Panel finds contracting disarray
- By Matthew Weigelt
- Nov 08, 2007
A panel of Defense Department experts has concluded that the Army overworks and undervalues its contracting officers, and it has recommended that the service immediately make some tough decisions to fix its contracting problems.
Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, the Army’s contracting workload has increased 600 percent and spending on contracts is up 300 percent, said Jacques Gansler, former Defense undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, who led the Commission on Army Acquisition and Program Management in Expeditionary Operations. During a period when workloads and spending increased, the Army’s acquisition workforce numbers stayed the same or declined in some cases, Gansler said.
Congress legislated acquisition workforce cuts of 25 percent in the 1990s and the number of contracting employees has not increased since then, Gansler said. “It usually takes a crisis to make change. We have a crisis.”
Gansler’s commission recommended in a report Nov. 1 that the service raise the stature and increase the number of military and civilian contracting employees, particularly for wartime and emergency contracting operations. The panel said the Army should increase the military acquisition workforce by 400 employees and add 1,000 employees to the civilian acquisition workforce.
Army Secretary Pete Geren, who chartered the commission, said he first appointed the panel to look into contracting problems in Kuwait. The commission’s final report has a broader focus.
Geren said the service is learning and adapting as each new war tests it in different ways. The war in Iraq exposed seams in numerous Army programs, he said, the most recent of which is contracting.
“I made it clear that I wanted a blunt, no-holds-barred and comprehensive look at Army contracting, and that’s what we got,” Geren said.
Implementing the panel’s recommendations for stronger leadership and servicewide training could reduce fraud and improve Army contracting, according to the commission report. The report states that 77 of 78 open investigations of fraud in Southwest Asia involve the Army.
Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), Armed Services Committee chairman, said the commission’s report matches his views about systemic problems in the Army. A contributing factor in contracting abuses is a lack of people with adequate acquisition training, Skelton said.
Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.