DoD generally is following industry best practices in its management of its acquisition workforce, although it is falling short in some areas, most notably in providing financial awards to good performers, GAO has said.

It found that the Air Force and Navy were in little to no alignment with that practice while the Army is only in partial alignment, the worst of the 10 leading practices GAO cited. It said that DoD “has mechanisms to financially reward high-performing people. However, these incentives are either unavailable to all program management personnel because of the various pay systems used by DoD, or are underutilized by the military services.”

Two of the three services also were found in little or only partial alignment on rotational assignments, having career paths that describe the skills needed to advance, and identification of high-potential talent.

GAO however found all three military services in compliance with several best practices, including training classes that allow program managers to share experiences; on the job learning and information repositories; recognition; and assignments based on skills, experiences and program needs.

“The Air Force typically brings its future program managers for major defense acquisition programs into the career field early in their careers, and then provides training and experiences to prepare them for the role. In contrast, the Army and Navy typically bring their future program managers into the career field later in their careers and from other fields, such as engineering,” GAO added.

The report noted that the acquisition workforce at DoD–consisting of both civilian and uniformed personnel–has been the subject of much attention from Congress in recent years, following cutbacks that had hampered the department’s oversight of major procurements. Provisions have included requiring DoD to develop to enhance the role of program managers and strengthen training programs for the workforce. Congress also established the Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Fund to pay for recruitment, training and retention, and the 2018 defense authorization law requires DoD to implement a civilian program manager development program.