Defense Acquisitions:

DOD Needs to Establish an Implementing Directive to Publish Information and Take Actions to Improve DOD Information on Critical Acquisition Positions

GAO-06-987R: Published: Sep 8, 2006. Publicly Released: Sep 8, 2006.

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During the course of our work for Congress examining the space acquisition workforce, we learned that the Department of Defense (DOD) may not be periodically publishing a list of designated critical acquisition positions as required by statute. We are bringing this matter to your attention not only because it is a requirement to publish this data, but because having it is critical to effectively managing DOD's current workforce. Operating without this critical information may result in flawed decisions regarding this part of the workforce and may put the organization's ability to sustain its mission or function effectively at risk. The designation "critical acquisition positions," according to the 1990 Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA), refers to certain senior-level military and civilian positions that carry significant responsibility and primarily consist of supervisory, oversight, and management duties in the DOD acquisition system. They are a key factor in ensuring that DOD acquisitions--some of which are very expensive and critical to the success of current combat operations--are effectively managed. In accordance with DAWIA and as was later codified in Title 10 of the United States Code, the Secretary of Defense is required to periodically publish a list of critical acquisition positions. The service Secretaries are responsible to ensure that the individuals who hold these positions have the appropriate skills, experience, and rank to perform their duties effectively. According to a DOD instruction on the reporting of DOD acquisition personnel data, the services are required to provide data on their critical acquisition positions to the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC). We sought to determine whether DOD is publishing a list of critical acquisition positions, as required by statute.

It is not clear that the Secretary of Defense has published a list of critical acquisition positions, as he is required to do by Title 10 of the U.S. Code. In reviewing the DAWIA requirement to publish the data, officials in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics (AT&L) said that the information on critical acquisition positions is publicly available through DMDC; however, they were unsure whether this availability constitutes compliance with the DAWIA requirement to publish the data. We believe that the information has not been published in a more direct method because the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense have not established a specific implementing policy to direct AT&L to create such a list and to publish it. The Director of AT&L Workforce and Career Management stated that he planned to seek a legal interpretation of the DAWIA requirement in order to clarify whether AT&L needed to produce a paper document or DMDC's information on these positions, which is publicly available, would satisfy the requirement to "publish" the information. In any event, however, we found that AT&L and DMDC data on these positions may not be accurate. We asked DMDC for information on critical acquisition positions, but DMDC officials told us that the services, including the Air Force and the civilian personnel data reporting system, were not providing them accurate information. For example, of those personnel who are reported, it is not clear how many work for organizations outside the military services, such as the joint staff or defense agencies. Additionally, when we asked AT&L to list space-related critical acquisition positions, we received two different replies, each containing data that were nearly a year old. According to the AT&L June 2006 Human Capital Strategic Plan, AT&L will be undertaking a number of initiatives, including actions to improve the accuracy of the acquisition personnel data that reside at DMDC. Having accurate personnel information is critical to an organization's analyzing its workforce and determining what actions need to be taken to improve it. Without accurate data on critical acquisition positions, DOD decisions regarding the management of these positions may be flawed. Moreover, without maintaining and periodically publishing a list of critical acquisition positions as well as maintaining a reliable methodology for identifying who occupies these positions, the Secretary of Defense cannot ensure that key positions in critical programs are filled by individuals of sufficient expertise and experience. Further, he cannot be in a sound position to assure Congress that these positions are adequately filled.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: During the course of our work on GAO-06-908 that identified management actions were needed to better manage the Air Forces' space personnel, we learned that the Department of Defense (DOD) may not be periodically publishing a list of designated critical acquisition positions as required by statute. We identified this as a problem not only because it is a requirement to publish this data, but because having it is critical to effectively managing DOD's current workforce. To ensure that an organization's workforce is able to meet its mission, the organization must develop strategies to address management challenges such as any gaps that may exist in personnel resources. Strategic workforce management entails having accurate and comprehensive data concerning the workforce, and especially concerning those positions deemed critical to the success of the organization's mission. Operating without this critical information may result in flawed decisions regarding this part of the workforce and may put the organization's ability to sustain its mission or function effectively at risk. The designation "critical acquisition positions," refers to certain senior-level military and civilian positions that carry significant responsibility and primarily consist of supervisory, oversight, and management duties in the DOD acquisition system. They are a key factor in ensuring that DOD acquisitions, some of which are very expensive and critical to the success of current combat operations, are effectively managed. In accordance with the 1990 Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA) and as was later codified in Title 10 of the United States Code, the Secretary of Defense is required to periodically publish a list of critical acquisition positions. The service Secretaries are responsible to ensure that the individuals who hold these positions have the appropriate skills, experience, and rank to perform their duties effectively. In order to ensure that DOD has data needed to effectively plan and manage its space acquisition workforce, GAO recommended that the Secretary of Defense direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics (AT&L) to issue implementing instructions to establish the method by which information on critical acquisition positions (CAP) would be published. In response, in July 2007 DOD established a publishing method and required that the CAPs be published on the AT&L website. AT&L website (www.dau.mil/workforce/CAPs.asp) now provides data on critical acquisition positions. As a result, DOD now has data on critical acquisition positions to better manage this workforce and better inform Congress regarding any shortfalls in critical positions.

    Recommendation: In order to ensure that DOD has data needed to effectively plan and manage its space acquisition workforce, the Secretary of Defense should direct that the Under Secretary of Defense for AT&L issue implementing instructions that establish the method by which information on critical acquisition positions will be published.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In order to ensure that DOD has data needed to effectively plan and manage its space acquisition workforce, we recommend that the Secretary of Defense to direct the Under Secretary of Defense for AT&L, as part of its Human Capital Strategic Plan, to include in its initiatives a review of the accuracy of critical acquisition position data that DOD components submit to DMDC; identify the causes of any inaccuracies; and take corrective actions to ensure that this information is accurate and complete. DOD has issued revised and new guidance, including (1) a DOD Instruction entitled "Defense Acquisition Workforce Education, Training, and Acquisition Organization Methodology;" (2) a DOD Manual entitled "Defense Acquisition Workforce Data Reporting Standards;" and (3) a DOD Manual entitled "Defense Acquisition Workforce Procedures" are in final draft but DOD reports that DOD components have already incorporated some of the new requirements into quarterly data submissions. These DOD actions address the intent of GAO's recommendation.

    Recommendation: In order to ensure that DOD has data needed to effectively plan and manage its space acquisition workforce, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for AT&L, as part of its Human Capital Strategic Plan, to include in its initiatives a review of the accuracy of critical acquisition position data that DOD components submit to DMDC; identify the causes of any inaccuracies; and take corrective actions to ensure that this information is accurate and complete.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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