GAO: DOD not tracking acquisition employees

The Defense Department may be failing to issue periodic updates on critical acquisition staffing as required by law, according to the Government Accountability Office.

In a Sept. 8 letter to Rep. Terry Everett (R-Ala.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Davi D’Agostino, GAO’s director of defense capabilities and management, wrote that this data is needed for effective management of DOD.

“Operating without this critical information may result in flawed decisions regarding this part of the workforce and may put the organization’s ability to sustain its mission or function effectively at risk,” D’Agostino wrote.

The Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act of 1990 designates critical acquisition positions as senior military and civilian positions that carry significant responsibility in the supervision, oversight or management of DOD’s acquisition system.

Under Title X of the U.S. Code, the secretary of Defense must publish a list of those positions, and the services are required to ensure qualified employees fill them.

GAO attempted to get critical acquisition position information from several DOD components but received incomplete or outdated responses, D’Agostino wrote.

According to DOD, some information on critical acquisitions positions is available through the Defense Manpower Data Center, but this may not fulfill the statutory requirement, D’Agostino wrote. DMDC was not able to provide complete data to GAO or to verify the accuracy of the data it held, he added.

“Without maintaining and periodically publishing a list of critical acquisition positions…the secretary of Defense cannot ensure that key positions in critical programs are filled by individuals of sufficient expertise,” he wrote.

GAO recommends that DOD establish the method by which critical acquisition position information will be published, and review and ensure the accuracy of information submitted to DMDC.

In a response to GAO’s letter, DOD concurred with the recommendations. The department will begin posting a list of critical acquisition positions by the end of the year and plans to issue an updated policy on managing workforce data in November.

DOD has failed to plan for the succession of its senior acquisition staff and faces skills gaps, GAO Comptroller General David Walker said in testimony before the House Appropriations Committee’s Defense Subcommittee Sept. 7.

The department’s acquisition staff is stretched thin because of workforce cutbacks in the 1990s and increasing demands on the acquisitions system, Walker said. This has caused an over-reliance on private contractors to manage acquisitions, resulting in poor oversight, financial mismanagement and delays in developing critical technologies, he said.

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