Thursday, May 7, 2009

Pentagon Discuses Creation of 20,000 Acquisition Jobs

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, May 7, 2009 -- Defense Department officials want to increase acquisition jobs by 20,000 over the next five years, Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III told Congress yesterday.

Speaking to the House Armed Services Committee, Lynn cited a “lack of critical skills” as a major consideration while the department reforms its process for purchasing weapons and defense systems.

“These new positions will ensure that [the Defense Department] knows what it is buying and gets what it pays for,” he said.

The Defense Department budget, expected to be submitted to Capitol Hill today, includes funding to increase acquisition personnel by 20,000 positions over the fiscal years 2010 to 2015, Lynn said.

The breakdown includes roughly 9,000 jobs at the Defense Contract Audit Agency and the Defense Contract Management Agency, the Pentagon components responsible for estimating contracting costs and contract oversight.

The remaining 11,000 new hires will be created when roles currently carried out by contractors -- jobs in systems engineering, program and business management, and logistics -- are converted to federal positions.

“One of the critical reasons for some of our shortcomings in the acquisition process is the lack of critical skills in the acquisition work force,” Lynn said. “Over the last 10 years, defense contract obligations have nearly tripled, while our acquisition work force has fallen by more than 10 percent.

“In the absence of these personnel, we have outsourced too many functions that should be performed inside the department,” he added.

Lynn acknowledged the challenge in attempting to enhance a system as complex as defense purchasing, noting that nearly 130 studies of acquisition reform have been completed since World War II.

“Many very smart people have tried and have met with only limited success,” he said. “In this regard, we need to keep in mind the importance of not making the system worse in our efforts to achieve reform.”

Describing other areas in need of improvement, Lynn stressed a need for clearer, more realistic contract requirements and cost estimates, and the importance of shortening the development cycle.

(Report by John J. Kruzel, American Forces Press Service.)

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