Defense Acquisitions:

Status and Challenges of Joint Forces Command's Limited Acquisition Authority

GAO-07-546: Published: Apr 12, 2007. Publicly Released: Apr 12, 2007.

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Over 3 years ago, Congress granted limited acquisition authority (LAA)--subject to delegation by the Secretary of Defense--to U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) for a 3-year period to expedite development and acquisition of certain warfighter equipment. Congress directed GAO to report on JFCOM LAA implementation. GAO's report, issued in November 2005, said JFCOM finished five LAA projects and was working on a sixth project, and that JFCOM had experienced difficulty finding funding to develop, acquire, and sustain LAA projects. Last year, Congress extended LAA through September 2008 and again directed GAO to report on LAA. This report updates the status of JFCOM LAA efforts since the authority was enacted and key LAA challenges.

JFCOM has not approved any LAA projects since GAO's November 2005 report, and the LAA project that was incomplete as of then remains so. The projects generally fall under the category of battle management command, control, communications, and intelligence. Research funding provided for the six LAA projects has risen from $9 million in 2005 to $14 million as of January 2007. No procurement funds had been used for these projects as of then. Feedback from the projects' recipients--the warfighter--has been mostly positive about the LAA acquisition process and capabilities delivered. The Department of Defense (DOD) and JFCOM face several LAA challenges, one of which goes to the role of LAA. Shortly after LAA's enactment, the Deputy Secretary of Defense created the Joint Rapid Acquisition Cell (JRAC) to provide timely solutions for joint urgent warfighter needs. GAO analysis indicates that JRAC and JFCOM LAA cover similar ground and could overlap even more if JRAC is allowed to address needs other than for ongoing named operations. JRAC might have also been able to carry out most, if not all, of the six LAA projects had it existed when they were approved by JFCOM. Other challenges relate to how LAA is managed and operated. JFCOM officials said funding remains an issue because LAA is an authority without budgeted funds. JFCOM LAA staff tries to find funding for approved projects from other DOD organizations. When funding could not be found, JFCOM funded most of the six LAA projects with funds budgeted for other JFCOM work. The search for funding lengthens the time to get capabilities to the warfighter. JRAC does not have budgeted funds either, but has greater access to funding than JFCOM. Another challenge involves uncertainty between JFCOM and the Office of the Secretary of Defense regarding what LAA powers were delegated to JFCOM. Until the uncertainty is resolved, how JFCOM should carry out LAA efforts will remain unclear.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: This matter for congressional consideration is closed. DOD forwarded Congress proposed Authorization language that would make the Joint Forces Command's Limited Acquisition Authority (LAA) permanent. The May 11, 2007 House Armed Services Committee report on the fiscal year 2008 National Defense Authorization Act (report 110-146) did not make the LAA permanent but allows the Commander of the U.S Joint Forces Command to provide funding for the maintenance of items procured under LAA. JFCOM can exercise this funding aspect of the authority for no more than two years on any given system. In the Senate report on the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2008 (report 110-77, June 5, 2007), Congress makes provisions so that the Joint Forces Command's Limited Acquisition Authority would not expire before DOD has an opportunity to reassess LAA and report to Congress, in accordance with GAO's matter for congressional consideration, which this Senate report references. The Senate did not make LAA permanent.

    Matter: In light of our recommendations, DOD's response and the fact that DOD has provided Congress with a fiscal year 2008 legislative proposal that would make the LAA statute permanent, Congress may wish to delay its consideration of making JFCOM LAA permanent until DOD has informed Congress of the results of the recommended assessment and any associated decisions. This should not impair JFCOM LAA, as DOD plans to complete its assessment by the fourth quarter of 2007 and LAA, as currently enacted, extends through September 2008.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: This recommendation is closed/not implemented. In providing comments on the GAO report, the agency concurred with this recommendation and agreed this issue would be considered in its reassessment of the U.S. Joint Forces Command's (USJFCOM) Limited Acquisition Authority (LAA). The reassessment was expected to be completed by fourth quarter 2007. In a February 7, 2008 email OSD sent to Senate Armed Services Committee staff, OSD indicates that its Sept. 5, 2007 letter formalized the reassessment of USJFCOM's acquisition authority. However, it does not address/resolve the funding, coordination, and delegation challenges identified in our report. Given the action taken does not fulfill the intent of this recommendation and sufficient time has passed, we believe the agency will never implement the recommendation.

    Recommendation: As DOD considers expanding JRAC's coverage, the Secretary of Defense should, to the extent JFCOM LAA is to continue to play a role in meeting joint urgent needs, assess and resolve, as appropriate, the funding, coordination, and delegation challenges identified in this report

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: This recommendation is closed/not implemented. In providing comments on the GAO report, the agency concurred with this recommendation and agreed to prepare a reassessment of the U.S. Joint Forces Command's (USJFCOM) Limited Acquisition Authority (LAA) by fourth quarter 2007. In a February 7, 2008 email OSD sent to Senate Armed Services Committee staff, OSD indicates that it Sept. 5, 2007 letter formalized the reassessment of USJFCOM's acquisition authority. However, this letter does not address USJFCOM's LAA role in light of the expanding Joint Rapid Acquisition Cell process nor does it explain how LAA will play a role in meeting joint urgent needs. Given the action taken does not fulfill the intent of this recommendation and sufficient time has passed, we believe the agency will never implement the recommendation.

    Recommendation: As DOD considers expanding JRAC's coverage, the Secretary of Defense should reassess the role of the JFCOM LAA in light of the expanding JRAC process, and determine whether and how JFCOM LAA should play a role in meeting joint urgent needs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: This recommendation is closed/not implemented. In providing comments on the GAO report, the agency concurred with this recommendation and agreed to inform Congress of the results of its reassessment. In a February 7, 2008 email OSD sent to Senate Armed Services Committee staff, OSD indicates that its Sept. 5, 2007 letter formalized the reassessment of USJFCOM's acquisition authority. Although OSD provided GAO documentation showing that it informed Congress of its plan to retain the current arrangements with military departments and defense agencies for the Joint Forces Command's Limited Acquisition Authority, this action does not fulfill the intent of the recommendation.

    Recommendation: As DOD considers expanding JRAC's coverage, the Secretary of Defense should inform Congress of the results of the assessment and any resultant decisions in time for Congress to consider them in its deliberations on the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2008.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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