the Air Force does business.

"As the Air Force addresses emerging priorities, acquisition has become part of the shrinking 'discretionary' budget," said Westgate.

In 2005, a Department of Defense-sanctioned acquisition assessment led to common findings, previously identified by the Air Force acquisition community, and to subsequent proposals. With the findings and proposals in hand, AFMC, partnering with the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Acquisition in the form of the Acquisition Transformation Action Council (ATAC), has created goals and objectives to transform acquisition processes.

"Our foundational initiative is risk-based management--we must change to a culture that meets commitments by managing risk and reducing inefficiencies," said Westgate.

She explained that risk-based management is assessing and making decisions about programs based on a calculated level of acceptable risk.

"We plan to develop multi-dimensional risk measures," said Westgate. "This includes risk associated with cost estimates, technology maturity, dependencies within and among programs and components, the workforce, and contractor skills or capability."

The ATAC has created six acquisition-transformation teams, each with a separate focus, to organize the work ahead. The teams' focus areas are acquisition-risk oversight, test and evaluation, program stability, program planning, and leadership buy-in.

AFMC is heavily involved at all levels on these teams, including providing leadership and functional expertise.

"Over the next six to 12 months we also plan to establish policy and training that will help stabilize our programs," Westgate said. "We will also focus upon two areas of oversight we feel will have much benefit in reducing workload in the program offices: collapsing executive level reviews, and streamlining the acquisition strategy process."

She added that risk-based management will require tough decisions to likely reduce the number of acquisition programs.

"Additionally, we are looking to reduce the development cycle to six years, which means we may have to trade off some requirements and hold them to subsequent spirals where the technology will have matured," Westgate said.

"But risk-based management will serve as the center of gravity for our acquisition reform," she continued. "We believe that risk-based management will move our culture from a 'conspiracy of hope' to one that is success-based and meets commitments."

AFMC hosts senior leadership sessions to gain active participation, leadership, and commitment from the command's senior leaders, conference planners said.

Scaggs is with Air Force Materiel Command Public Affairs.
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Title Annotation:Conferences, Workshops & Symposia
Author:Scaggs, John
Publication:Defense AT & L
Date:May 1, 2006
Words:518
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