Normally hosted live from the DAU campus in Huntsville, AL, this year’s annual Acquisition Update was streamed virtually Feb. 17-18, 2021. The theme, "Acquisition 2021: Change is Inevitable, Transformation is a Choice,” is a nod to the last year of unexpected changes and necessary adaptations required for the DoD to continue their critical missions.
During the two-day event, Senior Government and Industry leaders briefed attendees on topics ranging from reimagining the workforce development to changing the way the DoD does business and hard, tactical topics such as cybersecurity resilience, DevSecOps and sustainment planning in technology development. Offering a little bit of content for everyone, speakers also discussed adaptive contracting in an agile environment, increasing industrial competitiveness, software acquisition, lessons learned by the Covid-19 vaccine and therapeutics operation in support of the Federal Response.
The event was kicked off with a back-and-forth conversation between Stacy Cummings, Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment (USD(A&S)), and DAU Vice President Frank Kelley as they discussed modernizing the DoD and speeding up the acquisition process, particularly through the lens of the Adaptive Acquisition Framework (AAF).
The AAF is an approach that empowers the workforce with an agile and flexible methodology, providing multiple revisions and comprehensive pathways to support different capabilities and promoting data usage to make informed decisions. Instead of a tailored milestone approach, the new program supports common sense, risk management activities while focusing on the fundamental needs of the warfighter. Cummings noted that, due to this novel pathway structure, the AAF better equips program leads and teams with an ability to reduce risk, lower costs and consistently meet deadlines at the speed of relevance, which ensures the DoD can maintain technological superiority, ensure systems are affordable and emphasize management of business enterprises.
During her conversation with Kelley, Cummings reiterated the importance of critical thinking, emphasizing the need to approach a challenge with purpose and a willingness to change so that takes mitigating and managing risks into consideration.
Cummings also stated that the revised series of DoDI 5000 policies reflect a new set of key tenets, which are significantly shorter and easier to use allowing the end-user to interact with the information in a tangible, improved way.
“My goal in life is that you never pick up a policy document and read it from beginning to end,” Cummings said. “I want people to go to the DAU website, look up DAU AAF … find the policy statement [that offers] the best guidance, the best lessons learned and … how a successful program manager or program team was able to use that policy to deliver capability to the warfighter at the speed of relevance.”
The format of the interactive AAF Cummings references allows acquisition professionals seeking information to better find information only relevant to what they need. Instead of reading through troves of policy documents, the interactive tool sorts relevant policy documents and peer-referenced guidance by six pathways:
This new approach to acquisition could not have a found a better champion than Cummings.
“My advice to the workforce, if you have an opportunity to do something new [do it],” she said during the annual update. “For me, those opportunities — while the hardest things I have done — have also been the most rewarding, challenging … the most important things I have done in my career.”
Cummings keynote address and conversation is streaming now on DAU Media.
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