The Government Accountability Office (GAO) says the Department of Defense (DoD) doesn’t have a plan in place to have an adequately sized and capable acquisition workforce to handle the $300 billion in goods and services it buys annually.
DoD is required by statute to develop an acquisition workforce plan every 2 years. DoD issued a plan in 2010, in which it called for the department to increase the size of the acquisition workforce by 20,000 positions by fiscal year 2015, but has not yet updated the plan. More importantly, in six of DoD’s 13 acquisition career fields, including three priority career fields — contracting, business and engineering — DoD did not meet growth goals.
DoD increased the size of its military and civilian acquisition workforce by 21 percent, from about 126,000 to about 153,000, between September 2008 and March 2015. This exceeds its 20,000 personnel growth target by over 7,000. However, while DoD attempted to strategically reshape its acquisition workforce with the 2010 acquisition workforce plan, it fell short in several priority career fields, including contracting.
There have been improvements in the training and qualifications of the DoD workforce. For example, the percent of the workforce that met certification requirements increased from 58 percent to 79 percent between fiscal years 2008 and 2014. However, DoD still faces the challenge of an aging workforce, as statistics also show that the average age of the workforce has been static since 2008 at about 45 years, and the percentage of retirement eligible personnel has remained at 17 percent. Defense acquisition officials recognize the risks associated with the loss of very experienced members of the acquisition workforce.
GAO recommends that DoD’s focus should now be placed on reshaping career fields to ensure that the most critical acquisition needs are being met. In GAO’s opinion:
An updated plan that includes revised career field goals, coupled with guidance on how to use the Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Fund, could help DOD components focus future hiring efforts on priority career fields. Without an integrated approach, the department is at risk of using the funds to hire personnel in career fields that currently exceed their targets or are not considered a priority.
A copy of GAO’s report, entitled “Actions Needed to Guide Planning Efforts and Improve Workforce Capability,” can be downloaded here: http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/674152.pdf