Gansler Talks Defense Acquisition in the Obama White House

Gansler’s talk, though technical at times, helped the students who attended to better understand matters of defense. (Photo courtesy of smcm.edu)
Gansler’s talk, though technical at times, helped the students who attended to better understand matters of defense. (Photo courtesy of smcm.edu)

On Thursday, Jan. 28, the Honorable Jacques S. Gansler delivered a talk at St. Mary’s Hall entitled “Issues in Defense Acquisition for the Obama Administration.” Dr. Gansler served as Undersecretary for Defense from 1997-2001, and is currently a professor at the University of Maryland as well as Director of the Center for Public Policy and Private Enterprise.

After explaining national security challenges in light of the recent global financial crisis, Dr. Gansler detailed four questions for the Obama administration to consider in order to act decisively in a “fiscally-constrained budget environment.”

First, what goods and services should be bought or acquired by the Defense Department? To answer this, Dr. Gansler proposed a more balanced allocation of resources and increasing the “interoperability of joint systems.”

Next he looked at how these goods and services are acquired, noting the importance of cost as a requirement and making maximum use of commercial products and services.

Third, who acquires what is needed? Dr. Gansler distinctly emphasized the need for quality and quantity senior officials in the acquisition of defense information and services.

Finally, he said that the focus must be on the source of goods and services, or from whom we buy. Dr. Gansler advised the utilization of our defense industrial base. Fully realized, this industrial base would boast twenty-first century technologies, proving to be “efficient, responsive, globalized, and inclusive of the commercial world.”

In conclusion, Dr. Gansler reiterated our nation’s need for people with experience in filling vacant positions overseas. Our acquisition workforce is currently undervalued, he said; therefore we must ask quality questions more so than quantity ones.
Because of the complex terminology and detailed explanations, Dr. Gansler’s speech was suited to an audience of Patuxent River Naval Air Station employees and several members of the press; however, student attendees still found value in what he had to say.

Sophomore Marina Carlson said, “I think the most interesting aspect was that we had just heard the State of the Union address, so Dr. Gansler’s talk added an aspect that I’m sure many of us would not have considered after hearing his speech but that was nonetheless extremely relevant.”

Professor Michael Cain, Director of the Center for the Study of Democracy, felt that “for our students, the talk was a real eye-opener in terms of what people on base are doing.  Several students approached me and said it was great for them to know about acquisitions and its importance in national defense policy.”

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