Skip to Content

The FY16 National Defense Authorization Act (the NDAA): A Turning Point in Acquisition Reform.

With the Senate’s passage of the NDAA this week, we are approaching the finish line for this critical piece of legislation. This conference agreement undertakes needed reform, and the process leading to it should be lauded as an example of bipartisan cooperation across the Congress. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed that this process continues.

From a procurement policy perspective, the NDAA marks a needed alignment between acquisition reform and the new environmental realities our nation faces. The Coalition applauds the Congressional recognition of national security as a critical driver for reform that can be addressed only by increasing DoD’s access to cutting-edge, innovative commercial technologies to support its mission. In this regard, the NDAA includes a number of provisions designed to streamline the acquisition process and to reduce barriers to entry for those firms seeking to bring commercial innovation into the government space.   Just as important, the NDAA reforms provide the potential to reduce transactional costs (unnecessary overhead, administrative and compliance costs) for both government and industry.

Many of these positive changes are set forth in Title VIII, Acquisition Policy, Acquisition Management and Related Matters, of the NDAA. Although this blog cannot encompass a section-by-section analysis (N.B. that analysis will be provided to attendees at the Fall Conference), it is useful to highlight some key reforms of interest to our membership:

  • Reinvigorating commercial item acquisitions. The NDAA seeks to improve DoD access to commercial products, services, and solutions.   Sections 851 to 857 of Title VIII collectively provide an improved framework and reduced barriers to entry for commercial firms seeking to do business with DoD. The provisions will enhance access to cutting edge commercial technologies, grow business, and result in a strengthened industrial base. They also address head-on the imperative of increasing access to commercial innovation in order to maintain the technological superiority that has sustained our national security and supported the warfighter.
  • Embracing alternate processes to acquire capability. The NDAA seeks greater flexibility in the acquisition/transactional tools available to DoD to acquire capability, particularly innovative commercial technologies. For example, Title VIII includes language that provides for alternate acquisition paths to acquire critical national security capabilities (See Section 805), and a provision that makes permanent certain “other transactions authority” (See Section 815). The NDAA’s overall thrust in this key area reflects the view that it may be prudent to look outside traditional FAR-based procurement processes to streamline acquisition.   The NDAA also includes provisions that will enhance funding flexibilities to support investments in and access to innovation.
  • Reforming and streamlining acquisition regulations. The NDAA seeks to streamline acquisition regulations across the DoD. The goal here is to reduce/eliminate unnecessary overhead, administrative and compliance costs imposed by the current FAR- and DFARS-based procurement system. Streamlining acquisition regulations has great potential to save transactional costs, increase capability, and enhance access to commercial innovation. Of particular note, Section 809 directs DoD to establish an advisory panel that will focus on streamlining acquisition regulations, somewhat analogous to the Section 800 Panel, whose report laid the groundwork for the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act.

The NDAA Conference Report can be found here. You can hear more about acquisition reform on the Hill on October 22nd at the Coalition’s Fall Conference, Acquisition Reform – Assessing the Impact on Business Opportunities. Jon Etherton of Etherton and Associates will be moderating a panel of experts from Capitol Hill that will focus on Congressional acquisition reform efforts. To learn more about the Fall Conference agenda please click here.


Roger Waldron



Back to top