Sen. Akaka: Workforce issues could stymie procurement reforms recommendations

SARA Panel final draft report

Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee questioned today whether the recommendations of an advisory panel – often dubbed the SARA Panel — could be implemented by an acquisitions workforce that is half the size it was a decade ago.

Members of the panel authorized under the Services Acquisition Reform Act of 2003 testified that the federal government's acquisition workforce shrunk 50 percent from 1996 to 2005. Meanwhile, the Defense Department has nearly doubled its spending on contracts for services, and the number of qualified employees available to oversee those contracts has dropped 25 percent in that period.

“The federal government does not have the capacity in its current acquisition workforce to the meet the demands that have been placed on it,” said Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) at a hearing on DOD contracting for services and interagency contracting.

Akaka asked whether the SARA panel's proposal for greater oversight of task orders valued at more than $5 million would require “more personnel and attention to manage” than the government can provide.

Responding to Akaka, Marcia Madsen, who led the SARA panel, said task orders worth more than $5 million are in the minority, and most orders are small enough not to require increased oversight.

In October 2006, DOD said it favored instituting performance-based requirements and measurable performance outcomes, which are two of the SARA panel’s recommendations. But DOD has not yet implemented those changes because it lacks resources.

“I'm not sure we need people to do it, but we certainly need to refocus the capabilities we have to ensure that gets done,” said Shay Assad, director of DOD's procurement and acquisition policy division. The department will introduce a workforce assessment model in March to identify the skills and competencies of its acquisitions employees.

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