Department of Defense:

Additional Actions and Data Are Needed to Effectively Manage and Oversee DOD's Acquisition Workforce

GAO-09-342: Published: Mar 25, 2009. Publicly Released: Mar 25, 2009.

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Since 2001, the Department of Defense's (DOD) spending on goods and services has more than doubled to $388 billion in 2008, while the number of civilian and military acquisition personnel has remained relatively stable. To augment its in-house workforce, DOD relies heavily on contractor personnel. If it does not maintain an adequate workforce, DOD places its billion-dollar acquisitions at an increased risk of poor outcomes and vulnerability to fraud, waste, and abuse. GAO was asked to (1) assess DOD's ability to determine whether it has a sufficient acquisition workforce, (2) assess DOD initiatives to improve the management and oversight of its acquisition workforce, and (3) discuss practices of leading organizations that could provide insights for DOD's acquisition workforce oversight. To do this, GAO analyzed key DOD studies, obtained data from 66 major weapon system program offices across DOD, and interviewed officials from 4 program offices. GAO also met with representatives from six companies recognized as leaders in workforce management.

DOD lacks critical departmentwide information to ensure its acquisition workforce is sufficient to meet its national security mission. First, in its acquisition workforce assessments, DOD does not collect or track information on contractor personnel, despite their being a key segment of the total acquisition workforce. DOD also lacks information on why contractor personnel are used, which limits its ability to determine whether decisions to use contractors to augment the in-house acquisition workforce are appropriate. GAO found that program office decisions to use contractor personnel are often driven by factors such as quicker hiring time frames and civilian staffing limits, rather than by the skills needed or the nature or criticality of the work. Second, DOD's lack of key pieces of information limits its ability to determine gaps in the acquisition workforce it needs to meet current and future missions. For example, DOD lacks information on the use and skill sets of contractor personnel, and lacks complete information on the skill sets of its in-house personnel. Omitting data on contractor personnel and needed skills from DOD's workforce assessments not only skews analyses of workforce gaps, but also limits DOD's ability to make informed workforce allocation decisions and determine whether the total acquisition workforce--in-house and contractor personnel--is sufficient to accomplish its mission. DOD has initiated several recent actions aimed at improving the management and oversight of its acquisition workforce. For example, DOD is developing a plan for managing the civilian acquisition workforce and is establishing practices for overseeing additional hiring, recruiting, and retention activities. It has also taken actions to develop some of the data and tools necessary to monitor the acquisition workforce, such as a competency assessment scheduled to be completed in March 2010. Each military service and agency has also begun, to varying degrees, efforts to assess its workforce at the service level. In addition, some efforts aimed at improving DOD's overall workforce may also provide additional information to support acquisition workforce efforts. However, these initiatives may not provide the comprehensive information DOD needs to manage and oversee its acquisition workforce. To manage their workforces, the leading organizations GAO reviewed (1) identify gaps in their current workforces by assessing the overall competencies needed to achieve business objectives; (2) establish mechanisms to track and evaluate the effectiveness of their initiatives to close these gaps; (3) take a strategic approach in deciding when to use contractor personnel to supplement the workforce, such as limiting the use of contractor personnel to performing noncore-business functions and meeting surges in work demands; and (4) track and analyze data on contractor personnel. These practices could provide insights to DOD as it moves forward with its acquisition workforce initiatives.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In May 2013, GAO reported on DOD's acquisition workforce planning efforts to date and identified several remaining shortcomings (GAO-13-470). Specifically, DOD has yet to assess the appropriate mix of its military, civilian, and contractor personnel capabilities, and DOD has not updated its policies and procedures to guide the use of the inventory of contracted services to determine the appropriate mix of personnel needed. In this recent report, we recommended that DOD revise its existing workforce policies and procedures to address the (1) determination of the appropriate workforce mix, and (2) identification of critical functions.

    Recommendation: To better ensure that DOD's acquisition workforce is the right size with the right skills and that the department is making the best use of its resources, the Secretary of Defense should review and revise the criteria and guidance for using contractor personnel to clarify under what circumstances and the extent to which it is appropriate to use contractor personnel to perform acquisition-related functions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In January 2013, GAO recommended that DOD use competency gap analyses to assist in decision making regarding the size of its civilian workforce. In May 2013, GAO reported on DOD's acquisition workforce planning efforts to date and identified several remaining shortcomings (GAO-13-470). Specifically, DOD has yet to assess the appropriate mix of its military, civilian, and contractor personnel capabilities, and DOD has not updated its policies and procedures to guide the use of the inventory of contracted services to determine the appropriate mix of personnel needed. In this recent report, we recommended that DOD revise its existing workforce policies and procedures to address the (1) determination of the appropriate workforce mix, and (2) identification of critical functions.

    Recommendation: To better ensure that DOD's acquisition workforce is the right size with the right skills and that the department is making the best use of its resources, the Secretary of Defense should identify and update on an ongoing basis the number and skill sets of the total acquisition workforce--including civilian, military, and contractor personnel--that the department needs to fulfill its mission. DOD should use this information to better inform its resource allocation decisions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In January 2011, GAO reported that DOD's inventory of contractor provided services had limitations with regard to determining the number of contractor personnel and the functions they supported. Additionally, the inventory is not intended to assess the skill sets of contractor personnel. In May 2013, GAO reported on DOD's acquisition workforce planning efforts to date and identified several remaining shortcomings (GAO-13-470). Specifically, DOD has yet to assess the appropriate mix of its military, civilian, and contractor personnel capabilities, and DOD has not updated its policies and procedures to guide the use of the inventory of contracted services to determine the appropriate mix of personnel needed. In addition, GAO found that the contractor FTE estimates DOD reported in its FY2013 and FY2014 budget submissions have significant limitations and do not accurately reflect the number of contractors providing services to DOD. In this recent report, we recommended that DOD revise its existing workforce policies and procedures to address the (1) determination of the appropriate workforce mix, and (2) identification of critical functions.

    Recommendation: To better ensure that DOD's acquisition workforce is the right size with the right skills and that the department is making the best use of its resources, the Secretary of Defense should collect and track data on contractor personnel who supplement the acquisition workforce--including their functions performed, skill sets, and length of service--and conduct analyses using these data to inform acquisition workforce decisions regarding the appropriate number and mix of civilian, military, and contractor personnel the department needs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In May 2013, GAO reported on DOD's acquisition workforce planning efforts to date and identified several remaining shortcomings (GAO-13-470). Specifically, DOD has yet to assess the appropriate mix of its military, civilian, and contractor personnel capabilities, and DOD has not updated its policies and procedures to guide the use of the inventory of contracted services to determine the appropriate mix of personnel needed. In this recent report, we recommended that DOD revise its existing workforce policies and procedures to address the (1) determination of the appropriate workforce mix, and (2) identification of critical functions.

    Recommendation: To better ensure that DOD's acquisition workforce is the right size with the right skills and that the department is making the best use of its resources, the Secretary of Defense should develop a tracking mechanism to determine whether the guidance has been appropriately implemented across the department. The tracking mechanism should collect information on the reasons contractor personnel are being used, such as whether they were used because of civilian staffing limits, civilian hiring time frames, a lack of in-house expertise, budgetary provisions, cost, or other reasons.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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