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November 9, 2007: 

Congressional Committees: 

Subject: Defense Acquisitions: Department of Defense Actions on Program 
Manager Empowerment and Accountability: 

In November 2005, we issued a report on the environment within which 
the Department of Defense (DOD) program managers perform their 
work.[Footnote 1] We identified areas where program managers believe 
they are insufficiently empowered to execute programs, and therefore, 
because much is beyond their control, accountability is difficult. We 
also compared department policies and practices to those of leading 
commercial companies we visited and discussed actions DOD could take to 
improve program manager accountability, while also providing them with 
timely support as they manage the development of weapon systems. We 
recommended that DOD take a number of actions to ensure program 
managers are well positioned to successfully execute acquisitions and 
be held accountable. 

The John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007 
directed the Secretary of Defense to develop a comprehensive strategy 
for enhancing the role of DOD program managers in developing and 
carrying out defense acquisition programs and to revise guidance for 
major defense acquisition programs to address the qualifications, 
resources, responsibilities, tenure, and accountability of program 
managers for the program development and execution periods.[Footnote 2] 
In addition, GAO was directed to report on the actions taken by the 
Secretary of Defense to implement the requirements of the Act. 

To identify DOD actions to implement the Act, we met with DOD officials 
and reviewed documents they provided to determine what actions were 
planned to address and implement the congressional mandate, including 
DOD's required strategy. We reviewed existing DOD policies, directives, 
and guidance on the qualifications, resources, responsibilities, 
authority, tenure, and accountability of program managers. Finally, we 
made extensive use of our prior work in this and other related areas. 
We conducted our work from January to September 2007 in accordance with 
generally accepted government auditing standards. 

Results in Brief: 

As part of DOD's strategy to enhance the role of program managers in 
carrying out its major weapon system acquisitions, the department has 
established a policy that requires formal agreements among program 
managers, their acquisition executives, and the user community intended 
to set forth common program goals. In addition, as part of a new 
strategy for program manager empowerment and accountability, DOD plans 
a variety of actions to enhance development opportunities, provide more 
incentives, and arrange knowledge-sharing opportunities. For example, 
DOD intends to increase "just-in-time" training, establish a formal 
mentoring program, and establish program management forums. 

The department also acknowledges that any actions taken to improve 
accountability must be based on a foundation whereby program managers 
can launch and manage programs toward greater performance, rather than 
focusing on maintaining support and funding for individual programs. 
This foundation should include an overarching strategy and decision- 
making processes that prioritize programs based on a balanced match 
between customer needs and available department resources. Within its 
strategy and other reports, DOD has highlighted several initiatives 
that, if adopted and implemented properly, could provide such a 
foundation. For example, the new Concept Decision Point initiative, 
guidance for Time-Defined Acquisitions, and the establishment of 
Configuration Steering Boards are all designed to enable more informed 
decisions by key department leaders well ahead of a program's start, 
decisions that provide a closer match between each program's 
requirements and the department's resources. DOD acquisition leaders 
stated that any improvements to program managers' performance hinge on 
the success of these departmental initiatives. 


In our 2005 report, we recommended that DOD take a number of actions to 
ensure program managers are well positioned to successfully execute 
acquisitions and be held accountable. In turn, Congress mandated that 
DOD develop a comprehensive strategy for enhancing the role of DOD 
program managers in developing and carrying out defense acquisition 
programs. This strategy was to address, at a minimum: 

* enhanced training and educational opportunities for program managers; 

* increased emphasis on the mentoring of current and future program 
managers by experienced senior executives and program managers within 
the department; 

* improved career paths and career opportunities for program managers; 

* additional incentives for the recruitment and retention of highly 
qualified individuals to serve as program managers; 

* improved resources and support (including systems engineering 
expertise, cost estimating expertise, and software development 
expertise) for program managers; 

* improved means of collecting and disseminating best practices and 
lessons learned to enhance program management throughout the 

* common templates and tools to support improved data gathering and 
analysis for program management and oversight purposes; 

* increased accountability of program managers for the results of 
defense acquisition programs; and: 

* enhanced monetary and nonmonetary awards for successful 
accomplishment of program objectives by program managers. 

While DOD was required to report on its development of a comprehensive 
strategy for improving various aspects of program manager roles and 
responsibilities by July 14, 2007, we did not receive a copy of this 
report until September 25, 2007. 

