Commission Co-chair Bashes Pentagon Acquisition System


China has a more efficient acquisition system than the Defense Department, which could put the U.S. military at a disadvantage in a future conflict, the leader of a high-profile study group said Nov. 28.

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Retired Adm. Gary Roughead, co-chair of the congressionally appointed Commission on the National Defense Strategy of the United States, said the Pentagon doesn't on-board new technology fast enough.

“The Chinese have adopted our rapid innovation [model] and we have adopted the communist model of how we process new capabilities in our system,” he said during a panel discussion hosted by the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C.

Defense Department leaders have identified China as a peer threat in a new era of great power competition.

Roughead, who served as chief of naval operations from 2007 to 2011, said bureaucratic red tape is hindering U.S. military modernization.

"Because of the processes that we have created, it is taking us far too long to get capabilities out into the operating forces," he said. 

Defense Department leaders and lawmakers have expressed similar sentiments regarding the Pentagon's procurement system. In recent years, Congress has granted new acquisition authorities to the department, and the military has created new rapid capabilities offices and other organizations aimed at speeding the development and delivery of new technologies to warfighters.

The commission co-chaired by Roughead is a bipartisan group of experts tasked by Congress to assess the Pentagon's latest national defense strategy. The commission released its report to Congress Nov. 14. The study warned that the United States could potentially lose a war against China or Russia due to a number of issues, including unstable military funding and readiness shortfalls.

Roughead’s comments during the panel discussion came one day after he and commission co-chair Eric Edelman testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee. During the hearing, Roughead said the $700 billion defense budget topline for fiscal year 2020 being floated by the White House would be insufficient to meet the military's needs. The Pentagon had been planning to receive $733 billion in 2020.

However, Edelman noted during the panel that the new report should not be viewed as a doom-and-gloom document.

"This shouldn’t be read ... as a cry that all is lost, there is no hope here," he said. Steps can be taken to address the problems that the U.S. military is facing. "Our adversaries have their own challenges," he noted.