Coast Guard Acquisitions:

Formal Criteria Needed to Ensure Project Manager Qualifications

RCED-90-178: Published: Jun 19, 1990. Publicly Released: Jul 19, 1990.

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GAO assessed the Coast Guard's actions to increase the qualifications and tenure of acquisitions personnel.

GAO found that: (1) since 1985, the Coast Guard has taken steps to improve its managers' experience and training, but did not ensure that its project managers had the necessary skills to successfully manage major acquisitions; (2) in 1986, the Coast Guard established a panel to select project managers and focus on maintaining high standards of professionalism, ensuring that top performers received major projects, and enhancing project managers' prestige; (3) the panel had not yet formalized the selection criteria for project managers; (4) the Coast Guard took several steps to improve project managers' awareness of statutes, regulations, policies and procedures, and program management, primarily by ensuring that all project managers took a 20-week management course, but had not established a formal training requirement; (5) the Coast Guard's tenure guidelines did not differentiate between project manager and other headquarters assignments, but project managers' tours were generally less than 4 years; and (6) since the Coast Guard experienced frequent turnover for project managers, it was working to establish civilian deputy project manager positions to provide more continuity, since civilians were not subject to military rotation policies.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Formal criteria for selecting project managers has been developed. These new criteria are based on a Coast Guard study regarding what knowledge, skill, and abilities project managers should possess.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Commandant of the Coast Guard to formalize the selection criteria regarding prior experience and education to ensure that, along with management skills necessary to ensure effective performance, all future project managers selected have acquisition experience or acquisition training.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Coast Guard's project manager screening notice of September 11, 1992, requires that selectees attend a 20-week acquisition course prior to assuming their project manager responsibilities. The agency also has established training positions for project manager selectees.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Commandant of the Coast Guard to institute a formal requirement that, once selected, all project managers have relevant training, consistent with their educational background and acquisition experience, before their tours begin.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation


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