QDR Blogging: Acquisition Reform and the Civilian Workforce

>> Sunday, January 31, 2010

While the 2006 QDR talked a bit about problems in acquisition and the need for acquisition reform, and a bit about the need to hire and retain the right skills in the DoD civilian workforce, but didn't really draw any connections between the two. The 2010 QDR (p.76):

The Pentagon's acquisition workforce has been allowed to atrophy, exacerbating a decline in the critical skills necessary for effective oversight. For example, over the past ten years, the Department's contractual obligations have nearly tripled while our acquisition workforce fell by more than 10 percent. The Department also has great difficulty hiring qualified senior acquisition officials. Over the past eight years the Department has operated with vacancies in key acquisition positions averaging from 13 percent in the Army to 43 percent in the Air Force. There remains an urgent need for technically trained personnel-cost estimators, systems engineers, and acquisition managers-to conduct effective oversight.
On the next page, the QDR calls for the hiring of 20000 additional acquisitions personnel to make up for this shortfall. I suspect that the major reason that we see this in the 2010 QDR and not in the 2006 is that the Obama administration has rejected the idea that essential DoD responsibilities can be privatized and out-sourced. The downsizing and outsourcing of the acquisitions workforce isn't entirely the responsibility of the Bush administration, as it was also pursued under Clinton. Lead Systems Integrators, in which civilian contractors managed major programs such the Coast Guard's Deepwater program and the Army's Future Combat Systems, were part of this project. LSIs were also one of the very, very few "privatization" initiatives that failed so abjectly that pretty much no one wants to try them again.

See also Spencer on this point.


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