The Office of Management and Budget's Acquisition Workforce Development Strategic Plan for Civilian Agencies

GAO-10-459R: Published: Apr 23, 2010. Publicly Released: Apr 23, 2010.

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The President acknowledged that many federal contracting arrangements do not serve the needs of the federal government or the interests of the American taxpayer in a March 2009 memorandum. Among many of the issues discussed, the memorandum states that the government needs to ensure that it has the workforce needed to carry out robust and thorough management and oversight of contracts to achieve programmatic goals, avoid significant overcharges, and curb wasteful spending. However, the capacity and the capability of the federal government's acquisition workforce to oversee and manage contracts have not kept pace with increased spending for increasingly complex purchases. For example, federal civilian agencies' acquisition spending increased in real terms from $80 billion to $138 billion between fiscal year 2000 and fiscal year 2008, while their acquisition workforce grew at a considerably lower rate. Furthermore, 55 percent of the current acquisition workforce will be eligible to retire in 2018--more than twice the number eligible in 2008-- which creates potential future skill shortages. To help address the challenges faced in the federal contracting environment, the President's fiscal year 2011 budget identifies the development of the federal acquisition workforce as a priority investment with $158 million requested to support that investment. To help agencies develop plans to increase the size of the acquisition workforce, Congress enacted section 869 of the Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009 (NDAA 2009). This provision directs the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to prepare a plan--the Acquisition Workforce Development Stategic Plan (plan)-- for federal agencies other than the Deparment of Defense to develop a specific and actionable 5-year plan to increase the size of the acquisition workforce and operate a governmentwide acquisition intern program. Section 869 outlined a number of matters that the plan was to include, such as the development of a sustainable funding model to support efforts to hire, retain, and train an appropriately sized and skilled acquisition workforce. In response, OMB issued its plan for civilian agencies on October 27, 2009. The plan, according to OMB, provides a structured approach for these agencies to augment and improve the skills of their acquisition workforce, which includes contract specialists, contracting officer's technical representatives (COTR), and program and project managers (P/PM). A key element of the plan is the requirement for each civilian agency covered by the Chief Financial Officers Act to submit an annual Acquisition Human Capital Plan (AHCP) to OMB by March 31, 2010 that identifies specific strategies and goals for increasing both the capacity and capability of its respective acquisition workforce for the period ending in fiscal year 2014 and requires agencies to use this information to address acquisition workforce needs in their annual budget submissions. In addition, section 834 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 (NDAA 2010) directs GAO to report on OMB's plan 180 days after its issuance. As part of this mandate, GAO is to assess matters it considers appropriate with respect to OMB's plan, as well as several other matters not required of OMB under section 869, such as the extent to which OMB's plan considered agencies' use of contractor personnel to supplement the acquisition workforce. The mandate also requires GAO to assess the methodology OMB used to formulate the plan and the feasibility of the plan's recommendations and associated time frames. Accordingly, we are reporting on (1) the extent to which the plan addressed the matters specified in section 869 of the NDAA 2009 and those identified in section 834 of the NDAA 2010 and (2) the methodologies OMB used to formulate the plan's recommendations and the feasibility of the recommendations and associated time frames.

While OMB's plan does not address all statutory matters, it nevertheless has initiated a process that provides an opportunity to increase the capacity and capability of the civilian agencies' acquisition workforce. As agencies submit their AHCPs and they are reviewed by OMB to inform budgetary decisions, issues such as defining and obtaining data on the entire acquisition workforce, which includes contractors who support acquisition functions, will become increasingly important and may warrant clarification. Additionally, through subsequent years, the results of the process established in OMB's plan will become evident, including how well it identifies gaps and responds to critical needs in the civilian acquisition workforce and the sustainability of funding for the effort. The ability of OMB and the agencies to address issues that need refinement and ultimately achieve the intended outcomes of the plan will depend on their sustained collaboration and commitment to developing the acquisition workforce.

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