Defense Acquisition Workforce:

Improved Processes, Guidance, and Planning Needed to Enhance Use of Workforce Funds

GAO-12-747R: Published: Jun 20, 2012. Publicly Released: Jun 21, 2012.

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What GAO Found

DOD has identified DAWDF as a key tool used to address gaps in the acquisition workforce through additional hiring and training initiatives. For example, DOD officials noted they used DAWDF funds to hire about 5,855 new acquisition staff through fiscal year 2011 and enabled the Defense Acquisition University to provide 19,000 additional classroom seats, among other improvements. However, DOD’s ability to effectively execute hiring and other initiatives has been hindered by delays in the DAWDF funding process and the absence of clear guidance on the availability and use of related funds. DOD has not collected and distributed funds within required timeframes, sometimes delaying distribution to components until the following fiscal year. For example, only about 39 percent of the total amount of fiscal year 2011 transfer funds were distributed before the end of the fiscal year. These delays can result in uncertainty about the availability of funds, and negatively impact the components’ ability to execute according to their approved plans for the year. Additionally, DOD officials noted that the delays contributed, at least in part, to the amount of unobligated funds that were carried over to future years. DOD acknowledges that improved guidance that clarifies when DAWDF funds will be available and how they can be used would help improve the execution of program initiatives.

While DOD considers rebuilding its acquisition workforce a strategic priority, it lacks an overarching strategy that clearly aligns DAWDF with its acquisition workforce plan. Further, the Department has not developed outcome-related metrics, such as the extent to which DAWDF is helping DOD address its workforce skills and competency gaps. Constrained budgets are leading the Department to reassess future workforce growth and related requirements, thus future mandated funding amounts will likely exceed DOD’s near-term needs. Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics officials are currently planning to submit revised DAWDF funding estimates to Congress in June 2012 and are preparing an updated strategic human capital plan for the acquisition workforce.

Why GAO Did This Study

The Department of Defense (DOD) obligated about $375 billion in fiscal year 2011 to acquire goods and services to meet its mission and support its operations in the United States and abroad. GAO’s work, as well as that of others, has documented shortcomings in DOD’s strategic and acquisition planning, contract administration and oversight, and acquisition workforce. In our February 2011 high-risk report, for example, we noted that DOD needed to ensure that its acquisition workforce was adequately sized, trained, and equipped to meet department needs. Lack of an adequate number of trained acquisition and contract oversight personnel contributed to unmet expectations and has placed DOD, at times, at risk of potentially paying more than necessary.

To help alleviate some of these long standing challenges and provide additional funds for the recruitment, training, and retention of acquisition personnel, in 2008 Congress established the Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Fund (DAWDF). The fund supports expanded emphasis in these areas; for example, DOD expects to use DAWDF to hire approximately 10,000 new acquisition personnel through fiscal year 2015. Approximately $1.8 billion was allocated to the fund through February 2012.

In the conference report accompanying the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012, the conferees noted that Congress was reducing the amount requested by DOD for the fund by $200 million, in part because the fund had large unobligated balances that it has carried over for the past several years. The conferees directed the Secretary of Defense to submit a report providing recommendations for appropriate funding levels for DAWDF by June 20, 2012. Further, to assist DOD in developing a revised strategic human capital plan for the acquisition workforce, required by August 1, 2012, the conference report directed that GAO examine the funding mechanisms, statutory limits established for the fund, and potential improvements, if any, that could be implemented to the overall funding process. In response, we are reporting on: (1) the DAWDF funding process and the execution of the fund; and (2) efforts to align DAWDF-funded activities with larger DOD acquisition workforce plans.

What GAO Recommends

To maximize DAWDF program benefits, we recommend the Secretary of Defense direct that the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics to:

(1) Revise existing DAWDF guidance to clarify for all stakeholders when and how DAWDF funds should be collected, distributed, and used; and

(2) Establish key performance metrics for DAWDF to allow senior leadership to track how the fund is being used to support DOD’s acquisition workforce improvement goals.

To ensure that the DAWDF program directly supports DOD strategic acquisition workforce plans, we recommend that the Secretary of Defense direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics and the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) to clearly align the revised DAWDF funding strategy with DOD’s strategic human capital plan for the acquisition workforce.

For more information, contact Timothy J. DiNapoli at (202) 512-4841 or DiNapoliT@gao.gov.

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 maximize DAWDF program benefits, the Secretary of Defense should direct that the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics revise existing DAWDF guidance to clarify for all stakeholders when and how DAWDF funds should be collected, distributed, and used.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To maximize DAWDF program benefits, the Secretary of Defense should direct that the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics establish key performance metrics for DAWDF to allow senior leadership to track how the fund is being used to support DOD's acquisition workforce improvement goals.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the DAWDF program directly supports DOD strategic acquisition workforce plans, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics and the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) to clearly align the revised DAWDF funding strategy with DOD's strategic human capital plan for the acquisition workforce.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

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