Official: Army contracting workforce needs more people

The Army needs more than nearly 2,300 federal contracting professionals to handle the service’s workload, an Army official said this week.

An Army analysis of different internal plans shows the need is greater than what a independent panel of defense experts concluded last year. The Army believes it needs to add 617 military personnel for the contracting workforce and 1,635 civilian employees, Edward Harrington, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for procurement, told the House Armed Services Committee’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee on March 25.

Meanwhile, a 2007 report, issued by the independent Commission on Army Acquisition and Program Management in Expeditionary Operations, said the service needed to add 1,400 contracting employees — 400 military and 1,000 civilian.

For the immediate future though, Harrington said the Army will add 131 military personnel to the contracting workforce and 347 civilian employees in fiscal 2009, and the service intends to increase its contracting support brigades and other battalions with 295 military personnel from 2009 to 2013.

A short-staffed workforce has been a weak point for the Army. Officials have found significant backlogs of work and as many as 600,000 completed contracts that have not been closed out in the contract management system. Harrington said the primary cause is the Army’s decision to drop 25 percent of its workforce in recent years even though the Army has had a 500 percent increase in its contract transaction workload.

As it rebuilds its workforce, the Army is establishing ways to get military contracting officers and noncommissioned officers to begin their careers in the acquisition field two to three years earlier. It will give the Army more contracting personnel and more time to develop their expertise, Harrington said.

“Shaping the right size and mix of the workforce is challenging,” he said.

About the Author

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

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