Lessons in contracting

The Defense Department is enhancing the resources available to its acquisition

work force, including new policies and training that will help the department

focus on performance-based contracting.

In the wake of criticism from the DOD inspector general, Congress and

the General Accounting Office concerning wasted money and poor contracting

processes, DOD has started initiatives that will better train

acquisition personnel to deal with the commercial marketplace, said Stan

Soloway, deputy undersecretary of Defense for acquisition reform, testifying

before the House Government Reform Committee's Government Management, Information

and Technology Subcommittee last week. "They key is... our work force and

how well we prepare them for the challenges ahead," he said.

To emphasize the department's focus on performance-based contracting,

Jacques Gansler, the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition and technology,

will soon issue a policy calling for 50 percent of DOD contracts to be performance-based

by 2005, Soloway said.

"Part and parcel of [acquisition reform] will be our ever-growing focus

on performance — or outcome standards — rather than traditional military-or

government- unique specifications," he said.

DOD has cut its acquisition work force in half since 1991, but the number

of procurements and the value of those contracts has increased, said Robert

Lieberman, DOD assistant inspector general for auditing.

On Feb. 29, the DOD inspector general released a report detailing the

impact of the reductions on the acquisition work force and found that the

cutbacks have put added pressure on a group that has been ill-prepared to

also deal with changing regulations and the commercial market, Lieberman

said. "We need to get a handle on properly sizing the [DOD] acquisition

work force," he said. "We need to better understand what the workload on

acquisition offices really is."

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