Lights of hope emerge from Capitol Hill
While the news remains rife with the crises and fiscal cliffs facing our federal government, all has not been bad for those focused on national security.
But first, let’s focus on the bad news, though not surprisingly. On October 1 – for the 12th time in the past 13 years – the new fiscal year began under an ongoing resolution. For those unaware of what an RC is or does, this means we have entered the new year of government spending crippled by last year’s budget and the year’s spending authorities. last. This not only means a reduction in resources compared to those planned by the Defense Ministry and the military services, but it also means that they – and the industry – are unable to start new programs as planned.
As experience shows, this portends inefficiencies in spending, increased vulnerability and risk to the defense industrial base, and delayed advanced capabilities for combatants. It is time and money that we will never get back and something that neither China nor Russia has to face. So, despite the efforts of the National Defense Industrial Association and many others, fiscal stability remains an elusive goal, but one that remains a core priority.
Despite neither defense credit nor a National Defense Authorization Act passed and signed, there are still some rays of good news in the ongoing legislative process.
First, the fact that annual defense legislation remains a two-party exercise bodes well at a time when we increasingly need a unified voice and purpose for the security of the nation. . Congress highlighted this bipartisanship when the respective armed forces committees challenged the White House and added nearly $ 25 billion to the defense budget. Both committees passed their versions of the NDAA by wide bipartisan margins, and on the House side also passed a broad bipartisan vote after easily overcoming an amendment to cut spending by 10%.
But bipartisanship is not the only reason for faith. Congress addressed several substantive issues of real importance now and in the future. The first of these in the House bill is Section 802, “Special Emergency Reimbursement Authority”, also known as the “Just in Case Act”. Co-sponsored by Representatives Anthony Brown, D-Md., And Rob Wittman, R-Va., The provision builds on lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, enshrining an emergency authority that “will enable entrepreneurs – in especially for small innovative companies – to keep their workforce intact and weather the crisis when they are unable to fulfill their contracts. ”
Such authority will reduce the risks and uncertainties that industry and the Defense Ministry face during the first days of the next emergency by protecting the foundation of the defense supply chain and its skilled workforce. and authorized.
Persistent concerns about the Cybersecurity Maturity Model certification program also caught the attention of Congress. While the need for a secure cybersecure defense industrial base is indisputable, the CMMC program continues to get a rough launch to include a reassessment by the Pentagon. At the time of going to press, we have not seen the results of the ministry’s 30-day internal review ordered in the spring, but that hasn’t stopped the House of Representatives from including the language via a shallow voice vote. to require the ministry to report on the effects of CMMC on small business.
The provisions focused on the Small Business Innovation Research program are also of interest to small businesses. This program, which is expected to expire at the end of fiscal 2022 if not extended, has been a driving force in attracting small, non-traditional businesses to the defense sector.
With a reported return of 22: 1 for every Defense Department dollar invested in the program, its expansion and expansion are priorities for the association. The Chamber saw the benefits of SBIR and included a big plus for the program with respect to special operations forces.
Additionally, the Senate version of the NDAA includes a provision to move more SBIR projects beyond research and prototyping to real capabilities in the hands of military men and women through the awarding of contracts. of “phase III”. It does this through the adage “what gets measured gets done,” requiring the Pentagon to collect and report data on Phase III scholarships to include: the cumulative amount of funding for Phase III scholarships; the number of award subjects for phase III; total funding required for Phase III grants by state; the original Phase I or II award subjects and associated Phase III contracts awarded; and, to the extent possible, an identification of the specific program executive board involved in each transition from Phase III.
In the same category what gets measured gets done, the Senate version also contains a provision, Article 805, which requires the Pentagon to produce an annual report on the five best and worst performing acquisition programs.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly for the future of the Pentagon’s operation, Section 1002 of the Senate NDAA establishes a “Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution Committee (PPBE). “. This commission will study and evaluate the PPBE process in order to make recommendations to modernize the way the department fundamentally fulfills its mission, including how it acquires the equipment and services that our combatants need to carry out their mission. With NDIA soon to be releasing a white paper on the process, this effort is timely.
For all of this, we should be encouraged by the fact that despite budget battles, lawmakers are still serious about national defense and doing better.
Wesley Hallman is senior vice president of strategy and policy at NDIA.
The subjects: Department of Defense