Today's Article
'The government can
become overly reliant
on contractors and
risk contractors
performing inherently
governmental
functions,' states the
GAO.
The American Spark
Are Contractors Running Things At The Pentagon?

By Cliff Montgomery - Mar. 30th, 2018

“The Department of Defense (DOD) is the federal government’s largest purchaser of contractor-provided
services,” which can be a real problem as “the government can become overly reliant on contractors and risk
contractors performing inherently governmental functions,”
according to this recently-released study from the
Government Accountability Office (GAO).

It’s a matter of concern.

“The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 amended existing requirements for DOD to
annually collect data on contracted services and to compile and review an inventory of the functions
performed by contractor personnel,” states the report.

But the GAO discovered that “military departments generally have not developed plans to use the inventory
for workforce and budget decisions, as statutorily required. This is consistent with what GAO found in
November 2014 and October 2016.”

So the Pentagon big-wigs are happy to spend your tax dollars, but are not too keen on proving that you - the
American public - still control your armed forces. As we said, it’s a matter of concern.

Below, the
American Spark quotes a few telling sections of the GAO report:


The Department of Defense (DOD) is the federal government’s largest purchaser of contractor-provided
services, which obligated about $150 billion on contracted services in fiscal year 2016.

“DOD relies on contractors to provide a wide array of services, including support for management, information
technology, and weapon systems.

“There are benefits to using contractors to perform services for the government, but the government can
become overly reliant on contractors and risk contractors performing inherently governmental functions.

“This risk is increased for certain types of services, including program evaluation, systems engineering, and
information technology support services, as the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and our prior work has
found.

“Beginning in 2001, Congress enacted legislation to improve DOD’s ability to manage its acquisitions of
contracted services, to make more strategic decisions about the appropriate workforce mix, and to better align
resource needs through the budget process to achieve that mix. [...]

“[But] DOD has faced long-standing challenges in effectively managing its service acquisitions.

“The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 amended existing requirements for DOD to
annually collect data on contracted services and to compile and review an inventory of the functions perform-
ed by contractor personnel.

“The Act also contained a provision for GAO to report on the status of this data collection and to assess
DOD’s use of the inventory.

“This report addresses how DOD (1) collected data to create an inventory of fiscal year 2016 contracted
services and (2) used the inventory to inform workforce planning, workforce mix, and budget decisions. [...]

What GAO Found

“GAO found that the Department of Defense (DOD) used the same sources as it did in prior years to collect
data and create an inventory of fiscal year 2016 contracted services, which is intended, in part, to help DOD
make more strategic workforce decisions and better align resources.

“Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) guidance, issued in September 2017 to implement congressional
direction, required the military departments to include in their submissions, at a minimum, purchases of
services with a total contract value of $3 million or more, and in four services acquisition portfolio groups—
logistics management, equipment-related, knowledge-based, and electronics and communications.

“As permitted under OSD’s inventory guidance, the military departments varied somewhat in how they
reported their contracted services data to OSD.

“For example, [...] the Navy submitted summary data of contracted services but did not provide a list of
purchases in time to be included in an inventory summary for Congress. An OSD official said, however, that
the information provided was sufficient to prepare the inventory summary, which OSD submitted to Congress
in February 2018.  

“The Navy subsequently provided a list of its fiscal year 2016 service purchases to OSD in March 2018.

“Military departments generally have not developed plans to use the inventory for workforce and budget
decisions, as statutorily required. This is consistent with what GAO found in November 2014 and October 2016.

“GAO’s analysis found that the military departments’ guidance generally does not require using the inventory
in workforce and budget decisions.

“Army manpower officials told GAO that inventory information such as the number of contractor full-time
equivalents and the functions performed can be used to inform workforce mix decisions. However, workforce
and budget officials at the Army, Navy, and Air Force stated they make limited use of the inventory to inform
decision-making, in part because by the time the inventory is available, the data reflected are often too
outdated to inform strategic decisions.

“GAO has previously recommended ways to improve use of the inventory. In November 2014, for example,
GAO found that a lack of officials at the military departments who are accountable for integrating the use of
the inventory leaves the department at continued risk of not complying with the legislative requirement to use
the inventory to support management decisions.

“This issue persists, as the military departments have not made final designations for accountable officials
responsible for developing plans and enforcement mechanisms to use the inventory.”



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