GAO: Funding ambiguity hinders hiring

Senior defense officials say they often will opt to pause any new hiring to their acquisition workforce when they are unsure when their next funding stipend might come.

The Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Fund helps pay salaries for these new hires who can bolster the number of people handling the $375 billion Defense Department obligated in fiscal 2011. However, garbled processes and other question marks have left the fund just sitting there, the Government Accountability Office reported in a letter to congressional committees. The letter was released June 21.

Fund managers told GAO the delays in collecting and then distributing DAWDF money caused uncertainty about when future funding would come. That sense of ambiguity, along with revisions on how officials would use the money, prevented large sums from being spent and instead carried over to the next fiscal year.

For example, GAO said, in fiscal 2011, DOD’s comptroller’s office distributed $155 million to the DAWDF program, but $120 million—or 77 percent of the total—was not allocated until the fourth quarter.

Some money can linger for several years, too. Officials collected more than $700 million for the fund in fiscal 2009. Of that amount, only $96 million was actually distributed to the fund in that year. They later distributed $430 million in 2010, and the balance was not distributed until fiscal 2011.

In fiscal 2010, Congress put a January deadline on transferring the money, but DOD has yet to meet the cutoff date.

“DOD’s ability to effectively execute hiring and other initiatives has been hindered by delays,” GAO wrote.

GAO also has concerns with defense officials’ acquisition workforce strategic priorities and the fund. GAO said officials haven’t aligned the fund with their overarching strategy for building up the workforce, despite the fund being a key tool to support the workforce’s improvements.

To help, GAO recommended officials revise existing DAWDF guidance to clarify for all stakeholders when and how DOD will collect the money and how the agency should distribute and use it. DOD also needs metrics so senior leaders can track how the money is supporting the acquisition workforce improvement efforts.

The department agreed with the recommendations, and said revised guidance should come by Sept. 30. DOD will also continue measure changes and the impact on the workforce’s qualifications and areas needing attention.

GAO responded DOD needs to be as specific as possible with the funding strategies and metrics.

About the Author

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

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