Defense Department file photo

Pentagon Grew Acquisition Workforce, But Not Necessarily in Right Places

GAO cites 21 percent growth since 2008; says skill gaps loom.

The Defense Department’s human capital strategy has allowed it to grow its acquisition workforce by 27,000 since 2008, though data on specialized personnel proficiency is inadequate, the Government Accountability Office reported.

“About 72 percent of the workforce growth has been achieved through hiring new civilian employees, with more than half of this increase attributable to funds provided through the Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Fund,” auditors said in a report released Monday. “Since 2009, DoD has spent about $1.8 billion from the fund to recruit and hire about 10,400 new civilian employees.”

A feared brain drain and a pending retirement wave have prompted lawmakers and the contracting community to push for reforms and better training of the Pentagon’s weapons, supply and service buyers.

The bulk of the acquisition hiring took place in 2009-10, GAO said. A review from September 2008 to March 2015 using DOD’s DataMart, a central repository of workforce data, found that the growth was accomplished by hiring additional civilian personnel, insourcing work previously performed by contractors, adding more military personnel and re-categorizing positions. “But in six of the 13 acquisition career fields, including three priority career fields—contracting, business and engineering—[the department] did not meet growth goals,” auditors found.

Assessments of those capabilities are nearly all complete, but Defense retains limited data on proficiency and skills gaps, GAO said. “It is unclear the extent to which skill gaps remain, in part because 10 of the career fields have not conducted follow-up competency assessments to gauge progress,” auditors added. “DOD has not established time frames for doing so.”

Auditors found that the department had also not updated its 2010 acquisition workforce plan, “which would allow it to be better positioned to meet future needs.”

GAO recommended that the Pentagon complete the remaining competency assessment, establish time frames for conducting follow-up assessments, issue an updated acquisition workforce plan, and issue guidance to prioritize the use of funding. Defense officials agreed.

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