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Defense Exportability in DoD Agile Acquisition Programs

One of the questions DoD acquisition workforce members often ask our DAU international acquisition faculty is, “should we consider pursuing defense exportability efforts in our agile acquisition…

Defense Exportability in DoD Agile Acquisition Programs


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  3. Defense Exportability in DoD Agile Acquisition Programs
Frank Kenlon (Prof of Int'l Acq, DAU/DSMC-Int'l)
One of the questions DoD acquisition workforce members often ask our DAU international acquisition faculty is, “should we consider pursuing defense exportability efforts in our agile acquisition programs?”

Our response is “yes, of course!” We’ll explain why in a bit, but first we’ll provide a short refresher on DoD defense acquisition exportability policies and practices to provide context.

“Traditional” Defense Exportability

The fact is that DoD emphasis on defense exportability in acquisition programs is a relatively new phenomenon.

The DoDI 5000.02 issued in January 2015 and the subsequent Defense Acquisition Guidebook Chapter 1, International Acquisition & Exportability (IA&E) Supplement include policy guidance and best practice how to implement defense exportability what are now referred to as “Tailorable Traditional 5000.02” acquisition programs in the current DoD Adaptive Acquisition Framework.

Based on our conversations with DoD acquisition workforce members during DAU classes, workshops, and mission assistance activities, there has been slow but steady progress in considering -- and in some cases actually designing and developing -- defense exportability features in DoD traditional acquisition programs. The proponents of defense exportability within the USG, DoD, and industry are also hopeful that the USG CAT Policy emphasis in this area -- plus the new JROCM policy on including “building exportability” requirements in JCIDS Initial Capability Documents (ICDs) and Capability Development Documents (CDDs) -- will provide additional momentum to DoD’s defense exportability efforts.

Defense Exportability in Agile Acquisition Programs

The DoD Adaptive Acquisition Framework mentioned above includes two agile acquisition approaches in which defense exportability considerations should be explored:

  • Rapid Acquisition for Urgent/Emergent Operational Needs (see DoD 5000.02 Enclosure 13)
  • Middle Tier Acquisition (see FY 2016 NDAA, Section 804)

There are both pragmatic and policy-related arguments for doing so.

Pragmatic Reasons
Previous analysis of DoD Major Defense Acquisition Programs (MDAPs) indicate that between 65-80% are involved in IA&E activities with allied/friendly nations and international organizations during their life-cycle. DoD international acquisition activities include International Cooperative Programs (ICPs), Foreign Military Sales (FMS), Direct Commercial Sales (DCS), Building Partner Capacity (BPC), Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreements (ACSAs) and associated defense exportability integration efforts.

Several well-known non-traditional acquisition programs – including Global Hawk and MQ-1/MQ-9 Predator and Reaper – were offered and sold to allied/friendly nations in support of Global War on Terror coalition operations. Moreover, coalition operations of all types tend to showcase new/modified U.S. systems and equipment urgently fielded in response to emerging battlefield requirements. In some cases, regional U.S. Combatant Commanders (CoCOMs) have been among the strongest advocates for sale of systems/equipment developed through rapid acquisition programs to allied/friendly nations directly involved in current operations.

Policy Reasons
While there are special Title 10 legal authorities that exist for both Rapid Acquisition and Middle Tier, many other Title 10 provisions still apply. “Major programs” must still develop a Title 10 USC 2431a-required Acquisition Strategy (albeit “tailored”) that addresses potential cooperation with and sale to allies/friends. Moreover, all acquisition programs (regardless of size or type) must assess potential International Cooperative Program opportunities per Title 10 USC 2350a and comply with DoD program protection policy, including cybersecurity, anti-tamper, and trusted systems and networks requirements.

Suggested Approaches
DAU’s current set of International Acquisition Career Path (IACP) courses recommends that Program Managers (PMs) of Tailorable Traditional DODI 5000.02 acquisition programs base their IA&E Assessment efforts on the contents of the program’s JCIDS ICD. JCIDS ICDs for new programs should describe the initial IA&E-related capability requirements established by the user community regarding future allied/friendly nation interoperability, acquisition, and employment in national and coalition operations.

PMs of Rapid Acquisition (RA) programs created in response to Urgent Operational Needs (UONs) and other Quick Reaction Capabilities should address IA&E considerations at the Course of Action Decision Point and, if appropriate, conduct a tailored IA&E Assessment during Pre-Development (consult DODI 5000.02 Enclosure 13 and DODD 5000.71 for process guidance).

DOD Component Section 804 Middle Tier Acquisition (MTA) programs – which are governed by both USD(A&S) and DOD Component-specific policies and procedures – should also consider establishing IA&E-related capability requirements similar to those contained in JROCM 025-19. Depending on the IA&E-related capability requirements established by the DOD Component, if appropriate, PMs should conduct a tailored IA&E Assessment as an integral part of Rapid Prototyping or Rapid Fielding efforts.

For those of us who follow defense acquisition trends closely, it’s apparent that there is a lot of senior leader emphasis on the importance of agile acquisition. RA programs have always had a high priority within the Department, and there are currently over 40 MTA programs being pursued by PMs in the DoD Components. It’s a reasonable assumption that successful RA and MTA programs will also experience a 65-80% international acquisition involvement rate during their life-cycle. Just like Traditional Acquisition, agile acquisition programs should also address building exportability as part of their prototyping, initial production, and fielding efforts.

For RA programs, CoCOM(s) (with Joint Staff support) should submit UON documents that take into account the principles of JROCM 025-19 and, when appropriate, address coalition interoperability and potential allied/friendly nation acquisition and employment of the system. This should be accomplished in the 'front end' of the RA process in DoDI 5000.02 Enclosure 13, and the DoD PM for the RA program should respond to the UON “building exportability” capability requirements accordingly.

By contrast, MTA programs are conducted by DoD Components without any direct connection to the JCIDS process unless they decide to make one (which appears to be totally up to the Component to decide). As a result, the Component Acquisition Executive – in consultation with other DoD acquisition organizations, as appropriate – should assess IA&E considerations, including “building exportability -- as an element of their Rapid Prototyping or Rapid Fielding program efforts

Final Thoughts

Some of you may be thinking, “this is supposed to be agile acquisition – won’t building exportability into RA and MTA programs take longer and slow down our responsiveness to U.S. warfighters?” Maybe, maybe not since:

  • The analysis required to adequately consider IA&E in any acquisition program – including RA and MTA programs – requires critical thinking and IA&E domain knowledge rather than lots of time and money.
  • The building exportability investment versus benefits “knee on the curve” for most programs (regardless of acquisition type) is generally easy to identify. After that, it becomes a resourcing issue that DoD senior leaders should address based on overall program priorities (just like other acquisition trade-off decisions).
  • Expending some building exportability effort (however modest it may be) is much better than ignoring exportability considerations altogether.

Most importantly, current PMs should not rely on their successors to “fix the exportability problems” after the system is produced and deployed, DoD senior leaders and CoCOMs want coalition partners to acquire it, and coalition partners want to buy it. This “kick the can’ approach is never the right answer.

Our National Security and Defense strategies both emphasize that allies and friends magnify our power. As a result, DoD agile acquisition programs should avoid focusing on reducing bureaucracy and fielding capability more quickly and affordably solely for U.S. warfighters. Past experience shows that most of the DoD RA and MTA systems we field will also be acquired and used by allied/friendly warfighters operating with U.S. forces to help achieve coalition objectives in the future. Let’s build in exportability today so they can fight with us tomorrow.

Until next time, Prof K