The Act also required DOD to revise its guidance for major defense 
acquisition programs to address the qualifications, resources, 
responsibilities, tenure, and accountability of program managers for 
the program development and program execution period. At a minimum, the 
revised guidance was expected to address the: 

* need for a performance agreement between a program manager and the 
milestone decision authority for the program, setting forth expected 
parameters for cost, schedule, and performance, and appropriate 
commitments by the program manager and the milestone decision authority 
to ensure that such parameters are met; 

* authorities available to the program manager, including, to the 
extent appropriate, the authority to object to the addition of new 
program requirements that would be inconsistent with the parameters 
established when the program formally began development (Milestone B 
for major acquisition programs or Key Decision Point B in the case of a 
space program) and reflected in the performance agreement; and: 

* extent to which a program manager for such period should continue in 
the position without interruption until the delivery of the first 
production units of the program. 

In February 2007, DOD issued a report on the department's acquisition 
transformation initiatives and the goals established in order to 
achieve change.[Footnote 3] Within that report, DOD noted that every 
aspect of how the department does business was being assessed and 
streamlined to deliver improved capabilities to the warfighter and 
visibility to executive leadership. The report also noted the need for 
continuous and evolutionary changes across the DOD acquisition system, 
especially with regard to determining which assets and investments to 
acquire in order to meet desired capabilities. Future reports on 
acquisition transformation were expected to build on the outcomes of 
initiatives described in that report. 

New DOD Approach Includes Various Actions to Increase Accountability 
and Support of Program Managers: 

DOD's revised approach for program managers includes a number of 
ongoing and planned actions to increase accountability and provide more 
support to program managers by enhancing individual development, 
providing more incentives, and arranging knowledge-sharing 
opportunities. Related to findings and recommendations in our 2005 
report, DOD previously initiated actions to increase program managers' 
accountability. In December 2005, DOD issued new policy to provide 
uniform guidance for managing positions and career development of the 
acquisition workforce, a policy that included program 
managers.[Footnote 4] The new policy identified career paths for 
program managers in terms of education, training, experience, and 
assignments. It also established requirements for program manager 
agreements, including specified tenure periods, when they are assigned 
to a program. 

In response to congressional direction, DOD is planning to establish 
other mechanisms for increasing program manager accountability. In 
December 2006, DOD formed a working group led by the Office of the 
Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics 
(OUSD/AT&L) to address the requirements of the fiscal year 2007 Defense 
Authorization Act, including development of the program manager 
empowerment and accountability strategy. The group was made up of 
defense acquisition career managers and service acquisition executives 
from all the services as well as Defense Acquisition University 
representatives. The working group began by reviewing successful 
practices that already exist within the Office of the Secretary of 
Defense and the military services. Based on this review, the group 
planned to either adopt these practices on a wider scale or develop new 
practices based on past experience and new ideas. 

In conjunction with the working group, DOD issued a May 2007 policy 
memorandum to emphasize and amplify the 2005 program manager tenure and 
accountability policy.[Footnote 5] DOD believes this will ensure that 
program managers have sufficient tenure to achieve the outcomes 
expected of them and to provide additional goal-oriented mechanisms 
that improve both systemic and personal accountability. The new policy 
maintains existing tenure agreements and qualifications for program 
managers. However, it also provides for performance management 
agreements, which are new. 

The new agreements are designed to provide a documented basis for 
ensuring that a program manager's plans are consistent with those of 
the organization, that there is a common basis for understanding and 
accountability, that the specified plans are fully resourced and 
achievable, and that both the organization's and individual's 
responsibilities are effectively communicated. The policy states that 
agreements will be prepared for programs at the acquisition category I 
and II levels and signed by the program manager, acquisition executive, 
and the requirements or resource authorities. Further, the policy 
states that the agreements will be prepared after DOD makes an 
investment decision to pursue a new program and a program manager is 
assigned and should consistently reflect the approved program. The 
agreements are expected to establish achievable and measurable plans 
that are to be updated annually, or more frequently if the conditions 
that formed the basis for the agreement--such as requirements, funding, 
or execution plans--have changed. 

