Defense Contracting:

Sufficient, Reliable Information on DOD's Mentor-Protege Program Is Unavailable

NSIAD-98-92: Published: Mar 30, 1998. Publicly Released: Mar 30, 1998.


David E. Cooper
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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the Department of Defense's (DOD) Pilot Mentor-Protege Program, focusing on: (1) DOD's management of the program, including its efforts to evaluate the program's effectiveness; and (2) the manner in which program funds have been obligated.

GAO noted that: (1) data limitations preclude GAO's assessing the extent to which the program is achieving the purpose established by Congress; (2) the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSADBU) has recently undertaken actions to review the program that were intended to provide the basis for such an assessment; (3) it has initiated a survey of mentors and proteges and enlisted the Defense Contract Management Command to conduct performance evaluations of each agreement; (4) however, GAO believes shortcomings in the survey methodology and incomplete coverage in the performance evaluations will limit the usefulness of their results in assessing the program's overall effectiveness; (5) Congress has appropriated about $233 million for the program since fiscal year 1992; (6) the funding was generally obligated through either cooperative agreements, separate contracts, or line items in DOD prime contracts; (7) while OSADBU has managed cooperative agreements in the past, it has decided that the services and the defense agencies should be responsible for managing reimbursable mentor-protege agreements; (8) the services have been inconsistent in their policies on paying fees to mentors for providing assistance to proteges and reimbursing proteges for various expenses; and (9) because sufficient and reliable information on program performance was unavailable, the overall extent to which the pilot program benefited the proteges could not be assessed.

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

    Matter for Congressional Consideration

    Matter: Congress may wish to clarify mentor-protege program legislation as to whether mentors can be paid fees in addition to expenses and proteges can be reimbursed for various expenses.

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Congressional action was not taken to address recommendation.

    Recommendation for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should instruct the Director, OSADBU, to strengthen OSADBU's performance reviews to ensure that sufficient and reliable information on program performance is gathered on planned and actual mentor assistance as well as on the protege firms' business development.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD said it would continue to make efforts to improve the reliability and sufficiency of data on the program. However, GAO in July 2001, in response to the 2000 National Defense Authorization Act, reported that DOD still lacks data integral to assessing the success of the Mentor-Protege Program. Therefore, this recommendation is now incorporated in the recommendation contained in Contract Management: Benefits of the DOD Mentor-Protege Program Are Not Conclusive (GAO-01-767, Jul. 17,2001)

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