DOD Acquisition:

Strengthening Capabilities of Key Personnel in Systems Acquisition

NSIAD-86-45: Published: May 12, 1986. Publicly Released: Jun 12, 1986.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO examined the Department of Defense's (DOD) acquisition work force, specifically program managers and contracting officers and their: (1) roles in weapons system acquisition; (2) tools to carry out their jobs; (3) external influences; and (4) career preparation.

A program manager heads each weapon system acquisition with assistance from various specialists, including a contracting officer who is legally authorized to commit the government to contracts. GAO found that the program managers' and contracting officers' capability to contract for new weapon systems is limited because: (1) their roles in early program phases are not fully defined or well understood in practice; (2) acquisition strategy development lacks the criteria to tailor the competition's scope and intent to individual programs; (3) external factors affect many programs and create a poor climate for logical, planned program development; and (4) career programs do not provide the intense and diverse experience, training, qualification criteria, and incentives to develop program managers and contracting officers. GAO also found that about half of the 17 new programs it reviewed fell short of the minimum competition level that DOD policy called for because: (1) DOD has not identified the program characteristics sensitive to various levels of competition or the criteria to apply them; (2) insufficient advance funding limited the programs; (3) many recently appointed program managers lacked substantial program-office or other acquisition experience, as well as specialized training; (4) the selection of contracting officers was not based on specific experience, education, or training; and (5) military career paths did not identify the types of acquisition experience desired.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: This action has already been taken. Following an exchange of letters between the Deputy Secretary of Defense and the Director, OPM, OPM established a 24 semester hour requirement for college-level business-related courses. The change was incorporated in a revised qualification standard for contract personnel.

    Recommendation: After clarifying the contracting officer's roles and responsibilities and fully establishing the team approach, the Secretary of Defense should request that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) evaluate reclassifying system contracting personnel from administrative to professional if the roles, as clarified, and needed qualifications justify such action.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD has employed civilians as program managers, but does not concur that it is desirable to set aside classes of positions for civilian candidates only. The overall DOD objective must be professional acquisition personnel, whether civilian or military.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Air Force should identify types of program manager positions for which civilians should be considered.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Air Force

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The DSMC study recognized by GAO and DOD Directives 5000.23 and 5000.48 now provide the basis for the services to implement DOD-wide acquisition career enhancements.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Air Force should modify the acquisition career field to identify desired acquisition experience within this career field.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Air Force

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurs that strategies should set funding requirements, not the reverse. Fiscal realities force change. Some of these are initiated by Congress. The current limited resource environment is a prime example of "real world" issues.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should have management approval of the acquisition strategy linked to the budget funding process so that key front-end decisions will be protected and the optimum program strategy will set funding requirements, not the reverse.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: It is DOD policy to have competition in those two phases, as stated in DOD Directive 5000.1. This is reemphasized by the presence of a multitude of competition advocates throughout DOD components. DOD disagrees, however, that a Secretary of Defense waiver process is necessary. The current review analysis and acceptance/rejection by the Defense Acquisition Board is completely adequate.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should, pending criteria development, require competition in the concept exploration, demonstration, and validation phases unless specifically waived.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: "Could cost" training is now included in the curriculum of at least two courses, program management and executive management, as well as in other training. For example, the Army Aviation Systems Command requested the Defense Systems Management College (DSMC) to conduct a 1-day symposium in February 1989. DSMC has published "could cost" material in the program manager magazine.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should require training to be provided to program managers and contracting officers on the newly developed guidance.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Each military department has briefed USDA on their respective pilot programs for "could cost" applications. A progress review of these programs is planned for early fiscal year 1990. However, since these are very large programs, actual results are not expected to be assessed in the near term.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should have a research and experimentation program to develop criteria for determining the appropriate level of competition in the design and development phases of new programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD agrees that it is desirable to involve persons with solid acquisition expertise. Rather than a checklist approach, the Defense Systems Management College provides training to program management to ensure sensitivity to this issue. Contracting officers participate most frequently under a matrix management approach in which the program office is advised by a designated contract officer.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should establish policies to establish, in each program office, a clear focus and responsibility for contracting strategy formulation and execution. The contracting officer or other expert filling such a position should be a highly qualified system acquisition expert and a full team member from program inception.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD agrees that it is desirable to involve persons with solid acquisition expertise. Rather than a checklist approach, however, the Defense Systems Management College provides training to program management to ensure sensitivity to this issue. Contracting officers participate most frequently under a matrix management approach in which the program office is advised by a designated contract officer.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should establish policies to clarify the contracting officer's role and relationship with the program manager in weapon system acquisition, including assignment of the first contracting officer at the program conception stage.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  10. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: This has been and continues to be DOD policy, as stated in DOD Directive 5000.43. The initiative on streamlining has put renewed emphasis on stating requirements in mission terms, rather than a preferred hardware solution or design approach. This ensures the flexibility to make tradeoffs as the acquisition program evolves.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should establish policies to clarify the program manager's role to ensure a flexibly stated requirement that permits a creative design process and is subject to reexamination as the program proceeds.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  11. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD Directive 5000.23, which the services are in the process of implementing through day-to-day planning, management, and oversight of DSMC, requires demonstrated experience, as well as mandatory acquisition training, in order to be selected as a program manager.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Air Force should select program managers based on demonstrated performance in the acquisition career field.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Air Force

