White House, committee spar over acquisition workforce training funds

The Obama administration does not want Congress to cut funds for Defense Department acquisition employees' training.

The administration opposes a House committee’s proposal to reduce funding for the Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Fund, cutting it nearly in half compared to fiscal 2012’s appropriation.

The fund is a key tool for the Defense Department to alleviate some of the long-standing challenges associated with training the acquisition workforce. It also provides additional funds for the recruitment, training, and retention of acquisition personnel. DOD expects to use the fund's money to hire approximately 10,000 new acquisition personnel through fiscal 2015. Approximately $1.8 billion was allocated to the fund through February 2012, according to a recent Government Accountability Office report.

The House Appropriations Committee recommended $50.2 million for the fund in fiscal 2013, according to the Defense Department Appropriations Act (H.R. 5856).

In fiscal 2012, Congress gave the fund $106 million, and the president requested $274.2 million for 2013.

If Congress doesn’t provide the full request of $274 million, administration officials warn that DOD would have to collect from other budgets to account for the shortfall between the appropriation and the statutory minimum for the development fund.

“The reduction in the appropriation would put unnecessary stress on the operation and maintenance budget at a time when funding levels are already constrained,” administration officials wrote June 28 in a statement of administration policy regarding the spending bill.

The bill has not been passed by the House yet.

The Appropriations Committee said the president’s budget request would meet the statutory $944 million level, but defense representatives do not believe that DOD needs that amount of funding to achieve the fund’s goals next year. As a result, the committee doesn’t want to put so much appropriated money into the fund.

Congress’ conference report on the fiscal 2012 Consolidated Appropriations Act warned the funding would go down for the development fund because of unobligated balances that have sat in the fund for the past several years.

Fund managers told GAO though the delays in collecting and then distributing the development fund's money caused uncertainties. That sense of ambiguity, along with revisions on how officials would use the money, prevented large sums from being spent and instead carried over to the next fiscal year.

About the Author

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

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Reader comments

Mon, Jul 9, 2012

The best training is hands-on. I find most classes a general waste of time and money. And the more expensive the class (primarily travel expenses), the less useful it is in many cases. We have some people taking all sorts of classes and not around enough at times to do their required work in a timely manner - another big waste. The tax payers really get the bad end of the deal on a vast majority of the training I see being done here.

Mon, Jul 9, 2012

I agree with the first two responses that "you get what you pay for in this world" Unfortunately, most of the spending on acquisition training has been focused on earning certifications rather than learning how to better manage contracts and acquisitions. DAU has successfully driven the cost per student down for training. This "check-the-box" training doesn't serve any purpose other than allowing individuals to collect badges. A better process for learning that is more experiencial, validates the tranfer of knowledge and offers an improved environment for learning reinforcement is necessary. If training improved, perhaps we wouldn't need 10,000 new employees. Instead, we could spend more on improving the skills of the people we have today.

Sat, Jul 7, 2012 New Jersey

I thought this was just another attack by Congress until I saw the second to last paragraph. If there are unobligated balances that have sat in the fund for the past several years then the SESs involved obviously have not used the money. Meanwhile we consistently get wait-listed for needed courses. Sounds like we need a wake-up at DAU and DOD Training activities.

Fri, Jul 6, 2012

I am in aquisition and from what I have seen from the training to date, it could be scrapped! I'm OK cutting the funding as long as they also cut all the training and certification requirements that go with it.

Fri, Jul 6, 2012 Peter G. Tuttle, CPCM

Well, you get what you pay for in this world. If you don't pay to keep your acquisition workforce trained (or to keep your workforce in the first place), you'll eventually end up wondering why your Agency keeps ending up in court, at GAO, on the front page of the Washington Post, or is the subject of case studies at various law schools. We actually have the opportunity NOT to make the same mistakes made in the early 1990's which gutted the acquisition workforce.....so, let's not make them. Let's not be penny-wise and pound-foolish...for once.

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