Panel says DOD needs 'significant improvement' in managing the acquisition process

Better acquisition hinges on modernization, performance management and accountability

The Defense Department’s antiquated acquisition system and policies present major problems for DOD in fulfilling today’s mission needs and contribute to government cost overruns, a congressional acquisition reform panel has concluded in a recent report.

“The panel found that while the nature of defense acquisition has substantially changed, the defense acquisition process has not kept pace,” the report stated. “As a result, the Department’s formal acquisition policy has limited application to the majority of [its] acquisitions.”

To successfully reform DOD’s approach to acquiring weapons, services and other goods, the panel recommended “significant improvements” in managing the acquisition process, developing and incentivizing the highest quality workforce, improving financial management, and maximizing the industrial base.

A performance management structure that allows DOD's senior leaders to identify and correct problems and offer reinforcement would improve performance metrics, for which there is currently only “anecdotal information,” the report stated. To implement such a structure, the panel recommended the expansion of the Office of Performance Management and Root Cause Analysis to track organizations based on predetermined performance benchmarks, which would promote real consequences, according to the report.

DOD "leaders should be focused on identifying and addressing the acquisition systems strengths and weaknesses, not on second-guessing the programmatic decisions made by those in the field,” the report said.

Better performance management for the requirements process, on which acquisition depends heavily, also is necessary, the panel found. It expressed alarm over DOD’s ad hoc approach to developing requirements for the acquisition of services, as well as the “overly cumbersome” and inadequate approach to weapons requirements.

The panel also is pushing for more accountability across all aspects of the acquisition process, particularly for DOD financial management. “The inability to provide accurate and timely financial information prevents DOD from adequately managing its acquisition programs and from implementing true reform,” the report stated. It added that with 86 percent of government assets – with an estimated value of $4.6 trillion – DOD must maintain strong financial and business management.

Accountability in the use of contractors is also important for acquisition reform, the panel found, calling for better use of the broader industrial base and trustworthy contractors. DOD "is best served when it deals with responsible contractors. Contracting officers need access to accurate information on contractors that are known to be in violation of the law” in order to determine if a contractor is responsible, the report said.

The House Armed Services Committee commissioned the Defense Acquisition Reform Panel in March 2009.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

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Reader comments

Thu, Mar 11, 2010 Christopher Hanks

The new Weapon System Acquisition Reform Act of 2009 requires the SecDef to designate a senior OSD official to serve as a new "performance assessment and root cause analysis"(PARCA) czar, who (along with assigned staff and when requested to do so) will be reporting to the Secretary; the Under Secretary for Acquisition, Technology & Logistics; the Secretaries of the Military Departments; and/or to the Heads of Defense Agencies, whenever one or more of the latter decide they need some "parcating" done for major defense acquisition programs within their purview (weapon-system or otherwise). The new HASC report seeks to adjust/extend those marching orders by recommending that the new PARCA designee should, in fact, report to the USD (AT&L) and to the Chief Management Officer (i.e., the DepSecDef) "through" the Deputy Chief Management Officer" (the DCMO, who has yet to be appointed). Given the performance to date of overlapping and intersecting management layers at DOD that the Congress has created in the past to deal with the same kinds of acquisition issues (cf. the legislation that created the CFO, CIO, CMO, and DCMO positions, for example) it will be interesting to see how the DOD reacts to this latest round of Congressional advice.

Thu, Mar 11, 2010 Steve Chantilly

What the enire Federal government needs are the simple realizations that: 1) Many acquisitions are in NO meaningful way agency-specific. 2) Oversight is really not that hard if you just stay clear and consistent on what needs to be seen and you even try to make it easy to dosclose. DoD is it's own worst enemy. Oh by the way, shame on anyone for suggesting the government needs more manpower in the aggregate to do anything. Don;t look now but the United States of America is on a course toward extinction from too much borrowing. Streamline! It's patriotic!

Thu, Mar 11, 2010 HR Haney

The recommended actions in this report are the very same justifications for the dismantling of the DOD Acquisition Workforce 30 years ago. For those that can remember, It was determined to be in the best interest of everyone if our Acquisition system worked more like a corporate / non government system that would be more responsive to the needs of both the Government and Contract recipient with less oversight and constraints. And for good measure, we all so decided to do away with the GM Program Management workforce that was causing so much problems by requiring contractors to meet established standards. As they say, when you have a belt way: Every thing that goes around, comes around. All Most like NASA with their New version of the Capsule and the 40 year old Apollo program.

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