Hill to consider boosting DOD's acquisition workforce

The Defense Department's acquisition workforce is too small because Congress reduced it too much, a House Armed Services Committee staff member said yesterday.

Andrew Hunter, a HASC majority professional staff member, said the committee will give serious consideration on how to increase the number of DOD's procurement professionals during the 110th Congress.

'The belief of the new majority is [that] the reduction of acquisition workforce went too far,' he said during a discussion of acquisition legislative priorities in Vienna, Va., hosted by the Industry Advisory Council of Fairfax, Va. 'We hope to build a case to increase the workforce ' with a coherent plan.'

A big part of that plan will be the Defense Department's acquisition workforce strategy called for in the fiscal 2006 DOD authorization bill.

According to the bill, 'the Defense secretary shall develop a human resources strategic plan for the defense acquisition and support workforce that includes objectives and planned actions for improving the management of such workforce.' The bill also instructed DOD to increase the number of acquisition professionals by five percent a year in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

Hunter said the plan would help explain to members, including former chairman and current ranking member Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), why no further reductions are needed and why more hiring needs to occur.

Hunter added that one of the biggest challenges is that there is no clear path to come up with the funding to hire more acquisition professionals.

'Once you give away those positions, it is hard to get them back,' he said. 'But DOD still is paying for them' in many ways.

Teddy Kidd, a professional staff member for the minority on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, added that ranking member Tom Davis (R-Va.) is interested in how the Office of Federal Procurement Policy will address acquisition workforce challenges.

The Services Acquisition Reform Act panel's draft recommendations found that the acquisition workforce across government has decreased by 50 percent since the mid-1990s and called for 'identifying and eliminating obstacles to the speedy hiring of new talent and a governmentwide acquisition intern program to attract first-rate entry level personnel into the acquisition career fields. Concurrently, incentives to retain qualified, experienced personnel need to be created.'

Kidd said Davis asked the Government Accountability Office to look at all of the SARA Panel's recommendations.

'We feel if agencies can get more contracting officers, the problems found by inspector[s] general will decrease,' Kidd said.

Kidd could not comment on the status of committee chairman Henry Waxman's (D-Calif.) clean contracting bill. He expects Waxman to introduce the bill sometime in the spring.

Hunter said that Waxman approached the Armed Forces Committee a few years ago for support of the bill but that the committee needs to understand it better.

The usual way these bills are passed is by inserting them into the DOD authorization bill, and Hunter said the committee is open to that idea once the provisions are clearer.

Hunter also said DOD's use of commercial buying methods for noncommercial items like airplanes will be another focus of the committee.

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