House panel links acquisition reforms to people

Lawmakers formulate recommendations to present to the House Armed Servies Committee for possible inclusion in future legislation

After a year of hearings, the chairman of a House panel on Defense Department acquisition reforms today said DOD needs help in how it hires employees in the acquisition field so it can build up its workforce.

DOD must develop new regulations for hiring the civilian acquisition workforce, said Rep. Rob Andrews (D-N.J.), who chairs the panel that the House Armed Services Committee set up last year. The rule should include “fair, credible and transparent” methods to bring in new employees. DOD also needs regulations on how it assigns workers and for appraising and rewarding employees' performance, he said.

“There is no doubt that the department needs an acquisition workforce that is as capable as its advanced weapons systems,” Andrews said.

Many of the common problems the panel has found in its 12 hearings since March 2009 can be traced back to employees. Andrews said DOD faces broad problems in managing the acquisition system and the process of defining a program's requirements. He added that DOD should make significant improvements to develop and motivate its employees to get the highest quality of work.

The department also needs a reformed financial management system and a system that is fit for the Information Age. He said the defense acquisition system has not kept pace with the changes in the market.

“The system remains structured primarily for the acquisition of weapon systems at a time when services represent a much larger share of the department’s acquisitions,” Andrews said, adding that the system isn’t designed for buying information technology.

Andrews said the Defense Acquisition Reform Panel is approaching the end of its work and it's beginning to formulate its findings and recommendations. The panel will report them to the Armed Services Committee and may be included in the fiscal 2011 or future defense authorization bills.

As the panel has worked over that last year, Andrews said only anecdotes exist about instances where the acquisition systems are working well or poorly.

“Even when real performance metrics currently exist, they do not fully address the question,” he added. “The panel continues to believe that real metrics are needed.”

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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Reader comments

Fri, Feb 26, 2010

I don't agree with an earlier commentor who believes that consolidating the workforce in GSA is the answer. GSA sings it's own praises, but I've found their prices to be only minimally competitive, the contracts and processes to be burdensome, and their support to be spotty at best. But the DOD agencies need to hire qualified people, not "numb bodies". I was applying and interviewing with Federal agencies for almost 9 months before I was hired as a Contract Specialist. I have 16 years experience and my specialty is IT procurement. During my job search, I was told by friends and family who are Feds that I shouldn't even bother applying to DOD postings because I was never in the military... and DOD only hires from the outside if you're ex-military. In the end, I was hired in a civilian agency as a GS-14... while a DOD agency offered to consider me for a GS-9 "development" position. Their hiring practices definitely need to be reviewed.

Fri, Feb 26, 2010 Steve Chantilly

The Democrats have an 18th centuriy solution to a 21st century problem. More bodies is NOT the answer. I am part of a group that was looking last week at the wide variety of acquisition management systems that so many government agencies have built to collaborate with industry solely for the acquisition of IT services. What struck me is how MANY systems there are trying to do the same thing, and how each imposes their own antiquated partial solution upon industry. What the government needs is a dominant alternative for acquisition that can support the whole Federal government. Good news! They already have it. It's called GSA. With GSA's e-Buy, most of these others systems, contracts and PMOs could be replaced at no cost! Before anyone spends one more dollar on more numb bodies, think consolidation. The country can affors nothing else. Before 17 different agencies spend money to upgrade their oen crummy systems, consolidate the money into making e-Buy more robust. Consolidate the acquisition workforce in GSA (and the National Business Centers for the sake of competition) to do more with less. Public servants who don't get this will be the end of our nation. We cannot think about growing government to solve problems. It not innovative; it's antiquated. If government did this, industry could consolidate and lower costs! That's how it works. That's how it always worked. How have we lost our way?

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