|Air Force Announces New Initiatives for Dispute Resolution |
Air Force Announces New Initiatives for Dispute Resolution
San Antonio, Texas -- April 19, 2001 (AFPN) -- New initiatives to improve the Air Force's settlement procedures, known as alternative dispute resolution, were announced during a conference held here April 17 to 19.
(From left) Harry Stonecipher, Boeing Company president and chief operating officer; Joseph Diamond, Air Force program executive officer for weapons; Brig. Gen. Jerald Stubbs, Air Force Materiel Command staff judge advocate; and John Janecek, Air Force deputy general counsel for acquisition, discuss alternative dispute resolution during a conference in San Antonio. The conference was sponsored by the National Defense Industrial Association.
Photo by Rolando Gomez
Joseph G. Diamond, Air Force program executive officer for weapons, made the announcement on behalf of Darleen A. Druyun, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition and management, during the National Defense Industrial Association-sponsored conference.
The new initiatives are:
- Contractor past performance: The Air Force is amending current guidance to reward contractors who timely identify and resolve issues.
- Reporting requirements: During major program reviews of certain weapon systems, program offices must identify any issues pending more than 12 months to determine if ADR can speed up the resolution.
- Settlement funding: The Air Force intends to create a pilot program to fund settlements less than $10 million. This will help speed up and settle small issues before they grow into major disputes and adversely impact other programs.
- Increase access to the judgement fund: The Air Force plans to work with the office of the secretary of defense to reintroduce an initiative giving greater access to the judgment fund for ADR-related contract settlements.
- Joint training: The Air Force is challenging industry to take a leading role to develop joint negotiations and ADR training. This will ensure both industry and Air Force workforces get additional tools and knowledge to solve issues in a "win-win" manner.
- Recognition program: The Air Force plans to recognize Air Force and industry people and organizations for their contributions to the Air Force ADR program.
- Promote a uniform use of ADR in the Defense Department: The Air Force will work with OSD and the military branches to fund support costs associated with implementing Department of Defense ADR programs.
The Air Force adopted an "ADR First" policy in 1999 as an alternative to litigation. ADR uses a variety of processes such as mediation, neutral case evaluation, arbitration, settlement conferences and consensus building. These processes are increasingly being used by courts, businesses and government agencies across the country.
Since adopting the policy, the program has had a four-fold increase in ADR activity with a 97-percent success rate. The Air Force converted 52 percent of appeals being litigated before the Armed Services Board of Contact Appeals to ADR, reducing litigation time by more than half.
The Air Force has made great strides toward achieving its goals and can be extremely proud of the accomplishments, but has more work to be done, according to Druyun.
Druyun believes these initiatives represent a significant change in the services of the Air Force's lawyers from litigators to problem-solvers and are changing mindsets. Examples of how ADR is working include two disputes between the Air Force and Boeing Company.
Two years ago, an AC-130 gunship claim was settled through ADR procedures. This was a 10-year-old dispute, three years into the litigation. Both parties agreed to use ADR and settled the case in six months. The success of this settlement demonstrated to both Air Force and Boeing leaders the value of ADR, according to Druyun.
When a major issue in the B-1 program arose, both parties again agreed to use ADR processes to resolve the issue. They successfully achieved this goal, and the dispute was resolved within months of reaching impasse and never went into the courts, at great savings to both parties, and to the warfighter, Druyun said.
"When you look at the ADR program, it really is a way to bring people together with a common purpose," said Harry Stonecipher, president and chief operating officer of Boeing Company. Stonecipher was a key speaker at the conference.
To help bring these people together, and take the Air Force's program to a higher level, Druyun wrote to the leaders of 17 companies that represent more than half of all procurement dollars awarded by the Air Force. She asked each company to designate senior officials as ADR champions and asked each corporate chairman to carefully select senior representatives to attend the San Antonio conference. Senior Air Force officials and commanders matched up with industry representatives and more than 330 people representing 79 major weapons system programs attended.
"This conference demonstrates that the Air Force is on the cutting-edge of using dispute resolution processes to make government contracting more efficient for all concerned," said Peter Steenland, Department of Justice senior counsel for ADR. "I hope other federal agencies will learn from the Air Force commitment and adopt similar programs."