Arlington National Cemetery:

Additional Actions Needed to Continue Improvements in Contract Management

GAO-12-99: Published: Dec 15, 2011. Publicly Released: Dec 15, 2011.

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What GAO Found

Roughly $35 million was obligated under 56 Arlington contracts and task orders valued over $100,000 and active during fiscal years 2010 and 2011. These contracts supported cemetery operations, construction and facility maintenance, and new efforts to enhance information technology systems for the automation of burial operations. ANCP does not award its own contracts, but instead obtains contracting support in two different ways. Thirty-five contracts in GAO’s review were awarded by three contracting organizations that directly supported ANCP. For the remaining 21 contracts and task orders, ANCP partnered with other Army organizations with expertise in areas such as information technology and construction. Those organizations, in turn, used contracting offices to support Arlington needs. Many of the contracts GAO reviewed have now ended, while those still ongoing may continue through fiscal years 2012-2014, depending on ANCP needs. While ANCP has taken steps to improve visibility of contracts and financial management capabilities more broadly, it does not currently maintain complete data to identify and track contracts supporting its operations. Without such data, ANCP may continue to face difficulties in ensuring the effective management and oversight of its contracts and related funding.

ANCP has taken numerous actions to correct identified contracting deficiencies and improve contract management at multiple levels, including coordination with other Army organizations for specialized assistance and manpower. ANCP signed new agreements with the Army Contracting Command and the Army Corps of Engineers that identify broad responsibilities between these organizations for providing contract support. However, similar agreements in place with other organizations, such as the Army Information Technology Agency and the Army Analytics Group, do not specifically address contract management roles and responsibilities in support of Arlington’s information technology efforts. Although these responsibilities are generally understood by officials at present, they may be less clearly understood in the future when personnel have changed. ANCP has also taken steps to improve internal guidance for contract management and staff training, although these efforts are ongoing. Likewise, ANCP has increased dedicated acquisition staff support for its contracting efforts, but has not yet fully determined the appropriate number, skill levels, and arrangements necessary to meet its contracting needs. Newer contracts supporting Arlington show improvement in the use of sound acquisition practices, with steps taken to consolidate requirements and better document acquisition planning, award, and oversight activities. The success of ANCP’s acquisition outcomes will depend on continued management focus from ANCP and its contracting partners to leverage their expertise while mitigating associated risks. While the Army has made significant progress, further actions are necessary to ensure sustained attention to contract management, and institutionalize progress made to date, particularly as the current spotlight fades.

Why GAO Did This Study

Arlington National Cemetery (Arlington) contains the remains of more than 330,000 military servicemen and women, family members, and others. In June 2010, the Army Inspector General issued a report identifying numerous deficiencies at Arlington, including those related to contracting. In response, the Secretary of the Army issued guidance creating the position of the Executive Director of the Army National Cemeteries Program (ANCP) to manage Arlington and requiring changes to address the deficiencies and improve cemetery operations.

Public Law 111-339 directed GAO to (1) identify the number, duration of, and dollar amount spent on current contracts used to support operations at Arlington and (2) assess the extent to which the Army has put processes and procedures in place to provide for the effective management and oversight of contracts supporting Arlington. GAO analyzed data from contracting offices and other sources on contracts active during fiscal year 2010 and 2011 and above $100,000 and reviewed contract files; analyzed guidance, policies, plans and other documentation from Arlington and other organizations; and interviewed agency officials.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Army partially concurred commenting that there is currently no comprehensive end-to-end data system for managing contract requirements planning, resourcing and contract execution. In September 2012, the Army National Cemeteries Program (ANCP), in partnership with Army Contracting Command (ACC) and Mission and Installation Contracting Command (MICC), established a "checks and balance" system for planning, execution and contract management procedures. Initially, the ANCP started with a single contract liaison position responsible for the integration and management of contracting support requirements across the acquisition community. Since August 2011, MICC has expanded its initial contract liaison position to an on-site, four person ANCP Contract Support Element (CSE). According to the Army, the ANCP CSE took significant steps in 1st and 2nd Qtrs FY 2012 to achieve greater fidelity in its contract management and reporting efforts. ANCP has also leveraged Virtual Contracting Enterprise (VCE) tools to maintain accurate accountability and oversight of ANCP CORs in support of base and installation contract requirements, and implemented a tracking tool in SharePoint to maintain 100% accountability of all contracting actions. The SharePoint tracking tool is accessible by all directorates at all times, and is updated on a recurring basis by the ANCP CSE and supporting organizations for accuracy and relevance, enabling ANCP to forecast contracted support needs. GAO believes collectively these actions designate a responsibility for tracking data on contracts that support Arlington and will also enable the Army to track this data.

    Recommendation: To ensure continued improvement in the management and oversight of contracts, the Secretary of the Army should direct the Executive Director of the Army National Cemeteries Program, in coordination with other Army organizations as appropriate, to identify and implement a method by which complete and accurate data on contracts supporting Arlington's operations will be tracked and clearly designate responsibility for doing so.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Army partially concurred. According to the Army, the Army National Cemeteries Program (ANCP), in partnership with the Army contracting Command (ACC) and the Mission and Installation Contracting Command (MICC), conducted an extensive review, revision and approval in 1st Qtr 2012 of existing support agreements with the acquisition and contracting organizations supporting ANCP operations. Primary agreements with the U.S. Army Information Technology Agency (ITA), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and ACC MICC were revised to clearly assign roles and responsibilities associated with contract support relationships and delineation of procurement authorities. In addition, the ANCP signed a SOP identifying the roles and responsibilities across the ANCP, ITA, USACE, ACC, MICC and other members within the ANCP Acquisition-Overarching Integrated Project Team on how to coordinate with the ANCP CSE to facilitate the execution of ANCP mission requirements. In 3rd Qtr 2012 instrumental acquisition SOPs initiated by ANCP CSE were approved which delineated roles and responsibilities across the ANCP for all ANCP personnel and supporting organizations for contract planning, execution, management, and reporting. With these actions GAO believes the Army has ensured that support agreements associated with decisions to use, manage, and oversee contracts supporting Arlington's operations clearly assign roles and responsibilities.

    Recommendation: To ensure continued improvement in the management and oversight of contracts, the Secretary of the Army should direct the Executive Director of the Army National Cemeteries Program, in coordination with other Army organizations as appropriate, to ensure that support agreements clearly assign roles and responsibilities associated with the decision to use, manage, and oversee contracts supporting Arlington's operations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In fiscal year 2013 Arlington National Cemetery conducted an analysis of its contracting personnel requirements and needs in coordination with contracting officials at the local contract support office Army Contracting Command (ACC) Mission and Installation Command (MICC) Fort Belvoir. Based on this manpower analysis, the Army identified the specific positions and skill levels needed to support the sustainment of contracting management and oversight at Arlington National Cemetery. Currently, the Army projects that two military and one civilian are needed for these activities. The positions include (1) a Lieutenant Colonel that is certified at Level 3 in the Program Management career field; (2) a Major that is certified at Level 3 in the Contracting career field; and (3) a GS-13 Quality Assurance Specialist. All three positions are currently filled.

    Recommendation: To ensure continued improvement in the management and oversight of contracts, the Secretary of the Army should direct the Executive Director of the Army National Cemeteries Program, in coordination with other Army organizations as appropriate, to determine, based on an assessment of Arlington's needs, the appropriate number and required skill levels associated with contracting positions necessary to support Arlington and ensure those positions are filled.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

 

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