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 05, 2019. Publicly Released: Oct 02, 2019.
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Fast Facts

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.
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Highlights

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.

Reissued with revisions on Oct. 2, 2019.

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

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.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense 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)
Open
DOD concurred with this recommendation, but has not yet taken the necessary actions to implement it. In September 2021, a Defense Acquisition University (DAU) official stated that he is working with the Defense Logistics Agency to develop an internal process that would identify non-acquisition personnel supporting services acquisitions. Officials from the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition and Sustainment) have discussed how to potentially use this process to identify such personnel throughout DOD, but they have not identified how to do this or a schedule for implementation. In addition, the DAU official stated that the respective DOD components are responsible for identifying non-acquisition personnel supporting services acquisitions. We continue to believe that DOD should designate an accountable official responsible for these efforts in order to help ensure their implementation.
Department of Defense 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)
Open
DOD concurred with this recommendation. In September 2021, a DAU official stated that DOD's Human Capital Initiatives office is planning to issue a memorandum to the Defense Acquisition Career Managers. This memorandum would support the DOD instruction for DAU, which establishes that components are to provide their non-acquisition personnel training needs to DAU. We are continuing to assess DOD's progress for ensuring that the Component Acquisition Executives provide DAU the training needs for non-acquisition personnel.

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