DOD to assess acquisition work force skills

Lawmakers are placing the blame on the Defense Department's shabby procurement record ' at least partly ' for the decrease in the number of trained acquisition professionals over the past seven years.

Sen. John Ensign (R-Ariz.), ranking member of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support, earlier this week told administration officials at a hearing on DOD's interagency contracting that the department has made cuts to their acquisition work force haphazardly.

Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), chairman of the Armed Services Subcommittee, said even though DOD's spending on services has doubled in the past five years, the number of people to oversee those contracts has dropped by as much as 10 percent.

'It is vital for Congress to address these [acquisition work force] problems,' he said.

As members promised continued oversight of these issues, DOD director of procurement and acquisition policy Shay Assad said the department is actively tackling the shortfalls.

DOD developed an acquisition human capital strategic plan and is planning two pilots in the spring to assess the capabilities of its acquisition work force, Assad said.

Assad's office and the Defense Acquisition University developed two work force assessment models over the past five months that will help the department determine the skills and competency gaps of the contracting work force.

'[I]t will be the first time the department has attempted to assess its contracting capabilities across the entire enterprise,' Assad said in written testimony.

In the end, DOD will perform this assessment for 26,000 acquisition employees, Assad said.

'The objective in using the tool is to get data automated and used as a management tool,' he said. 'It will show our areas of strengths and weaknesses. We may find that a command is strong and another is weak in the same area, and we can transfer skills from one to another instead of having to hire or train employees.'

The model will assess the work force across an assortment of functional areas, such as construction, services and engineering, type of contracts used and job titles.

Assad also said DOD will be changing the way it buys services by looking at what it buys, how it is bought and who buys it, and by assessing how the agency can best meet the needs of the warfighters. He said the assessment should be done by Dec. 31.

Additionally, DOD has developed an agencywide architecture for the acquisition of services. The architecture requires maximum use of competition, use of acknowledged best practices, use of performance-based approaches, enhanced contract performance management to identify appropriate performance metrics, enhanced use of past performance information and increased use of small businesses.

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