The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee this week will explain how he wants to change the way the Pentagon buys weapons, in an effort to build on last year's reforms.
Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, will speak about acquisition reform proposals and his new reform bill during an event at the Brookings Institute on Tuesday.
Thornberry has previously said that he plans to introduce a bill, get input from lawmakers, the industry and the Pentagon, and then wrap finalized language into the annual defense policy bill that Congress will consider later this year.
At a hearing last month, Thornberry talked about the need to ensure procurement programs start on the right foot and that officials get early phases right to avoid cost overruns and delays down the road.
He's also talked about the need for the military to be more innovative, and to understand that some investments will result in failures if researchers are really pushing the envelope.
"One goal I have this year is to encourage more experimentation and prototyping," Thornberry said during an event at the National Press Club in January. "Today, it's hard to get money for experimentation without being attached to a program of record, and programs of record seem to be sacrosanct because once they get started, they hardly ever get stopped."
"I want to look for ways to foster experimentation and prototyping both in developing the technology and in their application and ensure that only mature technology goes into production," he said.
Justin Johnson, an analyst with the Heritage Foundation, said he expects Thornberry's plan for fiscal 2017 to make changes to how the Pentagon contracts for services as opposed to things.
"A lot of reform efforts in Congress in the past couple years have been focused on major defense programs, hardware, much less on services, even though half of what the Pentagon buys is services," he said. "That's likely to be at least some part of it."
Johnson also said he expected Thornberry to continue with efforts to streamline and simplify the acquisition process. Service officials have called for making the process simpler to get new technology into soldiers' hands faster, which is even more important when technology evolves so rapidly. If the process is too slow, new equipment could be outdated by the time it gets to the field.
Thornberry's counterpart in the Senate, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has also said he is committed to speeding up how quickly new technology reaches the military.
While Thornberry has promised to work through the tangled process methodically, Johnson said McCain has taken a "much more aggressive effort" to push big changes through.
"I think we'll see the same thing this year. Thornberry, he's thinking about this as a six-year project," Johnson said. "McCain is thinking that this may be his last year as chairman of the [Senate Armed Services Committee.] I think he'll be swinging for the fences."
The two spearheaded changes in the fiscal 2016 National Defense Authorization Act that gave service chiefs a bigger role in acquisition projects in the hopes that it would increase accountability and allow the end-user a greater say in the early stages of procurement.
Johnson said it's too early to gauge if last year's changes have had a positive impact since the services are just beginning to implement them.
In one example of service chiefs being more involved in the acquisition process, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley will now attend weekly oversight meetings, Defense News reported. The change will allow Milley to play a key role in decisions like requirements drafting and budgeting.