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Highlights

Special Operations Command's (SOCOM) duties have greatly increased since the attacks of September 11, 2001. Today, Special Operations Forces are at work in Afghanistan and Iraq, and SOCOM has been assigned to lead U.S. efforts in the Global War on Terrorism. SOCOM's acquisitions budget has also greatly increased in this period--more than doubling from $788 million in 2001 to approximately $1.91 billion in 2006. In light of SOCOM's expanded duties, Congress requested that GAO review SOCOM's management of its acquisition programs. GAO's evaluation includes an assessment of: the types of acquisition programs SOCOM has undertaken since 2001 and whether the programs are consistent with its mission; the extent to which SOCOM's programs have progressed as planned; and the challenges SOCOM faces in managing its acquisition programs.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense 1. To better position SOCOM to achieve the right acquisition program outcomes, the Secretary of Defense should ensure that SOCOM establishes sound business cases for its more complex and military department-managed acquisition programs. Integral to this is applying the elements of a knowledge-based acquisition strategy (That is: programs match requirements with resources.) and having effective agreements in place with the military departments that specify clear roles, responsibilities, and expectations for executing programs.
Closed - Implemented
Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has taken several steps to strengthen the development of sound business cases before initiating acquisition programs: (1) the Command has instituted an agreement with the Navy to provide experienced cost estimators who will develop independent cost estimates for SOCOM programs; and (2)the Command has begun using a Defense Acquisition University tool for calculating technology readiness levels to improve technology readiness assessments prior to initiating programs. SOCOM is also taking steps to update memorandums of agreement with the military departments who manage certain SOCOM programs. The Command has developed an overarching agreement with the Navy and is in the process of establishing agreements with the other services. In addition, the Command has updated its operating procedures to better define the roles and responsibilities for service offices that have been designated to manage SOCOM programs.
Department of Defense 2. To better position SOCOM to achieve the right acquisition program outcomes, the Secretary of Defense should ensure that, as SOCOM increases its acquisition workforce, it (1) obtains personnel with the skills and abilities needed for more complex acquisitions, (2) makes sure personnel meet DOD acquisition certification level requirements, and (3) has the ability to make the hiring process as efficient as possible.
Closed - Implemented
DOD concurred with this recommendation. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has taken several actions to improve the size and composition of its workforce and ensure it matches the acquisition workload undertaken by the Command. For example, the Command has established a more formal screening process to assess the education, training, and experience of applicants being considered for acquisition program management positions. In addition, to provide improved oversight of acquisition certification requirements, SOCOM established a team to develop process maps, templates, and metrics for assessing whether personnel meet certification requirements. Also, to improve workforce hiring, SOCOM has initiated an advertising campaign to target personnel at the acquisition centers of the military services and streamlined internal processes, including establishing electronic work flow packages, to help reduce the length of time it takes to hire new personnel.
Department of Defense 3. To better position SOCOM to achieve the right acquisition program outcomes, the Secretary of Defense should ensure that SOCOM improves the accuracy, timeliness, and usefulness of its acquisition management information system. To accomplish this, SOCOM should (1) establish enforcement mechanisms to make sure program managers submit updated information on a regular basis and (2) conduct quality checks to make sure the information is reliable.
Closed - Implemented
DOD concurred with this recommendation. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has taken steps to improve its acquisition management information system. The Command has made hardware and software improvements to the system, including a new hardware architecture to improve the capability and speed of the application. The Command has also required program managers to update information in the system to ensure the information matches existing programs of record. In addition, the Command has established measures to review the accuracy of the information in the system on a more regular basis, including the use of metrics to track when data have been updated and validated.

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