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The Acquisition Research Program publishes a weekly email newsletter, Need to Know, in which we highlight key developments in acquisition, policy, government innovation, and research—as well as the latest news about ARP events and research. We hope you enjoy the newsletter, and let us know if you are doing work we can highlight in future issues. 

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Newsletter 4.9.2021

April 9, 2021                                                                                                    Issue 50

Today should see the release of the President’s Budget Request, with Politico reporters hinting the DOD topline will stay essentially flat at $715—neither the 3-5% increase pushed by some DOD leaders and GOP lawmakers nor the 10% cut favored by progressive lawmakers. Two commentary pieces on the budget process provide context: former comptroller Dov Zakheim authors our top story arguing for reprogramming reform, and Bob Work, former DepSecDef, considers the legacy of the Budget Control Act and its lingering effects on readiness.

The other big news this week is that two more top positions have been nominated, and both by individuals known for being acquisition innovators. Mike Brown is picked to move from leading DIU to filling Ellen Lord’s shoes as the new Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition & Sustainment. At GSA, Robin Carnahan is slated to move to the top after pushing new initiatives with 18F, the innovative tech arm of GSA.

In ARP news, we’ve reached a milestone, delivering 50 issues of Need to Know over the past year. Thanks for reading and being part of the ARP community!


This Week’s Top Story

Reform the Pentagon's budget process, or lose our military and tech advantages
Dov S. Zakheim, The Hill

What do artificial intelligence, quantum computing, the Defense Innovation Unit and reprogramming requirements have to do with one another? The answer is, “Everything.” For unless both Congress and Department of Defense (DOD) seriously reform the manner in which they move funds from one appropriations account to another, the DOD’s ability to introduce new technologies rapidly will be seriously compromised — and with it, potentially, the nation’s defenses.

The development and fielding of new technologies involve a considerable amount of risk. Not all programs that are attractive on paper actually will succeed in the laboratory. Not all that succeed when subjected to developmental testing will succeed when put to the operational test. The earlier a potential cutting-edge program is determined unlikely to succeed, the sooner its funds should be transferred to a different program, via a system termed “reprogramming.” Unfortunately, congressional restrictions render it exceedingly difficult to transfer funds from one new program to another with any degree of alacrity.

As currently mandated, Congress permits the Defense Department to transfer only $6 billion from one appropriations account to another in any given fiscal year; of that amount, one third — termed Special Transfer Authority — draws from the Overseas Contingency Operations accounts. The $6 billion that can be transferred represents less than 1 percent of the department’s annual budget. The chief financial officers of most corporations have far more discretion when moving funds from one account to another.

Congressional restrictions do not end there, however…

Read more.


ARP and NPS News

Registration is open for the 18th Annual Acquisition Research Symposium
This year’s event will be held May 11-13, 2021 as a live webinar presented through Zoom for Government. Keynote speakers are Ms. Stacy Cummings, Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, Vice Admiral Jon A. Hill, USN, Director of Missile Defense Agency, and Mr. Frederick J. (Jay) Stefany, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition. Seats are limited. Register today!

NPS Announces the Graduate School of International and Defense Studies
MC2 Taylor Vencill, Naval Postgraduate School


Acquisition and Innovation

DIU’s Mike Brown is Biden’s pick to head DOD acquisition
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

Top Air Force IT leader has ‘mixed feelings’ about CMMC
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

USSF Unveils Space Systems Command’s Structure
Brian W. Everstine, Air Force Magazine

Commercial Interest Grows in Defense Innovation Unit
Jon Harper, National Defense

These white hat hackers keep finding new ways to help out the armed services
Tom Temin with Steve Blank, Federal News Network

GBSD Passes Integrated Baseline Review, on Pace for IOC In 2029
Brian W. Everstine, Air Force Magazine

Biden taps 18F veteran Robin Carnahan to lead GSA
Adam Mazmanian, FCW



“Missile Defense and Technology Warriors” by VADM Jon A. Hill, USN
Secretary of the Navy Guest Lecture, Naval Postgraduate School
April 13, 2001  |  3:00 pm PT



