Defense Acquisition Workforce:

Better Identification, Development, and Oversight Needed for Personnel Involved in Acquiring Services

GAO-11-892: Published: Sep 28, 2011. Publicly Released: Sep 28, 2011.

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In fiscal year 2010, more than half of the $367 billion dollars the Department of Defense (DOD) spent on contracts was spent on services. Buying services is fundamentally different than buying weapon systems, yet most acquisition regulations, policies, processes, and training remain structured for acquiring weapon systems. Over the last decade, reports from GAO, DOD, and Congress have raised issues about services acquisitions and have also highlighted the importance of acquisition training. GAO previously reported on the training provided to the acquisition workforce as defined by the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA). This report addresses personnel working on services acquisitions who were outside the DAWIA acquisition workforce--termed non-DAWIA personnel with acquisition-related responsibilities--and the extent to which (1) DOD knows the composition of this population, (2) this population is taking acquisition training, and (3) DOD has implemented past recommendations related to this population. To complete this work, GAO reviewed a nongeneralizable sample of 29 service contracts, relevant policies, and recommendations from previous reports and met with key DOD officials.

Non-DAWIA personnel with acquisition-related responsibilities represented more than half of the 430 personnel involved in the 29 services acquisition contracts in this review. Several organizations have been tracking and managing the DAWIA workforce, but no DOD organization has systematically identified non-DAWIA personnel with acquisition-related responsibilities, the competencies they need to conduct their acquisition duties, or been designated responsibility for overseeing this group. DOD is not required to identify these personnel and has not established a process to do so. Identifying this population is challenging, partly because, as DOD officials noted, it is a transient one that is dispersed across many DOD organizations. Additionally, these people come from a variety of career fields and are often involved in acquisitions as a secondary duty. DOD has taken action to identify part of this population and provide them training--requirements personnel for major weapon systems--but has not done this for all non-DAWIA personnel with acquisition-related responsibilities. Most non-DAWIA personnel with acquisition-related responsibilities in GAO's sample received some acquisition training. The required training was varied and limited and applied largely to contracting officer's representatives (CORs) and not to other non-DAWIA personnel such as requirements officials, technical assistants, or multifunctional team members. For example, the Air Force required two Air Force-specific phases of training, while the Navy and Marine Corps policy did not specify what training was required. Demand for acquisition training courses by non-DAWIA personnel with acquisition-related responsibilities has been increasing in the past few years at the Defense Acquisition University, but DOD has limited information to gauge the current and future demand for training this population in the long term or the effectiveness of the current training that is available. DOD has taken short-term actions to require training and provide resources for some non-DAWIA personnel with acquisition-related responsibilities. For example, DOD recognized the importance of CORs in several memoranda requiring that they be properly trained and appointed before contract performance begins on services acquisitions. DOD has made some progress in implementing the recommendations of reports from the Panel on Contracting Integrity and GAO that related to management and training of the COR--a portion of non-DAWIA personnel with acquisition-related responsibilities. For example, for the four relevant GAO recommendations--which are related to training, assignment, and oversight of the CORs--DOD fully concurred with all of them, has fully implemented three, and is implementing a COR tracking system to address the remaining recommendation. The House Armed Services Committee and the Defense Science Board issued reports since 2009 that made recommendations that were relevant to this population but were made too recently for GAO to assess their implementation. For example, the House Armed Services Committee Panel on Defense Acquisition Reform report recommended DOD reform the services requirements process in order to address the different set of challenges services acquisitions pose compared to the procurement of goods. Among other things, GAO recommends that DOD establish criteria for identifying non-DAWIA personnel with acquisition-related responsibilities and assess the critical skills needed to perform their role in the acquisition process. DOD concurred with the recommendations.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To help ensure that training and development efforts for non-DAWIA personnel with acquisition-related responsibilities are deliberate and contribute to successful services acquisitions--meaning DOD buys the right thing, the right way, while getting the desired outcomes--the Secretary of Defense should establish criteria and a time frame for identifying non-DAWIA personnel with acquisition-related responsibilities, including requirements officials.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with our recommendation to establish criteria and a time frame for identifying the non-Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA) population with acquisition-related responsibilities, including requirements officials. On August 30, 2013, DOD established an organization, the Acquisition of Services Functional Integrated Product Team (FIPT), responsible for the identification the non-DAWIA personnel with acquisition-related responsibilities, including requirements officials. The organization's charter notes that the unique aspect of this FIPT is that the targeted workforce is comprised of both statutory DAWIA and non-DAWIA personnel. One of the goals of the FIPT is to establish criteria and a time frame for identifying non-DAWIA personnel with acquisition related responsibilities, including requirements officials. The FIPT has met multiple times to explore the use of DAU data to attempt to identify this group. While initial numbers for this population have been provided by DAU to DPAP, DPAP is evaluating DAU's methodology for identifying these personnel.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that training and development efforts for non-DAWIA personnel with acquisition-related responsibilities are deliberate and contribute to successful services acquisitions--meaning DOD buys the right thing, the right way, while getting the desired outcomes--the Secretary of Defense should assess what critical skills non-DAWIA personnel with acquisition-related responsibilities might require to perform their role in the acquisition process and improve acquisition outcomes.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: Our report found that DOD needed to identify the critical skills non-DAWIA personnel with acquisition-related responsibilities might require to perform their role in the acquisition process to improve outcomes. On August 30, 2013, DOD established an organization, the Acquisitions of Services Functional Integrated Product Team (FIPT), to identify the critical skills non-DAWIA personnel with acquisition-related responsibilities require. The organization's charter notes that the unique aspect of this FIPT is that the targeted workforce is comprised of both statutory DAWIA and non-DAWIA personnel. One of the goals of the FIPT is to assess the critical skills non-DAWIA personnel with acquisition-related responsibilities might require to perform their role in the acquisition process and improve acquisition outcomes. DOD is in the process of identifying this population and has not yet identified all of the skills they would need. They provided information that they have identified four basic roles played by some of this population and the minimum training they should receive for each role.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that training and development efforts for non-DAWIA personnel with acquisition-related responsibilities are deliberate and contribute to successful services acquisitions--meaning DOD buys the right thing, the right way, while getting the desired outcomes--the Secretary of Defense should designate an organization that has the responsibility to track DOD's progress in identifying, developing, and overseeing non-DAWIA personnel with acquisition-related responsibilities to help ensure they have the skills necessary to perform their acquisition function.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Our report found that there was no designated organization within DOD who had responsibility for the non-Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA) personnel with acquisition-related responsibilities, to manage their training, track the population, and plan for its needs. DOD concurred with the recommendation and said it would designate an organization. On August 30, 2013 DOD appointed a Functional Leader to head a Functional Integrated Product Team (FIPT) for the acquisition of services. The Functional Leader of the acquisition of services FIPT has the responsibility to identify, develop, and oversee both DAWIA and non-DAWIA personnel with acquisition related responsibilities.

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