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Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009 (S. 454) Signed by President Obama May 22, 2009

Posted by Stephen Abott in Analysis, News.

This week, the Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009 (S. 454) exited conference, passed both houses of Congress, and was singed by the president. As outlined by Defense News, the conference ironed out some of the major differences between the House and Senate legislation. Overall, the bill that made it through conference was weaker than the first version of the Senate bill. However, it does make a number of important changes to the defense acquisitions process. Below is a selection of the most important changes. 

  • Eliminates OSD’s Program Evaluation and Analysis directorate (PA&E), in favor of the Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office. The new office would have, along with its director, two deputy directors – for cost assessment and program evaluation. This would ensure that the program evaluation assessors would have independent and conclusive cost data.


  • Disbands the Cost Assessment Improvement Group (CAIG).


  • Directs the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) to “seek input” from the combat commanders (COCOMs). This strengthens the connection between those creating equipment and system standards and the war fighters in the field.


  • Modifies Nunn-McCurdy legislation. Nunn-McCurdy sets bounds for cost growth. If these limits are exceeded, under Nunn-McCurdy, the Secretary of Defense must confer with Congress to continue program funding. Along with the current statutory congressional reporting requirements, the conference bill’s legislation provides for the Pentagon to assess the “root cause” of the cost growth, not merely the importance of the program. Additionally, if a defense system breaches Nunn-McCurdy, there is a “presumption of termination” unless the Secretary takes positive action. When the Secretary takes such action and modifies the program to bring it within Nunn-McCurdy, the modified program must now seek additional “milestone approval”. Essentially, this would ensure that restructured programs have to meet normal program goals; program restructuring would no longer be used as a way to hide still-flawed systems.


  • Creates a “Director of Developmental Test and Evaluation,” and “Director of Systems Engineering.” The Director of Developmental Test and Evaluation is responsible, among other duties, for monitoring the individual services. The Director of Systems Engineering has a similar role on the systems engineering side of defense procurement. The creation of the Director of Systems Engineering is likely a way to increase the Secretary of Defense’s oversight over the services.


  • Requires the services acquisition executives to implement and report on plans to ensure they have “appropriate” developmental test, systems engineering, and development planning resources. The Director of Developmental Test and Evaluation and Director of Systems Engineering can assess these plans


  • Sets a requirement to pursue competitive prototyping. However, the bill allows waivers on producing prototypes based on financial restrictions and national security needs. The new focus on prototyping may lead to fewer unready systems, along with lower costs.


  • Provides for the conduct of new reviews on system technologies and program costs. The technological reviews ensure that decision-makers, especially in the JROC, know the status of a program’s technology before they green-light possibly unready military systems. It includes the requirement for the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to report on: “(1) operating and support costs of major weapons systems; and (2) financial information relating to major defense acquisition programs.”


The changes made in this new legislation do not completely overhaul the defense acquisitions system. However, they do provide for new prototype requirements, added oversight and reporting requirements, and communication between the services and COCOMs.



1. The Week That Was: May 25-29 « Budget Insight - May 29, 2009

[…] Quadrennial Review of Diplomacy and Development trackback This week, Budget Insight examined the new provisions of the newly-signed Weapon Systems AcquisitionReform Act of 2009 (S. 454). We also reported on the […]

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