House panel links acquisition reforms to people

Lawmakers formulate recommendations to present to the House Armed Servies Committee for possible inclusion in future legislation

After a year of hearings, the chairman of a House panel on Defense Department acquisition reforms today said DOD needs help in how it hires employees in the acquisition field so it can build up its workforce.

DOD must develop new regulations for hiring the civilian acquisition workforce, said Rep. Rob Andrews (D-N.J.), who chairs the panel that the House Armed Services Committee set up last year. The rule should include “fair, credible and transparent” methods to bring in new employees. DOD also needs regulations on how it assigns workers and for appraising and rewarding employees' performance, he said.

“There is no doubt that the department needs an acquisition workforce that is as capable as its advanced weapons systems,” Andrews said.

Many of the common problems the panel has found in its 12 hearings since March 2009 can be traced back to employees. Andrews said DOD faces broad problems in managing the acquisition system and the process of defining a program's requirements. He added that DOD should make significant improvements to develop and motivate its employees to get the highest quality of work.

The department also needs a reformed financial management system and a system that is fit for the Information Age. He said the defense acquisition system has not kept pace with the changes in the market.

“The system remains structured primarily for the acquisition of weapon systems at a time when services represent a much larger share of the department’s acquisitions,” Andrews said, adding that the system isn’t designed for buying information technology.

Andrews said the Defense Acquisition Reform Panel is approaching the end of its work and it's beginning to formulate its findings and recommendations. The panel will report them to the Armed Services Committee and may be included in the fiscal 2011 or future defense authorization bills.

As the panel has worked over that last year, Andrews said only anecdotes exist about instances where the acquisition systems are working well or poorly.

“Even when real performance metrics currently exist, they do not fully address the question,” he added. “The panel continues to believe that real metrics are needed.”

About the Author

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

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