GAO: DOD knows little about its acquisition employees

Defense Department officials know little about their acquisition workforce’s makeup, which creates problems when analyzing their employees and contractors, according to a report.

DOD also doesn’t have information on why it turns to contractors for support. That limits its ability to determine when contractors are the best choice to back up the government acquisition employees, according to a report by Government Accountability Office released March 25.

To find gaps in the workforce, officials can compare the number and the skills of their department's employees with what it needs; however, DOD doesn’t really know what it has and what it needs, GAO also found.

The department’s Office of the Under Secretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics is currently assessing the skills of its current workforce. Although GAO calls that useful, it also said the review still won’t give insight on the size and composition of the workforce and the employees’ skills. GAO recommended DOD officials begin regularly collecting detailed information on its employees, which would help to know where to shift the department's resources.

Ashton Carter, President Barack Obama’s nominee for undersecretary of defense for acquisition technology and logistics, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 26 that the size of the acquisition workforce caused procurement problems such as cost overruns and delays in projects.

Carter also said DOD needs to carefully examine whether it has become too dependent on contractors, given the current mix of private and public employees. The Senate has not confirmed Carter.

In its report, GAO recommended laying out clear policies on when to turn to contractors.

Many government officials and experts already say DOD relies too much on contractors, particularly for services contracts, and it needs to find a way to end that dependence. However, they also acknowledge that it can’t be done quickly or completely.

As result, one member of Congress is taking a simple route. Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) introduced a bill March 18, which would require the defense secretary to train members of the Armed Services before they are deployed on how to manage contracts and contractors.

About the Author

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

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