Fast Facts

DOD relies on contractors worldwide to support contingency operations, which can include armed conflicts, humanitarian crises, and more.

The Commission on Wartime Contracting made 30 recommendations in 2011 to improve contingency contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan. For example, some recommendations are to help DOD determine how much contract support is needed for these operations.

DOD planned to address 16 recommendations, but hasn't adequately documented the actions it took to address half of them. This makes it hard to know whether DOD is fulfilling the Commission's vision for reform.

Our recommendations address this and other issues we found.

DOD Contingency Contractor Personnel

Bar graph showing the number of DOD contingency contractor personnel 2009-2019

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Highlights

What GAO Found

The Department of Defense (DOD) has taken steps to implement the 16 of 30 recommendations it agreed to address and that were made by the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan (Commission). The Commission was established by law to develop recommendations to improve various aspects of contingency contracting, which is the process of obtaining goods, services, and construction and comprises contractor personnel that provided support to operations that may include combat and other activities that are considered contingency operations. However, DOD's documentation on the status of half of the 16 recommendations as part of an action plan it issued in 2013 was inconsistent or incomplete. By fully documenting the progress of the department's efforts to implement the recommendations, DOD could help achieve the Commission's vision for improving the oversight and management of contingency contracting operations.

DOD's information system—Synchronized Predeployment and Operational Tracker-Enterprise Suite (SPOT-ES)—tracks and reports information about contracts and contractor personnel supporting applicable contingency operations. However, GAO found that SPOT-ES is not able to track and report information by the type of applicable contingency operations that DOD contracts and contractors have supported. DOD officials told GAO that there is no definitive list of such contingencies from one authoritative source. In addition, DOD has not designated a single office responsible for monitoring and reporting which operations, exercises, and other activities are associated with an applicable contingency operation in SPOT-ES. Without the ability to identify data on operations, exercises, and other activities that are considered applicable contingency operations within SPOT-ES, DOD planners may find it more difficult to identify and make decisions on contractor personnel or capabilities to support them. Additionally, an office that is designated with the responsibility could provide additional oversight to DOD by better monitoring and reporting on the department's contractor personnel.

GAO also found that information on the status of thousands of quarterly deployment records on contractor personnel supporting applicable contingency operations was missing in SPOT-ES at the time of our review. DOD guidance requires various SPOT-ES users to enter or review information related to contracts and contractor personnel supporting applicable contingency operations. However, it does not clearly specify who is responsible for resolving missing information. Without clarifying the responsibility for resolving missing or inaccurate data in SPOT-ES within DOD guidance, communicating such information to contracting organizations, and taking steps to improve data completeness and accuracy, the reliability of data in SPOT-ES is at risk. Further, DOD's ability will be hindered when there is a need to locate the whereabouts of contractor personnel during an emergency or when contractors exit at a contingency location.

Why GAO Did This Study

DOD has relied on contingency contracting to conduct a wide range of activities worldwide. DOD projects that factors, such as the use of high-tech equipment and military force structure reductions, will require contract support in most future operations.

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 includes a provision for GAO to review the use of contractors in contingency operations, exercises, and other activities since 2009. This report evaluates the extent to which DOD 1) documented its actions to implement the recommendations made by the Commission on Wartime Contracting, and 2) tracked and reported on contracts and contractor personnel supporting contingencies.

GAO performed a content analysis of DOD actions to address the Commission's recommendations, reviewed laws and DOD guidance, and analyzed contract and personnel data reported from calendar years 2009 through 2020.

Reissued with revisions on Oct. 1, 2021.

The report distributed the morning of September 30, 2021, did not include the correct title for an addressee. This corrected file contains this information.
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Recommendations

GAO is making four recommendations to ensure that DOD fully documents progress on the Commission's recommendations, and improves data related to applicable contingency operations described in department guidance. DOD partially concurred with two recommendations and did not concur with two recommendations. GAO continues to believe that all of its recommendations are still warranted.

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 directs the OCS Functional Capabilities Integration Board to document the department's progress in implementing the Commission on Wartime Contracting recommendations in a consistent and complete manner. (Recommendation 1)
Open
When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should ensure that data on operations, exercises, and other activities reported in SPOT-ES are linked with "applicable contingency operations" described in DOD guidance. (Recommendation 2)
Open
When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Department of Defense Secretary of Defense should designate a single office to provide oversight for monitoring and reporting which operations, exercises, and other activities listed in SPOT-ES are linked with "applicable contingency operations." (Recommendation 3)
Open
When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment take steps to improve data completeness and accuracy, by revising the SPOT Business Rules as appropriate, and designating responsibility for resolving any missing information on contractor personnel in SPOT-ES, and communicating such information to the relevant heads of contracting activities. (Recommendation 4)
Open
When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

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