DOD IG resists congressional pressure on acquisition audits

Michael Dominguez

Courtesy of the Air Force

The Defense Department's inspector general's office will not say when it plans to resume a pair of audits evaluating the department's acquisition processes and commercial criteria justifications that were recently suspended due to a lack of resources.

The audits of 'Service Acquisition Executives Management Oversight and Procurement Authority for Acquisition Programs [and] Commercial Contracting Practices for Procuring Defense Systems ... have been suspended because of audit support for Base Relocation and Closure and other operational priorities,' Joseph E. Schmitz, DOD inspector general, testified earlier this month before the Senate Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Airland.

The DOD IG's office 'prefers not to assign timelines to their actions as timelines are likely to limit the scope of their action, whether it is a inquiry, audit or investigation,' a Pentagon spokeswoman said.

She added that is the reason why no timelines have been discussed for the suspended audits.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who is chairman of the airland subcommittee, called the April 14 hearing to examine the management and oversight of Air Force acquisition programs. He criticized the service for the actions taken since Darleen Druyun, a former Air Force acquisition manager, pleaded guilty last year of conspiring with Boeing Co.'s chief financial officer to help the company win a multibillion-dollar airplane-leasing contract.

'I continue to believe that [Druyun] is not singly responsible for this failure and fervently hope that both Congress and the department can work together to remove any possibility for future corruption through major acquisition reform,' Mc- Cain said at the hearing.

Despite repeated attempts, McCain was unavailable to comment on the suspended audits.

Acting Air Force secretary Michael Dominguez said the service had completed internal reviews for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Program Restructure, Global Positioning System Block IIF Single Prime Initiative contract modification and the Wideband Gap Filler source selection.

'After discussions with Office of the Secretary of Defense staff, we are preparing to refer them to the DOD IG to review the programs and the Air Force's findings,' Dominguez testified. 'We are doing this to ensure absolute objectivity in the final reviews.'

Earlier this month, Michael Wynne, undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, announced that DOD had temporarily taken over 21 Air Force projects worth more than $200 billion, many of which have extensive IT components. The projects included two'Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Program Restructure and the Wideband Gap Filler source selection'that Do- minguez cited.

Chip Mather, a partner with Acquisition Solutions, Inc. of Chantilly, Va., and a former Air Force procurement official, said DOD procurement and acquisition pro- cesses have become hot-button issues because of the Druyun case.

McCain acknowledged the Air Force is not alone in its troubles and that the entire DOD procurement process must be examined. Earlier this month, the Army announced it would restructure its $120 billion Future Combat Systems (FCS) program after McCain questioned whether having Boeing manage the program under other transaction authority (OTA) instead of a normal procurement contract was the best course of action.

In order for the Army, Air Force and other services to catch problems internally, checks and balances must be in place, Mather said. He added that DOD procurement resources have been cut so 'people are having a harder time doing their jobs properly.'

'Procurement, acquisition and oversight processes need to be adequately manned with trained professionals if the system's going to work,' Mather said. 'They go hand-in-hand. If one fails, the system can fall down.'

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