In September 2007, DOD released a new strategy expected to address 
department efforts related to a holistic approach to acquisition 
transformation. Specific to program manager empowerment and 
accountability, this strategy notes that the department is beginning 
initiatives, identifying enhancements, and developing implementation 
plans associated with actions aimed at improving support to program 
managers. These initiatives serve to address specific improvements in 
program manager development, knowledge sharing, and stability and 
support. The strategy further acknowledges that additional effort is 
ongoing and required between the Office of the Secretary of Defense and 
the military components to develop deliberate, enterprisewide 
acquisition position and career management in order to ensure effective 
and efficient implementation of the separate initiatives within the 
overall strategy. See table 1 for the additional actions DOD is 
currently planning to support program managers. 

Table 1: DOD Actions Planned to Support Program Managers: 

Mandate item: Training and education; 
Actions Planned: DOD, through the Defense Acquisition University, plans 
to increase "just-in-time" training for program managers. DOD also 
plans to deploy a new "core-plus" concept as part of the training 
curriculum for program managers. 

Mandate item: Mentoring; 
Actions Planned: DOD plans to establish a formal program-manager-
focused mentoring program. This would be augmented with the opportunity 
for program managers to speak with former program managers and retired 
flag officers and senior executives. DOD's strategy states that each 
military service will develop a formalized program manager mentorship 
program within 18 months. 

Mandate item: Career paths & opportunities; 
Actions Planned: DOD is planning to emphasize professional development 
for civilian program managers and establish/expand executive 
development for acquisition professionals. For example, the DOD 
strategy states that the department is exploring the establishment of a 
specialized "professional" acquisition program management occupational 

Mandate item: Recruitment & retention incentives; 
Actions Planned: DOD plans to increase Senior Service School selection 
rates and expand executive development participation. The DOD strategy 
notes that these types of initiatives would be used to the extent 
possible to encourage top military and civilian members to compete for 
the most challenging assignments. 

Mandate item: Resources & support; 
Actions Planned: DOD plans to institute teams aligned with particular 
phases of an acquisition program to assist program managers as 
necessary. This would include program support and non-advocacy reviews, 
acquisition centers of excellence, and program start-up workshops at 
program initiation. Other plans include establishing program management 
forums within the department where program managers can share 
information with each other. One such forum would be through the 
Program Management Industrial Committee--developed with the National 
Defense Industrial Association--expected to allow discussion of program 
management issues from both government and industry perspectives. 

Mandate item: Best practices & lessons learned; 
Actions Planned: In addition to program management forums and assist 
teams discussed above, DOD plans to begin program manager "webcasts." 
DOD plans to link acquisition knowledge databases together to improve 
performance and maximize value. 

Mandate item: Common templates & tools; 
Actions Planned: DOD does not initially intend to expend effort to 
develop new or additional templates and tools; rather it will focus on 
increasing overall awareness of those already in place within the 
department and each military department. DOD's strategy notes that 
effort will be needed to improve the user interface to such tools, 
including information and best practices databases. Additional effort 
is also expected to be necessary to link knowledge systems, databases, 
and resources together. 

Mandate item: Increase accountability; 
Actions Planned: In addition to actions related to a May 2007 policy 
memorandum, DOD plans to encourage ACAT ID program managers to meet 
with the defense acquisition executives when first assigned. 

Mandate item: Monetary & non-monetary awards; 
Actions Planned: DOD plans to explore the use of monetary awards. 
However, the DOD strategy acknowledges that because monetary awards 
involve "sensitive compensation questions," additional research and a 
workforce analysis of the program manager field are currently underway. 

Source: Department of Defense, Under Secretary for Acquisition, 
Technology and Logistics, Report to: Congress on Program Manager 
Empowerment and Accountability (Washington, D.C.: September 2007). 

[End of table] 

DOD Practices for Program Manager Accountability Must Match Policy 

Since 2003, while noting some positive changes to DOD acquisition 
policy, we have reported that the department's leadership needs to put 
necessary controls in place to ensure decision makers could make 
informed judgments.[Footnote 6] As we reported in 2005, DOD continues 
to start many more programs than it can afford and rarely prioritizes 
them for funding purposes.[Footnote 7] In addition, DOD allows programs 
to begin without establishing a formal business case. Further, 
technologies are not always mature at program start, requirements are 
not always fully defined, and cost and schedule estimates are often 
unrealistic--resulting in a mismatch between customer needs and 
available resources. As a result, program managers are often not well- 
positioned to successfully execute weapon acquisitions and are often 
relegated to program advocacy in order to ensure programs continue. 

