DOD Needs to Improve How It Communicates the Status of Regulation Changes
GAO-19-489: Published: Jul 11, 2019. Publicly Released: Jul 11, 2019.
For years, Congress has been trying to improve how DOD buys products and services by enacting annual acquisition reform legislation. DOD implements these reforms through regulations.
We found that DOD has taken actions to address 180 acquisition reforms since 2010. On average, implementation was completed within a year of the legislation being enacted, but some provisions took over 2 years to implement.
However, the status of implementing regulations is not always easy to track. We recommended that DOD better communicate the status of these regulatory changes to Congress and other interested parties.
A manual outlining Defense Federal Acquisition Regulations.
What GAO Found
The staff of the Defense Acquisition Regulations System are responsible for making changes in the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS)—the Department of Defense's (DOD) regulation augmenting the Federal Acquisition Regulation, which guides government purchases of products and services. They begin their process by first tracking legislation that may affect acquisition regulations before Congress enacts the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). After enactment, they identify which provisions to implement through regulatory changes and which to implement through other means. In certain circumstances, rather than change the DFARS, DOD can issue a class deviation, which allows its buying organizations to temporarily diverge from the acquisition regulations. The figure below shows the primary means DOD uses to implement NDAA provisions, and the mechanisms DOD uses to make information on the status of any changes available to the public and others.
Department of Defense's (DOD) Methods to Implement and Report on Actions Taken on National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Provisions
DOD does not have a mechanism to clearly communicate to Congress, industry, and other interested parties the status of regulatory or other changes based on NDAA provisions. Using only publicly-available reports and information, it is difficult for an interested party to find the implementation status of any given acquisition-related NDAA provision. This is because no single DOD source communicates the status of regulatory or other changes in a manner that links the changes to specific NDAA provisions. As a result, interested parties are not always aware of what provisions have been implemented and when. This information is important for congressional oversight and to industry for planning and compliance purposes. Federal internal control standards state that management should address the communication expectations of external users.
GAO found that DOD has taken action to address 180 acquisition-related provisions since 2010. On average, implementation was completed within 1 year from enactment. Some complicated provisions took more than 2 years to implement. For example, a fiscal year 2016 NDAA provision, directing a regulatory change for commercial item procurements, took more than 2 years to implement because DOD was reconciling a prior year's related but different NDAA commercial item provision into one DFARS change.
Why GAO Did This Study
Congress has pursued acquisition reforms to make DOD's acquisition process more efficient and timely. Some statutes have directed DOD to revise or consider revising its acquisition regulations.
The House Armed Services Committee's report accompanying the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2019 included a provision for GAO to review DOD's regulatory implementation of acquisition-related provisions in the NDAAs from fiscal years 2010 through 2018. This report (1) determines how DOD implements acquisition-related NDAA provisions in the DFARS and communicates with stakeholders throughout that process, and (2) identifies the status of implementation of provisions enacted in the specified NDAAs.
To conduct this work, GAO reviewed DOD documents and interviewed DOD officials regarding the process for implementing acquisition-related NDAA provisions. GAO also analyzed DOD's data and reports on the implementation status of provisions enacted in NDAAs for fiscal years 2010 through 2018. GAO selected 12 of these provisions as case studies based on factors such as year enacted and time taken for implementation to obtain a mix of older and newer provisions, and shorter and longer implementation timeframes.
What GAO Recommends
DOD should develop a mechanism to better communicate the implementation status of acquisition-related NDAA provisions, particularly those that direct a change or consideration of a change to the DFARS. DOD concurred with the recommendation.
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Recommendation for Executive Action
Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the Director of the Defense Acquisition Regulations System develops a mechanism to better communicate to all stakeholders the implementation status of acquisition-related NDAA provisions, particularly those provisions that direct a change or consideration of a change to the DFARS. (Recommendation 1)
Agency Affected: Department of Defense