Defense Contracts: DOD Should Develop a Strategy for Assessing Contract Award Time Frames
Department of Defense leadership and defense contractors have expressed concerns about the length of time it takes to award contracts, and DOD has proposed reducing that time.
We found DOD does not know how long it currently takes to award contracts and therefore does not have a baseline to measure progress in reducing time frames. DOD components—for example, the Air Force—collect some data on award time frames. But varying scopes and methods limit the usefulness of those data across DOD.
We recommended that, to assess time frames for awarding contracts, DOD determine what information it should collect and how to use that information.
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What GAO Found
Although the Department of Defense (DOD) has proposed reducing the time it takes to award contracts related to weapon systems, the department has a limited understanding of how long it currently takes and therefore lacks a baseline to measure success. The DOD components GAO reviewed—Air Force, Army, Defense Logistics Agency, and Navy—collect data on their time frames for awarding contracts. However, they do so in different ways in the absence of a DOD-wide strategy for what information should be collected. For example, the Air Force measures the time to award beginning with solicitation issuance, while the other components use a different starting point. As a result, information the components collect is not comparable and is of limited use for understanding contract award time frames department-wide. Determining what information is needed to monitor time taken to award contracts consistently across components should help DOD assess its progress toward reducing the time.
GAO analyzed the time from solicitation issuance to award for 129 weapon systems-related contracts and found it ranged from less than a month to over 4 years. Although some DOD and industry officials stated that contract value could affect contract award time frames, GAO observed a wide range of time intervals and did not observe any patterns based on this characteristic. (See figure below.)
Time between Solicitation Issuance and Contract Award by Dollar Value for 129 Selected Contracts
According to DOD contracting officials GAO surveyed, factors that can help reduce—or, alternatively lengthen—the time between when a solicitation is issued to when a contract is awarded include a decision to make the contract award an office priority and how quickly contractors respond to requests for additional information after initial proposals are received.
Why GAO Did This Study
DOD's contracting process is designed to protect taxpayers' interests, among other things, and can take time. DOD leadership and contractors have expressed concern about the length of time to award contracts and DOD has proposed reducing that time.
GAO was asked to evaluate the length of time to award weapon systems contracts. This report examines (1) DOD's efforts to determine the time it takes to award contracts; (2) data on the time interval from solicitation to contract award for selected contracts; and (3) factors identified as contributing to contract award time frames.
GAO used the Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation to identify new weapon systems-related contracts awarded in fiscal years 2014 through 2016, valued over $5 million, among other factors. GAO selected a nongeneralizable sample of 129 contracts at four DOD components with the highest total dollar value and highest number of contracts from those fiscal years for further analysis. GAO analyzed contract documentation and surveyed contracting officials on a subset of contracts to determine the factors affecting the time between solicitation issuance and award.
GAO recommends that DOD develop a strategy that identifies the information it needs to collect and how it will use the information to assess contract award time frames. DOD concurred.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Defense||The Secretary of Defense should direct the Director, Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy to develop a strategy regarding contract award time frames that identifies: (1) the information the department needs to collect; and (2) how the department will use the information to assess the time it takes to award contracts. The strategy should seek to communicate the department's goals related to contract award time frames, seek to leverage ongoing data collection efforts by the various components, and specify the events prior to solicitation and between solicitation issuance and contract award that the department believes should be tracked. (Recommendation 1)||
DOD agreed with the recommendation to develop a strategy regarding the information the department needs to collect and how the department will use the information to assess contract award time frames. In February 2019, DOD issued a memorandum requiring the DOD components to track and report milestones for major defense acquisition procurements over $250 million. The milestones include approval of an acquisition strategy, proposal receipt, completion of technical evaluation and completion of negotiations, among others. The initial effort focuses on non-competitive procurements and future efforts will include competitive procurements.