GAO sees progress in DOD contract inventory

After a rough time gathering information on the military’s services contracts, defense officials improved how they recorded their contracts for their fiscal 2010 report, auditors determined.

According to a recent report, the Government Accountability Office wrote that officials made a “significant step” toward a clearer picture of what was happening with their service contracts. As we reported earlier, GAO found that one consequence of DOD's lapses is that contractors are still given work that should be reserved for government employees.

Despite the improvement, DOD isn’t in the clear yet in gathering accurate data, GAO wrote.

For a start though, the Defense Department provided each of its agencies with a list of specific categories of services for the 2010 inventory. In 2009, DOD components compiled their own contract lists. The military departments and agencies also worked with the Acquisition, Technology and Logistics officials to align their spending categories.

Officials increased the details available on the services by using product and service codes. They used a four-digit code instead of leaving the details at a one-digit level. For instance, dentistry services were coded under a broader category of medical services.

They also updated labor rates to account for changes in services costs.

Congress wants to know more about DOD's services contracts. In 2008, lawmakers told defense officials to issue an annual inventory, which includes the number of contractors working on contracts.

Yet, the Federal Procurement Data System—Next Generation continues to hinder DOD’s efforts. Officials relied on its collected data. However, they told GAO that FPDS-NG limited their inventories' accuracy and usefulness.

FPDS-NG has users enter only one product and service code for each contract. Further, for those instances where more than one service was provided, users  enter the product and service codes that represent most of the value of the contract.

DOD expects continued problems with gathering information on contractors’ manpower too.

While the Army has its Contractor Manpower Reporting Application, DOD doesn't have a department-wide tracking system. The Army requires contractors to report on the labor hours they put into a services contract, as well as its function and mission. DOD officials turned in a plan to Congress on how it might build such a department-wide system, but officials said they likely would not collect manpower data through it until 2016.

About the Author

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

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