Rep. Mac Thornberry will launch a new effort next week to reform the way the Pentagon buys its billion-dollar weapons systems.
The Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee is slated to release a standalone bill, a kind of trial balloon for coming changes, and hold a public hearing on the findings so far of a committee panel looking into streamlining defense acquisition.
Along with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Thornberry has waged a multi-year effort to rein in a sluggish system of military purchasing and development that produced billions of dollars in overruns for programs such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers.
This year, the acquisition workforce, cumbersome legislative requirements and further restructuring of the Defense Department's office of Acquisition, Technology and Logistics are all on the table.
The changes could affect how the Pentagon spends hundreds of billions of dollars. In 2015, it spent $274 billion on everything from buying major weapons systems to grounds maintenance.
Thornberry and his office remained tight-lipped about the details of the legislation, but he said the goal is making the department more agile.
"In general, what I hope to do is help the department run more like a business and be able to keep up with the changes in technology and business practices," he said while discussing the bill this month.
As in the past, the intention is to make the ideas public so the chairman and committee can get feedback as they work on the annual National Defense Authorization Act, which will set policy and priorities for 2018.
Meanwhile, a panel created by the committee and chaired by Deidre Lee, the former director of defense procurement and acquisition policy for the Pentagon, will give an interim report Wednesday on its findings about how the department can improve how it buys weapons.
Acquisition and controversies over ballooning costs have been thrust into the spotlight during the Trump administration.
President Trump this week criticized the "hundreds of millions of dollars" spent on electromagnetic catapults for Ford-class carriers and said he ordered the Navy to abandon the new technology for legacy steam-powered systems used to launch aircraft.
The president has also criticized the F-35 — the most costly weapons program in the department's history — and Air Force One acquisition for being too expensive.
Thornberry's bill and the House Armed Services panel findings could dovetail into a new package of House reforms in the coming weeks.
The committee hopes to complete a National Defense Authorization Act with the new measures by July and have a House floor vote before the August congressional recess, according to the chairman.