Federal Manager's Daily Report

The government has made progress to address issues with the acquisition workforce in the decade since a special advisory panel report found that workforce to be “understaffed, overworked, and undertrained,” GAO has said.

That workforce primarily encompasses contracting officers, contracting officer’s representatives and program and project managers, but it also extends to related positions such as engineers, logisticians, and cost estimators, a report said.

Steps in response to that report have included establishing the defense acquisition workforce development fund to help DoD recruit train and retain acquisition personnel and which “has helped DoD close some staffing gaps,” with the department’s acquisition workforce increasing by a quarter in that time. However, the department has not achieved its growth targets for each career field, falling short in six.

The 2007 panel also found that most agencies were not carrying out appropriate workforce planning activities and had not assessed the skills of their current acquisition workforce or their future needs. In response, GAO, DoD and OMB have introduced new training programs, while Congress and OMB have taken several actions intended to ensure agencies conduct adequate workforce planning, “but agencies have not done so consistently,” the report said.

Overall, that workforce still “faces skill gaps due to the increasing complexity of acquisitions, particularly IT acquisitions,” GAO said, noting that the DoD acquisition workforce in particular features on GAO’s high-risk list in the contract management area because it continues “to face challenges in maintaining sufficient staff levels and monitoring the competencies.”

GAO did not make recommendations beyond the ones it has raised in several prior reports on the acquisition workforce but reiterated the need for agencies to carry them out.