Congress gives Defense millions to shore up acquisition oversight

Concerned about the increasing number of Defense Department projects being managed by contractors, Congress has earmarked $48 million to increase Pentagon staffing to better oversee projects. "The department clearly lacks accountability and management of its contracted services," according to the conference report accompanying the fiscal 2008 Defense Appropriations Bill (H.R. 3222), which President Bush signed Tuesday. The report calls for Defense to provide "more robust staffing of contractor management and oversight personnel." In the appropriations bill, Congress designated $48 million for the department to divide among the Defense Contract Audit Agency, the Defense Contract Management Agency and the Defense Inspector General. "There have been a lot of shortfalls in the quality and quantity of oversight," said Ray Bjorklund, chief knowledge officer at FedSources, a research and consulting firm in McLean, Va. "Program managers are in the middle of this. Walk into any large program office -- it's not unusual to see half or two-thirds are contract workers." But the additional funding is unlikely to correct the problems, said Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, which represents contractors, and former deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition reform. "The funding goes towards more audits and after-the-fact review," he said. "When you talk about the acquisition process, the focus needs to be on the front end. Most of their problems can be traced to poor statements of work, poor requirements, problems and mistakes at the front end that can be traced to insufficient resources for the acquisition professionals. Acquisitions need to be recognized as a core responsibility, and I'm not sure it has been." Bjorklund said the poor oversight has been caused by a shortage in the number of properly trained program managers in Defense. "In the mid-90s, there was a big thrust to downsize [Defense]," he said. "It included a lot of slashing of acquisition people." The time-consuming process of training a good program manager has been the biggest barrier to attracting more applicants. "It's a long process, and you have to attract people with the interest to be acquisition professionals, despite a starting salary that is not that attractive," he said.Soloway agreed. "They clearly have struggled with finding the right people with the training and resources to manage as effectively as they can manage," he said. "It's not just getting more people, but getting people with the right skills and training. No question that the department needs more resources."Congress directed Defense to rely more on the General Services Administration for contracting and procurement activities and chided the agency for using contractors in "inherently governmental" roles. But Defense remains resistant to outsourcing acquisitions to GSA or any other contracting service operated by another federal agency. The Defense inspector general, in a report released in October, chided Defense for "wasting" $607,000 by allowing the GSA to place 91 task orders for Defense customers on an Air Force contract.Soloway said it is in Defense's best interest to consider using interagency contracts when appropriate. "There is too often a focus on the fees that were paid to other agencies," he said, "instead of looking at what the cost would be to perform the acquisitions themselves."
Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.