Space Threat Assessment 2021
Todd Harrison, Center for Strategic & International Studies



Class Deviation–Prohibition Against Using Fiscal Year 2021 Funds to Maintain or Establish a Computer Network Unless Designed to Block Access to Certain Websites
Principal Director, Defense Pricing and Contracting



Special report: Microchip security continues to confound Pentagon
John M. Donnelly, Roll Call


Defense and Federal Government

Biden to request $715B for the Pentagon, slight increase from last year
Connor O’Brien and Andrew Desiderio

The Defense Department isn’t meeting its readiness goals, report finds
Meghann Myers, Defense News

Naval Audit Service cuts still pushed by Navy Department, despite lawmaker opposition
Geoff Ziezulewicz, Navy Times

Commentary: Storm Clouds Ahead: Musings About The 2022 Defense Budget
Bob Work, War on the Rocks


Acquisition Tips and Tools

Using Case Studies for Professional Development

This week we’re giving Larry a break so we can highlight an acquisition tool developed by our very own Bob Mortlock, Principal Investigator for ARP.

Professor Bob Mortlock has been conducting case study workshops for members of the defense acquisition workforce for over two years, and he’s ready to expand them to new organizations. The case studies are based on real-world defense acquisition programs, so participants can learn first-hand about navigating the complicated decisions involved in managing acquisition programs. The greater acquisition workforce rarely gets the opportunity to read and study case studies, and this opportunity fills that learning gap. Members of the acquisition workforce can earn continuous learning points in a learning environment.

These workshops feature 6 hours of group discussion and directed study on a defense acquisition program. The Leader Professional Development (LPD) workshops allow participants to develop critical thinking, decision-making, resource management, and stakeholder engagement skills. The sessions also enhance communication between NPS faculty and the acquisition workforce, and highlight current defense acquisition challenges—enhancing the connections between acquisition research and education.

This year, Mortlock has already facilitated two workshops:

  • On 2 Mar 2021, BG Vince Malone, JPEO Armaments & Ammunition (A&A) at Picatinny NJ, hosted a Leader Professional Development (LPD) workshop for the 35 members of the JPEO A&A acquisition workforce.
  • On 23 Feb 2021, BG Mike Sloane, PEO Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors (IEW&S) at Aberdeen Proving Ground MD, hosted a Leader Professional Development (LPD) workshop for the 20 members of PEO IEW&S acquisition workforce.

Mortlock previously offered the following acquisition workforce development sessions:

  • Mar 2020, PEO Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI), Orlando FL
  • Feb 2020, PEO Ground Combat Systems (PEO GCS), Warren MI
  • Mar 2019, PEO Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI), Orlando FL
  • Feb 2019, PEO Enterprise Information Systems (PEO EIS), Fort Belvoir VA
  • Feb 2019, PEO Ground Combat Systems (PEO GCS), Warren MI

These acquisition workforce development opportunities have been highlighted in the Summer 2019 edition of Army AT&L magazine article entitled “A Chance To Think”.

Want to get your acquisition team into one of these sessions? Mortlock offers the workshops through a virtual, distance learning environment. Development sessions are modular and can be tailored to the needs of the hosting organization. The hosting PEO/PM offers the education to their workforce on a volunteer basis. Current cases available for discussion include:

  • Rapid acquisition – combat helmet program initiation and procurement decisions
  • Incremental development – acquisition strategy for missile development program
  • Decision making & stakeholder engagement – combat uniform camouflage effort
  • Defense Industrial Base – body armor/PPE industrial base planning
  • Cost estimating – missile development program milestone review
  • Adaptive acquisition/prototyping – combat pistol acquisition program planning
  • Shipbuilding – warfighter requirements and acquisition strategy planning

For more information, please contact:  Dr. Bob Mortlock, Colonel U.S. Army (Retired), Professor of the Practice, Program Management and Defense Acquisition, Graduate School of Defense Management, Naval Postgraduate School, Email: