The DOD Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Reorganization: Insights and Updates from Ms. Dee Reardon, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Logistics
By Sharon Lo, Managing Editor, DTJ and NDTAGram
Section 901 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017 called for the Department of Defense Office (DOD) of the Under Secretary of Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT&L) to be restructured. The goal of the reorganization was to better position the Department to pursue the goals of technological superiority, affordable systems, and well-managed business operations.
A two-year process, the restructuring dissolved the AT&L office effective February 1, 2018. In its place, two new organizations—each with their own Under Secretary—were created: Acquisition and Sustainment (A&S), and Research and Engineering (R&E).
Almost one year after that change, DTJ caught up with Ms. Dee Reardon, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Logistics to hear how the restructuring is going and to find out what changes are yet to come.
DTJ: Thank you for taking the time to chat today. I imagine a reorganization of this scale took quite some effort—can you tell us a bit about the process?
Ms. Reardon: The reorganization was mandated by Congress and the Department took the opportunity to go deeper, realigning responsibilities and streamlining the new organization to optimize outcomes. The process began in early 2017 with the establishment of a cross functional team comprised of senior executives familiar with the AT&L organization, who conducted an assessment of each organization’s mission and responsibilities. This required the thoughts and inputs of many of our DOD stakeholders.
Organizations also conducted their own internal assessments to determine the optimal structure. Communication with the work force throughout the process was—and continues to be—a key component of the reorganization.
In August 2017, the Report to Congress Restructuring the Department of Defense Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Organization and the Chief Management Officer Organization in response to Section 901 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 was sent to Congress.
The Office of the Under Secretary for Acquisition and Sustainment, and the Office of the Under Secretary for Research and Engineering were officially established on January 31, 2018 in a memorandum signed by [then] Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan [currently Acting Secretary of Defense]. The Implementation Plan, which finalized the organizational structures, roles, and responsibilities, and realignment of resources for the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering and the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, was signed by [then] Deputy Secretary Shanahan July 13, 2018. The new A&S vision established by Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ms. Ellen Lord is that of a policy and governance organization, providing defense-wide enablers for acquisition and sustainment.
DTJ: How has your workforce responded to these changes?
Ms. Reardon: First, it is a credit to the workforce that the A&S organization has seen no impacts in supporting the National Defense Strategy and taking care of our warfighters around the globe. Ms. Lord made it a priority to consistently communicate and update the workforce, while seeking their input and questions throughout this process. The overall response has been positive, but it did require some flexibility. A&S is facing significant reductions in the next few years to its civilian and military target end-strength. A&S is utilizing all appropriate workforce shaping tools to meet this goal.
DTJ: Keeping on the subject of how this has affected stakeholders—can you tell us how the reorganization has impacted your relationships with partners in military/government and with industry?
Ms. Reardon: For Logistics, my portfolio greatly expanded and now includes Supply, Transportation, Equipment, Policy & Compliance, and Contingency Support. Likewise, my interaction with the industry has expanded in these areas. I attended the NDTA Fall Meeting, which was a great opportunity to meet industry leaders. My staff continues to engage with industry through NDTA committee meetings and other forums/engagements. What has not changed is the Department’s partnership with industry.
DTJ: A major objective has been to simplify business processes and, specifically, the acquisition process. Do you feel like that has been accomplished?
Ms. Reardon: We have taken a number of steps to improve the acquisition process and as the organization matures we will be monitoring acquisition outcomes to ensure the desired results are achieved. Improving the acquisition process requires more than just a reorganization.
For most programs, A&S has delegated acquisition decisions to the Services—giving them the authority to manage their own programs. As a result, A&S is transitioning to an organization focused on policy and governance. One of Under Secretary Lord’s key objectives is to rewrite the acquisition rules contained in DOD Instruction 5000.02, “Operation of the Defense Acquisition System.” In addition, we are looking to increase the use of Other Transaction Authorities (OTAs) to provide greater access to non-traditional companies and speed up the acquisition process for critical capabilities.
DTJ: What other benefits have you seen as a result of the restructure?
Ms. Reardon: The most beneficial areas to focus over the next few years will be in implementation and measurement of ongoing reform efforts from recent legislation. Since A&S is a data-driven organization, we will continue to use data to determine the effectiveness of existing and new policy initiatives within the A&S enterprise.
DTJ: What challenges have you faced as a result of the restructure?
Ms. Reardon: The most significant challenge of the restructure is facilitating a coherent approach to reform, while ensuring relevant equities are represented across the Department. We are addressing this challenge by engaging early and often with our counterparts through a collaborative process.
DTJ: The reorganization is supposed to be a two-year process. Where are you in that timeline and what’s next?
Ms. Reardon: Significant challenges to completing the reorganization are still ahead and involve the reassignment of the vast body of work from AT&L, including roles, responsibilities, authorities, and directives. All of these efforts must be formally codified and instantiated in law, policy, and regulation, while continuing to execute our daily missions.
DTJ: Is there anything we haven’t discussed that you would like to share with DTJ readers?
Ms. Reardon: A little more on the new organization. The A&S organization has three Assistant Secretaries: Acquisition; Sustainment; and Nuclear, Chemical & Biological Defense Programs. I report to the Honorable Robert McMahon who heads up the Sustainment organization. The Sustainment organization now includes two organizations previously known as Logistics & Materiel Readiness and Energy, Installations & Environment. So Mr. McMahon’s portfolio has doubled in size. Naturally, the new organization will have some growing pains, but we expect to see improvements in the acquisition and sustainment domains. I am excited for the new organization and look forward to working with industry as we continue to find ways to provide unparalleled support to our warfighters.
Ms. Deline “Dee” Reardon is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Logistics and serves as a principal advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment. She is dedicated to ensuring maximum readiness of weapon systems and excellent warfighter support. Prior to assuming her current position, Ms. Reardon was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Supply Chain Integration.