The Department of Defense took the final preparatory step toward splitting the massive Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics in two distinct entities this week. Last year, Congress ordered the reorganization to address what it believed to be an urgent need for “critical reforms” to an acquisition system that “costs too much” and “takes too long.”

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 directed the department split AT&L into two under secretary offices: Research & Engineering, and Acquisition & Sustainment. But it left the decisions on the final structure of those offices to the department. On Tuesday, Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan submitted the final details of that reorganization, which will become effective on February 1.

Currently, within AT&L there are five assistant secretary offices, and 13 other offices and agencies, 12 of which are led by directors, and one led by a deputy assistant secretary. The new structure will retain the five assistant secretary positions (other legislation establishes the overall number of assistant secretaries in the department), and consolidates many of the other offices.

The Senate just confirmed the nomination of the incoming USD(AT&L), Ellen M. Lord, on Tuesday. After the reorganization takes effect, she will become the USD(A&S), and the USD(R&E) will require a new nomination.

DoD estimates this reorganization, despite creating a new management structure, will also reduce its headquarters management by 25 percent.

Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering

The new under secretary for research and engineering, who will be responsible for “ensuring U.S. military technical superiority,” will oversee two assistant secretaries as well as the Missile Defense Agency and the Defense Science Board. The two assistant secretary offices will be responsible for research and technology, and advanced capabilities. The ASD(R&T) will gain oversight of DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The USD(R&E) will “focus on closing the gap on current and emerging threats, and on driving… disruptive innovation.”

Of special importance to small businesses, the Small Business Innovative Research and Rapid Innovation Fund programs currently overseen by the Office of Small Business Programs will shift to the USD(R&E), as will the Manufacturing Technology program currently overseen by the DASD for Manufacturing and Industrial Base Policy. MIBP itself will be downsized to only industrial base issues and will reside in the USD(A&S) structure.

under secretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment

The under secretary for acquisition and sustainment “will focus on joint mission integration to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of the capability delivered to Warfighters, and the resources used to acquire them.” It will divide responsibility between assistant secretaries for acquisition, sustainment, and nuclear, biological, and chemical matters.  The latter office will gain oversight of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, while the ASD(S) will be responsible for the Defense Logistics Agency.

The USD(A&S) will retain responsibility for joint acquisition programs and providing advice to the military departments on their major defense acquisition program milestone management.

In his roundtable with Pentagon reporters, Shanahan emphasized the need for speed in the way the department develops new capabilities and delivers them to the field. He said he wants to “make sure that the privates of today are being supported as well as the privates of the future.”

This reorganization represents a massive shift. Do you think the DoD is up to the task? Start the discussion in the comments below.

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Tom McCuin is a strategic communication consultant and retired Army Reserve Civil Affairs and Public Affairs officer whose career includes serving with the Malaysian Battle Group in Bosnia, two tours in Afghanistan, and three years in the Office of the Chief of Public Affairs in the Pentagon. When he’s not devouring political news, he enjoys sailboat racing and umpiring Little League games (except the ones his son plays in) in Alexandria, Va. Follow him on Twitter at @tommccuin