DOD acknowledges, and we agree, that any initiative intended to operate 
within the department's existing organizational framework must be 
universally supported by OSD leadership and each service component or 
the initiative will not provide sufficient authority and control over 
resources to effectively influence weapon system investments. 
Therefore, DOD's strategy to improve acquisition outcomes rests not 
only with providing support for individual program managers, but more 
importantly on creating a departmentwide environment that promotes 
stability, accountability, and more informed decisionmaking. To that 
end, the new DOD strategy notes that successful acquisition program 
outcomes are not possible without continuous alignment of three 
principal functions: requirements, funding, and acquisition execution. 
In order to support improvements in these functional areas, DOD has or 
plans to begin several initiatives intended to address shortfalls in 
its existing approach to investment decisions, such as establishing an 
early decision gate to review proposed programs at the concept stage, 
testing portfolio management approaches in selected capability areas, 
planning time-defined acquisitions, creating configuration steering 
boards, and using capital budgeting accounts for programs in 
development. See table 2 for examples of initiatives related to 
requirements, funding, and acquisition execution. 

Table 2: DOD Initiatives on Requirements, Funding, and Acquisition 

Initiative: Concept decision; 
Description: Framework for strategic investment decisions. 

Initiative: Time-defined acquisitions; 
Description: Where feasible, first capability increment will be fielded 
in 5 to 6 years from investment decisions. 

Initiative: Human capital planning; 
Description: Comprehensive enterprise and specific component human 
capital plans to mitigate demographic and talent challenges, including 
the AT&L Human Capital Strategic Plan. 

Initiative: Requirements management certification training; 
Description: Portfolio of learning assets to train military and 
civilians who write and manage requirements for major defense 
acquisition programs. 

Initiative: Performance management; 
Description: Implementation of National Security Personnel System 
(NSPS) and the Executive and Senior Professional Pay and Performance 
System to enable outcomes-based performance evaluations and rewards. 

Initiative: Centers of excellence; 
Description: Continuous review and improvement of processes and 
practices to strengthen planning and execution of acquisition programs. 

Initiative: Risk-based source selection; 
Description: Identify and quantify risks, informing requirements 
development and cost estimation, and improve the assessment of 
contractor proposals. 

Initiative: Acquisition of services policy; 
Description: Ensure executive reviews and implementation of best 

Initiative: Restructured Defense Acquisition Executive Summary (DAES); 
Description: Establish an analytical foundation to ensure effective 
program management with predictable acquisition outcomes consistent 
with user requirements. 

Source: Department of Defense, Under Secretary for Acquisition, 
Technology and Logistics, Report to Congress on Program Manager 
Empowerment and Accountability (Washington, D.C.: September 2007). 

[End of table] 

The DOD strategy emphasizes that initiatives designed to improve 
program manager performance can only be successful if the strategic 
objectives are accepted and implemented. This support, however, is not 
a given. Policies similar to the one issued by DOD in May 2007 have 
existed for some time, but according to OUSD and Air Force officials, 
have not always been practiced. For example, while DOD policy provides 
for program managers of major defense acquisition programs to serve as 
close to 4-year tenures as practicable, many serve for only 2 years. 
Such inconsistency between policy and practice could hinder DOD's 
efforts to improve program manager accountability. In fact, our work 
has shown that rather than lengthy assignment periods between key 
milestones as suggested by best practices, many of the programs we have 
reviewed had multiple program managers within the same milestone. For 
example, analysis for this review showed that for 39 major acquisition 
programs started since March 2001, the average time in development was 
about 37 months. The average tenure for program managers on those 
programs during that time was about 17.2 months--less than half of what 
is prescribed by DOD policy. 

According to the Director for OUSD Portfolio Systems Acquisition, 
support for these accountability initiatives must come both from within 
DOD and from the military departments. Further, the Director noted that 
getting this support will be a major challenge in efforts to improve 
empowerment and accountability for program managers and ensure 
consistency between policy and practice. For example, the Director 
noted that advocacy for significant and continuous leadership will be 
needed to implement the tenure and accountability agreements currently 
planned and, maybe more importantly, secure funding necessary to carry 
out those agreements. The department's strategy further states that "if 
our [DOD's] efforts to improve requirements and resource stability are 
not successful, we cannot expect program manager performance to improve 
nor can we justly hold our program managers accountable." 


