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GAO-02-501R: 

United States General Accounting Office: 
Washington, DC 20548: 

March 1, 2002: 

The Honorable Tom Davis: 
Chairman: 
Subcommittee on Technology and Procurement Policy: 
Committee on Government Reform: 
House of Representatives: 

Subject: Contract Management: Answers to Hearing Questions Regarding 
the Service Acquisition Reform Act: 

Dear Mr. Chairman: 

You asked me to provide additional comments on several issues that I 
raised in my November 1, 2001, testimony before your subcommittee on a 
proposed Service Acquisition Reform Act. I am pleased to submit the 
following comments for your consideration. 

1. In OMB's testimony, it is stated that the existing agency budgeting 
process is the more appropriate venue to fund training for acquisition 
workforce personnel. In GAO's prior work in this area, have you found 
that agencies adequately fund training? 

We are currently examining agency funding and budgeting practices as 
part of a review of acquisition workforce training and we expect to 
report back to the subcommittee later this year on the results of that 
review. As a general matter, we believe that additional training for 
the acquisition workforce is needed governmentwide. There are issues, 
however, that require clarification in order to more fully assess the 
adequacy of acquisition training funds. First, given the rapidly 
changing federal environment, there is a need to further clarify which 
professionals should be included in the acquisition workforce. For 
example, civilian agencies by and large apply a narrow definition of 
the acquisition workforce, essentially including only contracting 
personnel. Second, agencies need to clearly define what training is 
necessary for today's acquisition workforce to perform effectively. 

Our work on federal training indicates that during the 1990s, many 
federal agencies cut back on hiring new staff to reduce the number of 
employees on the payroll to meet downsizing goals. As a result, these 
agencies also reduced the influx of new people with new knowledge and 
skills that agencies needed to help build and sustain excellence. 
Moreover, anecdotal evidence on overall federal spending on training 
indicates that, in trying to save on workforce-related costs, agencies 
cut back on training investments needed if their smaller workforces 
were to make up for institutional losses in knowledge and skills. We 
believe agencies need to take a fresh look at their training needs 
today.[Footnote 1] 

To design and implement effective training programs, agencies must (1) 
identify the competencies needed to achieve their specific mission and 
goals, and measure the extent to which their employees exhibit those 
competencies; (2) identify training and development needs to be 
addressed; and (3) evaluate the extent to which their programs are 
actually increasing employees' individual competencies and individual 
and organizational performance levels. 

2. In your testimony, you state that agencies are at risk of not 
having enough acquisition personnel to meet the needs of increasingly 
complex procurements. Can you comment on the potential of creating a 
governmentwide standard for acquisition personnel that would build on 
many of the practices in place at GAO such as pay-for-performance and 
pay banding? 

We have not examined how practices such as pay-for-performance and pay 
banding would apply to acquisition personnel. However, these practices 
are consistent with suggestions we have made in prior testimonies, 
[Footnote 2] as well as with the practices that we have instituted in 
our own internal human capital management. For example, we have 
suggested that government pay systems should be based on performance 
and contributions rather than on longevity. Similarly, in our own 
human capital management at GAO, we have implemented pay-for-
performance and are developing a competency-based evaluation system. 
We have also suggested that government employers use more flexible 
approaches to setting pay; in our own human capital management system, 
we have instituted broad pay bands for mission staff. 

In our current work for this and other committees, we are examining 
efforts to assess and address the needs of the future acquisition 
workforce. Procurement reforms and technological changes have placed 
unprecedented demands on the acquisition workforce. Contracting 
specialists are now expected to have a much greater knowledge of 
market conditions, industry trends, and the technical details of the 
commodities and services they procure. 

We believe it is essential for agencies to define the future 
capabilities needed by the workforce, needs dictated by the increasing 
complexity of the work and the strategic direction of the agency. 
Assessing future capabilities and contrasting these needs with where 
the workforce is today will provide a solid basis for evaluating 
whether different management tools are needed to meet the needs of the 
future workforce. The relationship of the acquisition workforce to the 
broader civilian workforce will also need to be considered in planning 
for the future workforce. 

3. What can be done to improve the capacity of the acquisition 
workforce? 

In our view, agencies could improve the capacity of the acquisition 
workforce by focusing on four key areas: 

Requirements: assessing the knowledge and skills needed to effectively 
perform operations to support agency mission and goals. 

Inventory: determining the knowledge and skills of current staff so 
that gaps in needed capabilities can be identified. 

Workforce strategies and plans: 
developing strategies and implementing plans for hiring, training, and 
professional development to fill the gap between requirements and 
current staffing. 

Progress evaluation: 
evaluating progress made in improving human capital capability, and 
using the results of these evaluations to
continuously improve the organization's human capital strategies. 

We currently have an ongoing review of selected federal agencies' 
strategic planning efforts to manage and improve the capacity of their 
acquisition workforce. 

4. What barriers exist to federal agencies utilizing commercial best 
practices through the current FAR Part 12 definitions and existing 
commercial services definitions? 

We have not fully examined the various barriers that exist to federal 
agencies utilizing commercial best practices through Part 12 of the 
current Federal Acquisition Regulation. However, we have work underway 
that will be relevant to the subcommittee in exploring how federal 
agencies can use commercial best practices in acquiring services. 

If you have any questions about this letter or need additional 
information, please call me on (202) 512-8214. Copies of this letter 
are also available on GAO's homepage at [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov]. Key contributors to this letter included Don 
Bumgardner, Ralph Dawn, Hillary Sullivan, and Karen Zuckerstein. 

Sincerely yours, 

Signed by: 

William T. Woods: 
Acting Director: 
Acquisition and Sourcing Management: 

[End of section] 

Footnotes: 

[1] U.S. General Accounting Office, Human Capital: Design, 
Implementation, and Evaluation of Training at Selected Agencies, 
[hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/T-GGD-00-131] (Washington, 
D.C.: May 18, 2000). 

[2] U.S. General Accounting Office, Human Capital: Taking Steps to 
Meet Current and Emerging Human Capital Challenges, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-01-965T], (Washington, D.C.: July 17, 
2001); Human Capital: Managing Human Capital in the 21st Century, 
[hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO/T-GGD-00-77], (Washington, 
D.C.: Mar. 9, 2000); Human Capital: Meeting the Governmentwide High-
Risk Challenge, [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-01-357T] 
(Washington, D.C.: Feb. 1, 2001); and Human Capital: Building the 
Information Technology Workforce to Achieve Results, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-01-1007T] (Washington, D.C.: July 31, 
2001). 

[End of section]