Jan 20, 2023 | BY DAU
Dr. Bill LaPlante, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, and Jim Woolsey, DAU President, recently sat down to discuss LaPlante’s priorities and answer questions from the Defense Acquisition Workforce.
LaPlante explained that since taking over the job in April 2022, his role has evolved in part as a result of the emerging situation in Ukraine. He explained that technology development, sustainment, and production have all required innovative approaches from the Department of Defense in the modern era. Driving these changes for LaPlante is the same question: “How are we doing in getting stuff to the warfighter at scale?” Answering the question frames his three priorities.
The first priority is to “deliver integrated capabilities at speed and scale.” “We rightfully have celebrated prototypes and real innovation, but we have to finish the story,” LaPlante said. Currently, procurement and research, development, test and evaluation funding is increasing, but “what matters is fielding at scale.”
This leads in to the second priority: “Protect and sustain the force.” “The scope of the Acquisition and Sustainment portfolio is remarkable,” LaPlante said, ranging from renaming bases to chemical and biological defense, including working with the Department of Energy on nuclear weapons. “Sustainment thinking is needed more than ever now,” he added. Leveraging data sources and audits will allow the Department to find where money is being spent and identify sustainment issues that need to be addressed.
The third priority is to “foster a resilient and robust industrial base.” The defense industrial base is not just “the big primes,” LaPlante said. “It is many companies that we direct contract with … and all their suppliers.” As the Department makes generational investments in the industrial base, he is focused on rebuilding capability and capacity in a way that is well thought out for the future fight.
The Department can see each of these priorities every day in Ukraine, where the DoD is assisting in setting up maintenance and repair sites, executing training, and making new acquisitions. This has opened the door to the United States working together on joint acquisitions and production with allies. “The problem is too severe to not work with partners and allies,” LaPlante said.
“Most of our allies are increasing their defense budgets,” he continued, with priorities such as commonality, exportability, and interchangeability becoming more pronounced. LaPlante explained that similar equipment often does not actually translate across systems, or even seemingly interchangeable equipment such as rounds or firearms. “We’re going to be forced to make things not only interoperable but interchangeable,” LaPlante said.
“What you do is a noble profession,” LaPlante said in closing. “The future wars are being won or lost right now in the acquisition workforce.”
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