Leaked testimony shows Sec. Gates prepared to criticize Pentagon procurement

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Defense Secretary Robert Gates will criticize Pentagon procurement at a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday, according to advance draft testimony obtained by PaperTrail.

“Chief among institutional challenges facing the department is acquisitions — broadly speaking, how we acquire goods and services and manage the taxpayers’ money,” Gates states in his draft testimony. “The economic crisis makes the problem even more acute.”

He outlines some areas for reform, such as providing better incentives for contract performance and more competition, but states that he thinks the problems run deep and will take time to correct. “Since the end of World War II, there have been nearly 130 studies on these problems — to little avail,” Gates wrote. “I mention all this because I do not believe there is a silver bullet, and I do not think the system can be reformed in a short period of time.”

He has mentioned some of his ideas before. In his draft testimony, Gates will say, “I will pursue greater quantities of systems that represent the ‘75 percent’ solution instead of smaller quantities of ‘99 percent,’ exquisite systems.” He had earlier written, for Foreign Affairs, of the need to shift to solutions that might not be perfect, but good enough, especially in times of conflict.

And he will acknowledge that he deferred some procurement choices he thought better left to his successor in the Obama administration.

“As I focused on the wars these past two years, I ended up punting a number of procurement decisions that I believed would be more appropriately handled by my successor and a new administration,” the testimony reads. “Well, as luck would have it, I am now on the receiving end of those kicks.”

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