Defense Space Systems:

DOD Should Collect and Maintain Data on Its Space Acquisition Workforce

GAO-19-240: Published: Mar 14, 2019. Publicly Released: Mar 14, 2019.

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ludwigsonJ@gao.gov

 

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DOD plans to spend about $65 billion through 2023 on satellites, launch vehicles, ground control facilities, and other space-related acquisitions. Recently, DOD was directed to submit a legislative proposal to establish the U.S. Space Force.

Does DOD know whether it has the right workforce to handle all of these expensive and complex acquisitions?

We found that DOD does not routinely monitor the size, mix, or location of the military and civilian workforce supporting its space-related acquisition programs.

We recommended, among other things, that DOD collect comprehensive data on its space programs acquisition workforce.

The Four Segments Needed to Provide Space Systems Capabilities

Illustration of the types of component systems needed to provide a space system's capabilities.

Illustration of the types of component systems needed to provide a space system's capabilities.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Jon Ludwigson
(202) 512-4841
ludwigsonJ@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

What GAO Found

The Department of Defense (DOD) does not routinely monitor the size, mix, and location of its space acquisition workforce. However, data GAO collected and aggregated from multiple DOD space acquisition organizations show that at least 8,000 personnel in multiple locations nationwide were working on space acquisition activities at the end of 2017 (see figure). Also as shown, military and civilian personnel comprise the majority of the overall workforce, while contractor and Federally Funded Research and Development Center personnel also provide support.

Primary Locations and Size of Department of Defense (DOD) Space Acquisition Workforce Identified by GAO as of December 31, 2017 Primary Locations and Size of Department of Defense (DOD) Space Acquisition Workforce Identified by GAO as of December 31, 2017

Several factors hinder DOD's ability to collect data needed for a comprehensive view of its space acquisition workforce:

  • DOD does not maintain a complete list of its space acquisition programs;
  • DOD's workforce data systems are not configured to identify personnel working on space acquisition activities; and
  • DOD space acquisition personnel are dispersed across organizations and some personnel support both space and non-space programs.

Without complete and accurate data, DOD cannot assess gaps in the overall capabilities of the space acquisition workforce. Identifying space programs and collecting such data would also better position DOD to ensure that the appropriate space acquisition personnel are assigned to the new Space Development Agency and the United States Space Command. Finally, comprehensive data on the space acquisition workforce would also be beneficial to support DOD's efforts related to its recent legislative proposal regarding the establishment of the United States Space Force.

Why GAO Did This Study

DOD plans to spend about $65 billion from fiscal year 2019 to 2023 on space acquisition programs—including satellites, launch vehicles, ground components, and user equipment. DOD's space acquisition personnel perform a variety of activities, such as preparing and reviewing acquisition documents, to manage or oversee programs that develop or procure space capabilities. DOD recently announced it plans to establish a new Space Development Agency and a United States Space Command.

A House Report accompanying a bill for the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act contained a provision for GAO to review DOD's space acquisition workforce. This report examines, among other things, what is known about the size, mix, and location of that workforce. GAO collected data from DOD's acquisition workforce data systems and multiple space acquisition organizations. GAO interviewed officials from these organizations and from a non-generalizable sample of 10 space acquisition programs, representing a range of dollar values and stages in the acquisition process.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that DOD (1) identifies the universe of its space acquisition programs and the organizations that support them and (2) collects and maintains data on the workforce that supports these programs. DOD agreed with the first recommendation, but not the second. GAO revised the second recommendation to address DOD's concerns.

For more information, contact Jon Ludwigson at (202) 512-4841 or ludwigsonJ@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: In its written response, which is included in our report, DOD concurred with this recommendation. In its Corrective Action Plan (CAP) provided in August 2020, DOD states that this recommendation is no longer applicable due to the establishment of the U.S. Space Force on December 20, 2019. All space acquisition programs previously in the Air Force were transferred to the Space Force upon stand up and funding followed with the FY21 President's Budget submission. DOD also states in the CAP that the transfer of the other military services' and defense agencies' space acquisition programs and funding to the Space Force is currently in process. Once the other organizations' space acquisition programs are fully transferred to the U.S. Space Command, we will consider whether the recommendation should be closed.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the military services and other DOD components to identify the universe of space acquisition programs, as well as the various organizations that support these programs, and report this information to Congress. In doing so, DOD should implement procedures to maintain and periodically update the list. (Recommendation 1)

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: DOD has not taken action to implement this recommendation. As discussed in our report, DOD did not concur with this recommendation. DOD stated that the manner in which personnel data are captured in its human resource and development systems makes it difficult to identify, collect, and maintain data on the military and civilian personnel working on space acquisition programs. Further, DOD raised concerns over contractual limitations on collecting and maintaining data on contractor and FFRDC personnel supporting space acquisitions. We continue to believe that collecting and maintaining more robust data on the space acquisition workforce will support DOD's planning efforts for establishing new space organizations and better inform Congress. In our report, we point out that DOD could make minor modifications to its personnel data system to facilitate identifying and routinely tracking accurate information on the military and civilian segments of the space acquisition workforce. Further, collecting information on the general levels of contractor and FFRDC effort supporting space acquisition activities and the resources spent to obtain this assistance, could be useful in helping DOD determine the right number and mix of military and civilian personnel needed in the new space organizations. In its Corrective Action Plan (CAP) provided in August 2020, DOD states that it has determined that due to the fluidity of support provided by individual workforce members to specific programs, it is not feasible to collect data attributing individual support to specific space acquisition programs. In the CAP, DOD also states that since the U.S. Space Force has been established, DOD has a limited ability to produce data on the organic space acquisition workforce comprised of former USAF units, and DOD will determine the best format and means of reporting this data. DOD further states that once the space acquisition programs from other military services and Defense Agencies are transferred to the Space Force, it will need to determine how best to integrate acquisition workforce data from the newly assigned agencies and units. Once that is determined, DOD will attempt to provide an aggregate report of available space acquisition workforce data to the Congress. Once the other organizations' space acquisition programs are fully transferred to the U.S. Space Command and are included under its reporting, we will consider whether to close the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, in conjunction with the Under Secretaries of Defense for Research and Development and for Personnel and Readiness, should collect and maintain data on acquisition-coded military and civilian personnel that support space acquisition programs and related activities—including those that may do so less than full time—as well as track the contractor and Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) workforce general levels of effort supporting space acquisition programs and related activities and the total resources annually committed to perform that work. (Recommendation 2)

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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