Best Practices and Leading Practices in Acquisition Management
With hundreds of billions of tax dollars spent each year on goods and services, it is essential that federal acquisition be managed in an efficient and effective manner. Our work has shown that four interrelated elements promote an efficient and accountable acquisition environment and process: 1) Organizational Alignment and Leadership, 2) Policies and Processes, 3) Human Capital's Acquisition Workforce and 4) Knowledge and Information Management.
Organizational Alignment and Leadership
Acquisition activities can be facilitated by ensuring the procurement function is appropriately placed within the agency and by clearly defining the roles and responsibilities of key stakeholders. Officials are able to make strategic decisions to achieve desired acquisition outcomes when they have the committed support of senior leadership.
- Establish and fill the position of chief acquisition officer, designating the officer with primary responsibility for managing the agency's acquisitions.
- Define roles and responsibilities for all participants in the acquisition process.
- Establish and communicate to all levels of the agency a strategic vision for the acquisition function, including goals and metrics related to acquisition efficiency, effectiveness, and achieving mission results.
- Evaluate and adjust the current structure of the acquisition function to assure changes in mission, budget, workforce, and technology are incorporated.
Policies and Processes
Clear, transparent, and consistent policies and processes are needed to implement strategic decisions through acquisitions. Such policies and processes govern the planning, award, administration, and oversight of acquisition efforts.
- Establish cross-functional teams in which key stakeholders coordinate and execute the acquisition tasks.
- Identify metrics, assess performance, and provide feedback on performance to agency suppliers.
- Establish mechanisms that promote the participation of small business suppliers.
- Strategically assess agency needs and how acquisition can meet those needs, including:
- identify and analyze agency-wide acquisitions planned in the next 12-24 months.
- ensuring needs in the agency budget request submission are consistent with planned acquisition strategies.
- Implement continuous improvement mechanisms, including revisions to acquisition-related policies and processes when appropriate, to incorporate staff and affected parties' needs and concerns.
Human Capital's Acquisition Workforce
To successfully acquire goods and services and execute and monitor contracts, agencies need to value and invest in the acquisition workforce. Agencies must think strategically about recruiting, developing, and retaining talent, and creating a results-oriented culture within the acquisition workforce.
- Include acquisition officials in the agency's human capital strategic planning process.
- Identify acquisition needs in the human capital plan, including strategies for recruiting, retaining, and developing acquisition staff.
- Conduct an acquisition workforce assessment to ensure employees have clearly defined roles and responsibilities, performance measures, and the appropriate workload, skills and training to perform their jobs effectively.
- Establish performance expectations and metrics for acquisition officials and managers at all levels.
Knowledge and Information Management
Effective knowledge and information management provides credible, reliable, and timely data to make strategic acquisition decisions in support of organizational missions.
Key practices are:
- Identify and maintain an inventory of key agency suppliers.
- Collect and maintain data on major categories of spending to inform agency decision-making.
- Use knowledge on spending patterns to leverage agency-wise acquisitions to obtain favorable pricing and other concessions from key suppliers.
- Conduct and maintain an inventory identifying activities performed by government personnel as commercial or inherently governmental, and provide justification of inherently governmental functions.
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GAO-12-400SP: Published: Mar 29, 2012. Publicly Released: Mar 29, 2012.
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GAO-05-218G: Published: Sep 1, 2005. Publicly Released: Sep 1, 2005.
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GAO-18-566T: Published: May 23, 2018. Publicly Released: May 23, 2018.
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and federal agencies have taken steps to improve the management of information technology (IT) acquisitions and operations and ensure the security of federal IT through a series of initiatives. As of May 2018, agencies had fully implemented about 61 percent of the approximately 800 IT management-related recommendations that GAO made from fiscal years 2010...
GAO-18-339SP: Published: May 17, 2018. Publicly Released: May 17, 2018.
Each year, the Department of Homeland Security invests billions of dollars in major acquisitions such as aircraft and surveillance technology. We reviewed DHS's portfolio of major acquisitions and found that, in 2017, more than half of its programs needed more time and money than initially planned—an increase from 2016. DHS has strengthened its policies for managing acquisitions as a portfolio...
GAO-18-385R: Published: Apr 13, 2018. Publicly Released: Apr 13, 2018.
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GAO-18-460T: Published: Mar 14, 2018. Publicly Released: Mar 14, 2018.
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and federal agencies have taken steps to improve the management of information technology (IT) acquisitions and operations through a series of initiatives, to include (1) data center consolidation, (2) implementation of incremental development practices, (3) approval of IT acquisitions, (4) implementation of key IT workforce practices, and (5) addressing a...
GAO-18-217: Published: Feb 15, 2018. Publicly Released: Feb 15, 2018.
Cost and schedule overruns have plagued DOD’s major defense acquisition programs, with current projected costs exceeding initial expectations by $484 billion and delays averaging 31 months. To keep programs on track, DOD relies on program managers who can balance factors that influence cost, schedule, and performance. The military services have taken steps to develop top-notch talent for this r...
GAO-18-59: Published: Jan 24, 2018. Publicly Released: Jan 30, 2018.
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GAO-18-42: Published: Jan 10, 2018. Publicly Released: Jan 10, 2018.
Most of the 22 selected agencies did not identify all of their information technology (IT) contracts. The selected agencies identified 78,249 IT-related contracts, to which they obligated $14.7 billion in fiscal year 2016. However, GAO identified 31,493 additional contracts with $4.5 billion obligated, raising the total amount obligated to IT contracts in fiscal year 2016 to at least $19.2 billion...
GAO-18-80: Published: Dec 14, 2017. Publicly Released: Jan 16, 2018.
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GAO-18-40: Published: Nov 17, 2017. Publicly Released: Dec 19, 2017.
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GAO-18-234T: Published: Nov 15, 2017. Publicly Released: Nov 15, 2017.
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and federal agencies have taken steps to improve the management of information technology (IT) acquisitions and operations through a series of initiatives, and as of November 2017, had fully implemented about 56 percent of the approximately 800 related GAO recommendations made between fiscal years 2010 through 2015. However, important additional actions ar...