GAO points out DOD technical data uncertainties

Defense acquisition officials intend to clarify for program managers when the managers should buy technical data for various systems and programs that may help in the future, according to a new report.

Officials who oversee procurement and acquisition policy at the Defense Department plan to issue the guidance before December, the Government Accountability Office wrote in a report released June 10. The guidance should make the decision on buying easier and straightforward, it states.

Technical data plays an important role throughout the life of a system and a program with complex parts. It enables DOD to make better decisions in both future procurements and sustaining a weapons system and it provides flexibility in future purchases. Also, the data can be bought at different levels, from unlimited data rights to rights that won’t let officials pass the information along to a third party, but only use it internally.

Each of the military services have faced problems that increased costs to a program because of limited technical data rights. Agencies often have to resort to develop new ways of increasing production and buying spare parts, including soliciting more vendors.

For example, Air Force officers realized they needed more core maintenance facilities at other government depots for its C-17 airplane in case of national defense emergencies. However, they had to alter plans to expand because of limited rights to technical data. The Air Force had to form partnerships with vendors, even as some contractors would not release pieces of technical data, according to a 2006 GAO report that analyzed technical data rights.

In the new report, GAO said it found DOD’s guidance on technical data unclear. It recommended updating its policies to clarify how it documents technical data during an acquisition. GAO recommended that DOD lay out the level and type of details that acquisition strategies and procurement plans should have regarding buying technical data and the rights. In addition, defense officials need to teach program managers what information and analyses to include in their business cases.

About the Author

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

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