Acquisition Workforce:

DOD Can Improve Its Management and Oversight by Tracking Data on Contractor Personnel and Taking Additional Actions

GAO-09-616T: Published: Apr 28, 2009. Publicly Released: Apr 28, 2009.

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Since 2001, 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 supplement 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. This testimony is based on GAO's March 2009 report and addresses DOD's efforts to assess the sufficiency of the total acquisition workforce and to improve its management and oversight of that workforce. It also discusses selected practices of leading organizations that may provide DOD with insights for its efforts.

Although contractor personnel are a key segment of its total acquisition workforce, DOD lacks critical departmentwide information on the use and skill sets of these personnel. DOD also lacks information on why contractor personnel are used, which limits its ability to determine whether decisions to use contractors to supplement 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 nature or criticality of the work. In comparison with DOD's practices, leading organizations maintain and analyze data on their contractor personnel and take a business-oriented approach to determining when to use contractor support. DOD also lacks key pieces of information that limit its ability to determine gaps in the acquisition workforce it needs to meet its missions. In addition to lacking information on contractor personnel, DOD lacks complete information on the skill sets of its in-house personnel. DOD also lacks information on the acquisition workforce it needs to meet its mission. Not having this information 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. In comparison with DOD's practices, leading organizations identify gaps in the workforce by assessing the competencies of their workforces and comparing those with the overall competencies the organization needs to achieve its objectives. DOD recently initiated several efforts aimed at improving the management and oversight of its acquisition workforce, such as plans for overseeing additional hiring, recruiting, and retention activities. DOD is also planning to increase its in-house acquisition workforce by converting 11,000 contractor personnel to government positions and hiring an additional 9,000 government personnel by 2015. The success of DOD's efforts to improve the management and oversight of its acquisition workforce, however, may be limited without comprehensive information on the acquisition workforce it has and needs.

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