Acquisition Workforce: Federal Agencies Obtain Training to Meet Requirements, but Have Limited Insight into Costs and Benefits of Training Investment
What GAO Found
The Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) sets standards and policies for the federal acquisition workforce, and has established certification requirements, including minimal training, for the three main acquisition roles--contracting staff, Contracting Officer's Representatives, and Program/Project Managers--to promote the development of government-wide core acquisition competencies and facilitate mobility across agencies. DOD follows separate certification standards. The Federal Acquisition Institute (FAI), which is responsible for fostering and promoting the training and development of the acquisition workforce, works closely with OFPP and has initiatives underway to improve the collection and management of training information, including cost data and course evaluations; streamline communication of acquisition training guidance; and coordinate efforts to leverage acquisition workforce training resources throughout the government.
To support efforts for the acquisition workforce to attain and maintain federal certification requirements, most agencies (17 of 23) provide the majority of their acquisition training using external sources--vendors, FAI, the Defense Acquisition University, or other agencies. The Departments of Homeland Security (DHS), the Treasury, and Veterans Affairs (VA) operate their own permanent centers with dedicated resources that train the agency's acquisition workforce. Education reported using a different approach to providing acquisition training--it gets most of its training from other government entities. Federal agencies face similar challenges in providing training to their acquisition workforce. The top challenges reported by agencies in obtaining training for their acquisition workforce involved having sufficient resources. Twenty of 23 agencies identified obtaining adequate funding and 19 of 23 identified obtaining sufficient staff to manage training as challenging. In addition, almost half of the agencies reported that the fundamental step of identifying the acquisition workforce is a challenge especially when members of the workforce are involved in acquisitions as a secondary and not primary duty.
The training cost data that agencies collect is not comparable and agencies have limited information on the benefits of their acquisition workforce training investments. Although almost all agencies provided some cost data in response to GAO's questionnaire and subsequent data call, the agencies' cost data did not allow for government-wide assessment of their training investment. To date, FAI's efforts to collect training cost data has also met with limited success. Cost data collected in 2012 by GAO and FAI included different cost components-- such as facilities, travel, and instructors--which do not allow for government-wide analysis. Having comparable training cost data are important to inform FAI efforts to establish government-wide contracts for training. As for determining benefits of training, 7 of 23 federal agencies reported having no metrics, not even basic endof- course evaluations. Without basic data, agencies do not have insight into the benefits of their acquisition workforce training efforts.
Why GAO Did This Study
The acquisition workforce manages and oversees billions of dollars in acquisition programs and contracts to help federal agencies get what they need, at the right time, and at a reasonable price; therefore, it is important that agencies provide adequate training to this workforce. In this review, GAO identified (1) the role of OFPP and the FAI in assisting agencies in meeting certification requirements; (2) agencies' approaches to providing training; and (3) the extent to which agencies collect information on the costs and benefits of their acquisition training. To determine OFPP and the FAI roles, GAO analyzed relevant legislation. GAO obtained information from 23 federal agencies on their training approaches through a questionnaire, and selected 4 agencies--the Departments of Education and the Treasury, DHS, and VA--to provide illustrative examples. GAO used its questionnaire and a subsequent data call to obtain information on how agencies collect information on the costs and benefits of their training.
GAO recommends that OFPP help ensure that agencies collect and report comparable cost data and assess the benefits of acquisition training by (1) providing further guidance on the cost data agencies are to report annually, and (2) requiring agencies to analyze course evaluations, at a minimum, to help assess the benefits of training investments. OFPP concurred with the recommendations and indicated it has started to take actions to provide additional guidance.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Office of Management and Budget||To help ensure that agencies collect and report comparable cost data and perform a minimal assessment of the benefits of their acquisition training investments to aid in the coordination and evaluation of the use of resources government-wide, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget should direct the Administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, in consultation with the Director of the Federal Acquisition Institute, to provide further guidance, including definitions, on the types of costs that agencies should include in their Acquisition Human Capital Plan submission to help determine total training investment.||
In providing comments on this report, the agency concurred with this recommendation and in its August 2013 letter to the Congress, the Office of Management and Budget stated that its Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) plans to work with Federal Acquisition Institute (FAI) and the agencies to determine the total training investment. As we reported, agencies did not collect cost data that is comparable, and FAI had received limited cost data from the agencies in prior data calls. In its FY2014 Acquisition Human Capital Plans (AHCP), OFPP requested cost information from agencies, however the request, while more detailed on the makeup of the costs to be reported associated with training to delineate the costs of developing from the cost of offering courses, it was only for cost data on courses developed or provided by contractors. OMB reported its plan to request cost data on courses developed by federal agencies, including the salaries of agency personnel involved, in the FY2015 AHCP submissions. In a July 25, 2016 meeting with OMB on all open recommendations, an OMB/OFPP official stated that the guidance/template for the annual Agency Human Capital Plan submissions includes a spreadsheet with a break out identifying the training costs to be included in the agencies' reports. On August 15, 2017, OMB sent a copy of the FY2017 Agency Human Capital Plan submission's spreadsheet for collecting training cost data. The worksheet, if completed as directed on the instruction tab, would provide data for each course the agency provided during the year. It would also include costs for course development, instruction, materials, and related travel broken out by vendor costs and government personnel hours. Based on a review of the spreadsheet, we conclude that OMB is collecting comparable training course cost data and this recommendation has been met.
|Office of Management and Budget||To help ensure that agencies collect and report comparable cost data and perform a minimal assessment of the benefits of their acquisition training investments to aid in the coordination and evaluation of the use of resources government-wide, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget should direct the Administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, in consultation with the Director of the Federal Acquisition Institute, to require all agencies, at a minimum, to collect and analyze participant evaluations of all acquisition workforce training as a first step to help assess the effectiveness of their training investment.||
In providing comments on this report, the agency concurred with this recommendation and in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) August 2013 letter to the Congress stated that its Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) is implementing modules in the Federal Acquisition Institute Training Application Systems (FAITAS), the system used by most agencies to register for much of the acquisition workforce training, that will require participants to complete an evaluation of each course completed. OMB also stated its plans to require all agencies to use FAITAS to offer, track, and evaluate acquisition courses. However, OMB's Increasing Efficiencies in Acquisition Workforce Training Memorandum, September 3, 2013, did not require agencies to collect or analyze training evaluations. As part of OMB's FY2014 Acquisition Human Capital Plan data call agencies were to collect and provide data on course evaluations. According to OMB, course evaluation data was submitted for 44 percent of the courses. In a July 25, 2016, meeting with OMB on all open recommendations, an OMB/OFPP official stated that a standardized participant evaluation is now required to be completed for training classes. On September 14, 2016, GAO sent a request for a copy of the standardized evaluation, and further information on whether the evaluations are required for all training regardless of whether provided by the government or a vendor. On August 15, 2017, OMB sent a copy of the OMB Training Course Survey that is to be used to collect data on participants' evaluation of the training course. The training course survey template provided includes questions that would likely attain an indication if the participants felt they would be able to apply the information learned in the course. We concluded that the training course survey template would obtain valuable data for agencies and OMB to evaluate training. As such, the recommendation should be closed as implemented.