  12. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The DSMC study recognized by GAO and DOD Directives 5000.23 and 5000.48 now provide the basis for the services to implement DOD-wide acquisition career enhancements.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Air Force should expand the coverage of the civilian acquisition career program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Air Force

  13. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD agrees that it should be possible for high quality contracting officers to move into program manager positions. The reality of Civil Service requirements and functionalization tends to discourage it, however. DOD does not, however, agree that incentives are desirable to encourage this type of career exchange. DOD anticipates that this will occur naturally over the next 5 to 7 years.

    Recommendation: After clarifying the contracting officer's roles and responsibilities and fully establishing the team approach, the Secretary of Defense should provide career incentives for system contracting personnel by allowing them to enter other acquisition fields through development and opportunity.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  14. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: It is essential to establish mandatory training requirements and minimum experience requirements for all procurement personnel. DOD issued DOD Directive 5000.48 and revised DOD Directive 5000.23, which established minimum experience levels and mandatory training requirements for program managers, deputy program managers, and 15 contracting functional areas, including contracting officers.

    Recommendation: After clarifying the contracting officer's roles and responsibilities and fully establishing the team approach, the Secretary of Defense should develop, based on such roles and responsibilities, specific education, experience, or other selection criteria for system contracting officers.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  15. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD does not agree that requirements should be established for major systems only. Professionalization of the contracting work force as a whole must be the objective. DOD understands that GAO only examined and commented on that part of the work force engaged in major acquisitions. DOD has pursued this issue with OPM and revised qualification standards for the 1102 contracting series.

    Recommendation: After clarifying the contracting officer's roles and responsibilities and fully establishing the team approach, the Secretary of Defense should broaden the experience and training requirements for major system contracting personnel to include specialized experience and ensure that necessary resources are provided to implement such a program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  16. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD Directive 5000.23, which the services are in the process of implementing through day-to-day planning, management, and oversight of DSMC, requires demonstrated experience, as well as mandatory acquisition training, in order to be selected as a program manager.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Navy should select program managers based on demonstrated performance in the acquisition career field.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy

  17. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD has employed civilians as program managers, but does not concur that it is desirable to set aside classes of positions for civilian candidates only. The overall DOD objective must be professional acquisition personnel, whether civilian or military.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Navy should identify types of program manager positions for which civilians should be considered.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy

  18. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The DSMC study recognized by GAO and DOD Directives 5000.23 and 5000.48 now provide the basis for the services to implement DOD-wide acquisition career enhancements.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Navy should establish a career field in acquisition that provides adequate acquisition experience and defines desired acquisition experiences.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy

  19. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD Directive 5000.23, which the services are in the process of implementing through day-to-day planning, management, and oversight of DSMC, requires demonstrated experience, as well as mandatory acquisition training, in order to be selected as a program manager.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should select program managers based on demonstrated performance in the acquisition career field.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  20. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD has employed civilians as program managers, but does not concur that it is desirable to set aside classes of positions for civilian candidates only. The overall DOD objective must be professional acquisition personnel, whether civilian or military.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should identify types of program manager positions for which civilians should be considered.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  21. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The DSMC study recognized by GAO and DOD Directives 5000.23 and 5000.48 now provide the basis for the services to implement DOD-wide acquisition career enhancements.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should establish a functional specialty in acquisition management and define desired acquisition experience within this career field.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  22. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: This has been and continues to be the DOD policy, as stated in DOD Directive 5000. This is not a problem when the program follows the classical approach. In those cases where a major acquisition program proposes to skip one or more phases in the classical approach, OSD will ensure that program managers are assigned early and will have flexibility to propose tradeoffs.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should establish policies to assign the first program manager at the program conception stage.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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