Doctoral student Zachary Huitink co-authors IBM report

Report, prepared with PAIA’s David Van Slyke, looks at improving Defense acquisition

Huitink,-Zachary.jpgOn November 10, the IBM Center for the Business of Government issued a report called “Beyond Business as Usual: Improving Defense Acquisition through Better Buying Power” that was jointly authored by Zachary Huitink, a PhD student in public administration, and David Van Slyke, Louis A. Bantle Chair in Business and Government Policy and chair of PAIA.

“This is one of the first full-scale examinations of the Department of Defense’s ‘Better Buying Power’ initiatives,” says IBM. The Better Buying Power (BBP) initiatives were launched in 2010 by current Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter in his previous position as Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. The goal of the initiatives is to get more for each dollar DOD spends on buying goods and services. The third version of the program, Better Buying Power 3.0, was announced in April 2015.

“Funding for public management research is limited and and the competition is significant to receive one of the IBM Center for the Business of Government’s small number of awards. That a project proposal submitted by a doctoral student was funded speaks strongly to the quality inherent in the work set forth by Zach,” says Van Slyke, chair Public Administration and International Affair. “The center’s praise for the ultimate report and the rigor and quality of analysis is a strong endorsement of Zach Huitink’s systematic and objective research. He is the first doctoral student in the public administration and international affairs department to receive this prestigious source of funding and recognition. I’m confident we can expect continued high quality research and analysis from Zach in the future.”

“I was honored to receive a grant from the IBM Center, and deeply grateful for the opportunity it afforded Dr. Van Slyke and me to conduct research on an issue with real relevance to U.S. national security,” says Huitink. “I am also grateful to the Maxwell School's Department of Public Administration and International Affairs, as well as to the Campbell Public Affairs Institute, each of which provided additional support for the project. Given the current pressure on the defense budget and the unprecedented mix of security challenges confronting the nation, maximizing the return both taxpayers and war fighters receive from each dollar invested in defense acquisition is critical. We sincerely hope our case study of Better Buying Power makes a contribution to this effort, as well as advances the objective of connecting scholarship with practice to address key public policy challenges.”

  • achieving affordability and controlling costs;
  • promoting competition;
  • providing incentives;
  • reducing bureaucracy; and
  • improving services acquisition.

For each core initiative, the authors examine the motivation for the initiative, experience to date and the challenges facing each. The report sets forth eight lessons learned about implementing acquisition reform.

Although Better Buying Power was launched within the Department of Defense, the report's authors conclude that there is government-wide applicability of the initiative. The report concludes with three government-wide recommendations:

  • Continue to pursue the idea of "agile" acquisition.
  • Maintain and enhance the focus on improving services acquisition.
  • Further the effort to build partnerships outside the traditional industrial base.