Defense Workforce:

Steps Needed to Identify Acquisition Training Needs for Non-Acquisition Personnel [Reissued with revisions on Oct. 2, 2019.]

GAO-19-556: Published: Sep 5, 2019. Publicly Released: Sep 5, 2019.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Timothy J. DiNapoli
(202) 512-4841
DiNapoliT@gao.gov

 

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

DOD spends billions of dollars acquiring products and services. DOD's acquisition workforce (e.g., contracting officers) manages this process, but thousands of other DOD employees can be involved. For example, pilots are sometimes asked to oversee aircraft contracts.

We found DOD has identified some of the non-acquisition personnel performing certain acquisition-related duties, but has not made as much progress identifying those involved in services acquisitions. DOD also has not comprehensively considered the acquisition-related training needs for non-acquisition personnel.

We recommended DOD take steps to address these issues.

An aerial view of the Pentagon.

An aerial view of the Pentagon.

Reissued with Revisions Oct. 02, 2019

This report was revised on October 2, 2019 to correct two numbers that had been transposed in the Highlights page figure.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Timothy J. DiNapoli
(202) 512-4841
DiNapoliT@gao.gov

 

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

What GAO Found

The Department of Defense (DOD) has implemented two of three key initiatives to identify non-acquisition personnel supporting acquisitions. DOD has implemented initiatives to identify non-acquisition personnel who (1) develop requirements, and (2) oversee contracts. However, DOD has not implemented a third initiative to identify non-acquisition personnel contributing to services acquisitions more generally. In fiscal year 2018, DOD obligated $175 billion for contracts for services such as management support and information technology. In April 2016, the DOD Acquisition Executive (DAE) directed a team comprised of representatives from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Air Force, and the Defense Acquisition University (DAU) to develop a schedule for identifying these personnel by October 2016. However, the team did not complete this task by March 2019, when the current DAE directed the team to focus on other issues, and the DAE has not yet determined who will be responsible for completing this task. As a result, DOD has not established how and when it will identify non-acquisition personnel contributing to services acquisitions, or what policy updates and resources may be necessary to identify them.

DOD does not comprehensively identify non-acquisition personnel's need for acquisition-related training. As a result, the department cannot determine the extent to which it is meeting their needs. All non-acquisition personnel have access to DAU's online training, but many of DAU's more advanced courses are only provided in a classroom setting. DAU prioritizes training acquisition personnel—its primary mission—when delivering the resource-constrained classroom training (see figure).

Average Annual Enrollment in Defense Acquisition University Courses, Fiscal Years 2016 through 2018

Highlights_v04_102913-rts

DOD policy requires that DOD components provide DAU information about the training needs of non-acquisition personnel as part of the annual budgeting process. However, GAO found that the components only provide DAU this information for acquisition personnel and requirements developers. Without comprehensive information about non-acquisition personnel's acquisition-training needs, DOD cannot determine the extent to which it is meeting those needs.

DOD spends hundreds of billions of dollars annually acquiring products and services. Since 1990, Congress and DOD have taken numerous steps to address issues related to the quality of DOD's acquisition workforce, which consists of contracting officers, cost estimators, and personnel in several other career fields. But tens of thousands of others, referred to as non-acquisition personnel, also affect how DOD acquires products and services such as major weapon systems and logistics support. These personnel have a wide range of primary responsibilities, such as piloting aircraft and managing facilities, and they are sometimes directed to perform acquisition-related functions, such as overseeing contracts.

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 included a provision for GAO to review steps DOD has taken to ensure non-acquisition personnel receive appropriate acquisition-related training. This report addresses the extent to which DOD can identify (1) non-acquisition personnel supporting acquisitions, and (2) their need for acquisition training. GAO analyzed training data; reviewed policies, guidance, and memorandums; and interviewed personnel from the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the military departments.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that DOD: (1) designate an official responsible for identifying non-acquisition personnel contributing to services acquisitions, and (2) ensure components provide DAU comprehensive information about non-acquisition personnel training needs. DOD concurred with the recommendations.

For more information, contact Timothy J. DiNapoli at (202) 512-4841 or DiNapoliT@gao.gov.

Reissued with Revisions Oct. 02, 2019

This report was revised on October 2, 2019 to correct two numbers that had been transposed in the Highlights page figure.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation, but has not yet taken any necessary actions to implement it. In its concurrence, DOD noted that the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) would develop and provide the guidance and job specialty descriptions for DOD components to use for identifying acquisition and non-acquisition personnel supporting services acquisitions. DOD also noted that the Director of Human Capital Initiatives has deployed an enterprise-wide coding capability for components to use in identifying acquisition and non-acquisition civilians across DOD. A DOD official stated that during 2020, both OSD and the Office of Human Capital Initiatives have developed reports that discuss issues related to the identification and training of non-acquisition personnel, including those supporting services acquisitions. This official noted that both of these reports are going through the coordination and staffing process and have not been issued. Additionally, DOD has not yet designated an accountable official responsible for efforts to help identify non-acquisition personnel supporting services acquisitions.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment designates an accountable official responsible for (a) developing job specialty descriptions to help identify non-acquisition personnel supporting services acquisitions; and (b) establishing a schedule to identify these personnel. (Recommendation 1)

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation. In July 2020, a DOD official stated that DOD is planning a revision to its instruction related to the education and training of DOD's acquisition workforce. The official said the revision is intended to help define the acquisition and non-acquisition workforces and the responsibilities for their respective training needs, among other things. However, the revision is in the planning stages and not be expected to be completed until the end of 2021. As a result, DOD is still not ensuring that Component Acquisition Executives provide non-acquisition personnel training needs to the Defense Acquisition University.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the Component Acquisition Executives provide non-acquisition personnel training needs to the Defense Acquisition University as part of the annual planning, programming, budgeting, and execution process. (Recommendation 2)

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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