DOD is planning to implement many new practices that will provide 
program managers more incentives, support, and stability as well as 
opportunities for sharing knowledge and lessons learned. DOD has also 
established initiatives designed to change the strategic environment at 
the portfolio level. We agree that these initiatives reflect sound 
business practices and, if fully and correctly implemented, could lead 
to better program manager performance and overall acquisition outcomes. 
However, DOD also acknowledges that if efforts to improve requirements 
and resource stability are not successful, there cannot be an 
expectation that changes will occur at the program manager level. 
Moreover, if history is any judge, the overall environment within which 
program managers perform their work is very difficult to change simply 
with policy initiatives. Unless all of the players involved with 
acquisitions--the requirements community, the comptroller, the 
Undersecretary for AT&L and perhaps most importantly, the military 
services--are unified in implementing these new policies from top to 
bottom, they will be for naught. 

The new practices DOD is planning to implement will not be as effective 
as they could be until DOD ensures that program managers are given 
acquisition programs that are executable--that is, programs that are 
the result of an integrated, portfolio-based approach to investments 
and that have a sound business case. Only then will program managers be 
placed in a better position to carry out their programs in a manner 
suited for successful outcomes. DOD's actions to implement the new 
strategy, to reinforce the importance of tenure agreements, and to gain 
agreement and acceptance from the military services can only be 
effective and implemented as intended with strong and consistent 
vision, direction, and advocacy from DOD leadership. Greater department-
level support is important to ensure that DOD policy becomes practice, 
especially if program managers are to be truly empowered and held 
accountable for outcomes. 

Agency Comments: 

In commenting on a draft of this report, DOD provided technical 
comments, which were incorporated as appropriate. 

We will send copies of this correspondence to the Department of Defense 
and interested congressional committees. We will also make copies 
available to others upon request. In addition, the report will be 
available at no charge on GAO's Web site at [hyperlink,]. 

Should you or your staff have any questions on matters discussed in 
this correspondence, please contact me at (202) 512-4841 or Contact points for our Offices of Congressional 
Relations and Public Affairs may be found on the last page of this 
correspondence. Principal contributors to this report were Brian 
Mullins, Assistant Director; Sigrid McGinty; Peter Zwanzig; Marie 
Ahearn; and Greg Campbell. 

Signed by: 

Michael J. Sullivan: 


Acquisition and Sourcing Management: 

List of Committees: 

The Honorable Carl Levin: 
The Honorable John McCain: 
Ranking Member: 
Committee on Armed Services: 
United States Senate: 

The Honorable Daniel K. Inouye: 
The Honorable Ted Stevens: 
Ranking Member: 
Subcommittee on Defense: 
Committee on Appropriations: 
United States Senate: 

The Honorable Ike Skelton: 
The Honorable Duncan L. Hunter: 
Ranking Member: 
Committee on Armed Services: 
House of Representatives: 
The Honorable John P. Murtha: 

The Honorable C.W. Bill Young: 
Ranking Member: 
Subcommittee on Defense: 
Committee on Appropriations: 
House of Representatives: 

[End of section] 


[1] GAO, Best Practices: Better Support of Weapon System Program 
Managers Needed to Improve Outcomes, GAO-06-110 (Washington, D.C.: Nov. 
30, 2005). 

[2] John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 
2007, Pub. L. No. 109-364, 853 (2006). 

[3] Department of Defense, Secretary of Defense, Defense Acquisition 
Transformation: Report to Congress (Washington, D.C.: February 2007). 

[4] Department of Defense Instruction No. 5000.66, Operation of the 
Defense Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Workforce Education, 
Training, and Career Development Program (Dec. 21, 2005). The policy 
provides that the tenure period for program managers of major defense 
acquisition programs is the program milestone closest to 4 years or as 
tailored by the acquisition executive based on unique program 
requirements, in accordance with 10 UCS  1734(b). 

[5] Under Secretary of Defense (AT&L) Memorandum, Program Management 
Tenure and Accountability, (May 25, 2007). 

[6] GAO, Defense Acquisitions: DOD's Revised Policy Emphasizes Best 
Practices, but More Controls Are Needed, GAO-04-53 (Washington, D.C; 
Nov. 2003). 

[7] GAO-06-110. 

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