Acquisition Reform:

GSA and VA Efforts to Improve Training of Their Acquisition Workforces

GGD-00-66: Published: Feb 18, 2000. Publicly Released: Feb 18, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the training of the acquisition workforce in certain federal civilian departments and agencies, focusing on whether: (1) the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) had assurance that their acquisition workforces met training requirements as defined by the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) and whether contracting officers at one GSA and one VA field location met each agency's training requirements; (2) OFPP had taken action to ensure that civilian departments and agencies collected and maintained standardized acquisition workforce information, as required by the 1996 Clinger-Cohen Act; and (3) GSA and VA were taking actions to comply with Clinger-Cohen Act funding requirements.

GAO noted that: (1) both GSA and VA have efforts under way to train their acquisition workforces; (2) however, neither had assurance that all members of their acquisition workforces had received core training and continuing education, as required by OFPP's policy; (3) neither agency had complete readily accessible information on the overall extent to which their acquisition workforces had received required training; (4) contrary to OFPP's policy, neither GSA nor VA had established core training requirements for some segments of their acquisition workforces--contracting officer representatives and contracting officer technical representatives who do not have authority to award contracts; (5) by reviewing agency training records and obtaining documentation directly from GSA's Greater Southwest Regional Office and VA's medical center in Dallas, GAO determined that 99 percent of GSA and 72 percent of VA contracting officers at these two locations met core training requirements that GSA and VA had established for such personnel; (6) however, only about half of GSA's and VA's contracting officers in these locations who were to have continuing education requirements completed by December 1999 had met those requirements by the due date; (7) to help explain why some officers had not completed the required training, agency officials cited conflicts in scheduling the training and a lack of awareness of training requirements; (8) OFPP has not yet ensured that civilian departments and agencies were collecting and maintaining standardized information, including training data, on their acquisition workforces, as required by Clinger-Cohen; (9) in September 1997, OFPP tasked the Federal Acquisition Institute to work with departments and agencies and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to develop a governmentwide management information system, including specifications for the data elements to be captured, to assist departments and agencies in collecting and maintaining standardized data; (10) system development was significantly delayed because the Institute and OPM had not reached agreement on final system requirements and specifications; (11) neither GSA nor VA identified all the funds it planned to use for acquisition workforce training in its congressional budget justification documents as required by Clinger-Cohen; (12) Clinger-Cohen provides that agencies may not obligate funds specifically appropriated for acquisition workforce education and training under the act for any other purpose; and (13) appropriations acts GAO reviewed for GSA and VA did not specify a funding level for acquisition workforce education and training.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: VA has completed actions on the first two parts of this recommendation, (1) establishing training requirements for all COR/COTRs, and (2) ensuring all acquisition personnel receive required training. However, as of August 28, 2002, VA has not provided an action plan with an estimated completion for the other two parts of this recommendation, (3) collecting and maintaining acquisition personnel training records, and (4) tracking acquisition personnel training funds. As of June 2003, GAO has not been able to further ascertain the status of the implementation of this recommendation. On July 15, 2004, GAO determined that VA had taken action on recommendation parts 3 and 4. VA had issued an Information Letter (049-03-5, dated January 16, 2003) stating that all acquisition education and related training must be entered into the Center Acquisition and Materiel Management Education Online (CAMEO), a system that collects and maintains records on which acquisition personnel meet training requirements. As of July 1, 2004, CAMEO had 2,864 registered users (VA compliance with part 3). The Financial Management System tracks the education and training funds (appropriations, allotments, and expenditures). In addition, VA issued memorandums regarding the preparation of operating obligations and budget justifications (VA compliance with part 4).

    Recommendation: To ensure that the skills of their acquisition workforces are current the Administrator, GSA, and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should fully adhere to OFPP's policy associated with Clinger-Cohen's training provisions by: (1) establishing core training requirements for all contracting officer representatives and contracting officer technical representatives; (2) ensuring that all acquisition personnel receive the required core training and continuing education, consistent with OFPP's policy; (3) directing appropriate agency personnel to collect and maintain accurate and up-to-date showing the extent to which acquisition personnel meet training requirements; and (4) seeing that all funding that agencies plan to use for educating and training their acquisition workforces is identified in appropriate budget documents and that all related expenditures for such education and training are tracked.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The General Services Administration (GSA) completed action on the first and fourth parts of this recommendation, part (1) establishing training requirements for all COR/COTRs, and part (4) tracking acquisition personnel training funds. GSA records indicate that it believes it has met the requirements of part (2), ensuring all acquisition personnel receive required training, and part (3), collecting and maintaining acquisition personnel training records. However, their policy still requires contracting officers with basic and simplified acquisition-level warrants to take only 16 hours of continuing education every 2 years (versus OFPP's requirement for 40 hours). They have not developed their own automated system to track the training of acquisition personnel, and OFPP's proposed government-wide system (ACMIS) is not yet available. GSA has since changed the training requirements to be in compliance with OFPP requirements. Training requirements for all contracting officers (regardless of warrant) is now a minimum of 40 hours every 2 years (recommendation part 2). GSA also uses ACMIS to track the training/education of the acquisition personnel (recommendation part 3). GSA was the first agency activated on ACMIS when it became operational on May 27, 2003.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the skills of their acquisition workforces are current the Administrator, GSA, and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should fully adhere to OFPP's policy associated with Clinger-Cohen's training provisions by: (1) establishing core training requirements for all contracting officer representatives and contracting officer technical representatives; (2) ensuring that all acquisition personnel receive the required core training and continuing education, consistent with OFPP's policy; (3) directing appropriate agency personnel to collect and maintain accurate and up-to-date showing the extent to which acquisition personnel meet training requirements; and (4) seeing that all funding that agencies plan to use for educating and training their acquisition workforces is identified in appropriate budget documents and that all related expenditures for such education and training are tracked.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Acquisition Career Management Information System (ACMIS) was being developed to satisfy the Clinger-Cohen Act requirement that OFPP ensure that civilian departments and agencies collect and maintain standardized information about the acquisition workforce. ACMIS was designed to record and track training and education levels, employee warrant information (type and amounts), and training certifications and planned activities for establishing required job skills. The Office of Federal Procurement Policy provided a revised timeline that showed the newly proposed (ACMIS) to be fully deployed in October 2002. On June 29, 2004, GAO determined that ACMIS was deployed on May 27, 2003.

    Recommendation: In order for OFPP to ensure that civilian departments and agencies collect and maintain standardized acquisition workforce information, the Administrator, OFPP, should take action to ensure that the Federal Acquisition Institute and OPM complete and implement the governmentwide management information system being developed to implement Clinger-Cohen's requirements for standardized acquisition workforce information.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget: Office of Federal Procurement Policy

 

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