Acquisition

IG: DOD lacks quality management approach

Wikimedia image: Department of Defense, Office of the Inspector General.

The Defense Department's acquisition office lacks a comprehensive policy for quality management that is "commensurate with the scale, cost and complexity" of major acquisition programs, says a DOD Inspector General report.

The IG concluded that the office of the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics (AT&L), which is run by Undersecretary Frank Kendall and is in the midst of yet another round of reforming the acquisition system, lacks "effective feedback mechanisms" to evaluate its quality management policies.

Citing the International Organization for Standardization, the IG defined quality management as "a set of coordinated activities" to control how an organization manages the quality of its output. Deficient quality management policies often correlate strongly with cost overruns and program delays.

The IG report measured DOD quality management policies against best practices from private industry. It evaluated how several DOD components, including three of the military services, handle quality management.

Throughout DOD, a “lack of leadership emphasis and attention to overall quality management in acquisition programs often results in quality issues not being handled until late in the acquisition process when the cost to correct such problems is greatly increased,” the report said.

Responding to a draft of the report, AT&L said the Pentagon already has an overarching quality management mechanism in the form of the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for systems engineering. In the report's final version, the IG disagreed with the assertion that the position represents a centralized mechanism for quality management and asked AT&L to respond to that and other disputed recommendations by Dec. 5.

The report follows several others from the Government Accountability Office and the DOD IG in recent years that have pointed out systemic flaws in AT&L’s quality management efforts.

The IG report recommended AT&L set up a central mechanism to oversee quality management system requirements across the department's acquisition programs. Among the other recommendations were that AT&L provide clear quality management system definitions for all major defense acquisition programs. Those definitions should emphasize quality management throughout the acquisition life cycle, the report said.

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence issues. Prior to joining FCW, he was a reporter and editor at Smart Grid Today, where he covered everything from cyber vulnerabilities in the U.S. electric grid to the national energy policies of Britain and Mexico. His reporting on a range of global issues has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, The Economist, The Washington Diplomat and The Washington Post.

Lyngaas is an active member of the National Press Club, where he served as chairman of the Young Members Committee. He earned his M.A. in international affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and his B.A. in public policy from Duke University.

Click here for previous articles by Lyngaas, or connect with him on Twitter: @snlyngaas.


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