GAO endorses Defense acquisition work force approach

Civilian agencies should study the Defense Department's strategy for coping with a shortage of acquisition personnel, the General Accounting Office said today. GAO estimated that the government has lost up to 22 percent of its contracting personnel over the last decade.

The GAO report detailed efforts by the Energy, Health and Human Services, Treasury and Veterans Affairs departments, the General Services Administration and NASA to keep enough acquisition workers.

GAO said DOD's contracting workload has risen by 12 percent at the same time there are only half as many people available to do the work. Some of DOD's best practices, GAO found, involve finding the tools to keep accurate work force data and make projections. Defense also has changed the way it views human capital'from being a support function to a mission function'to ensure top-level support, the report said.

The report said Energy, GSA and VA have developed specific plans to strengthen their acquisition head count, while the other three agencies have made contracting personnel part of their overall plans for improving human capital.

The civilian agencies told GAO that shifting priorities, missions and budgets have made it difficult to gauge the skill levels of acquisition workers. Also, GAO said, the role of the contracting officer or specialist has shifted from purchaser to business manager.

GAO recommended that the Office of Federal Procurement Policy help agency procurement executives share their best practices and lessons learned.

Click here to read the report

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