Federal Acquisitions and Contracting: Systemic Challenges Need Attention: GAO-07-1098T

Walker, David M.
July 2007
GAO Reports;7/17/2007, p1
Government Documents
In fiscal year 2006, the federal government spent over $400 billion for a wide variety of goods and services, with the Department of Defense (DOD) being the largest purchaser. Given the large and growing structural deficit, the government must get the best return it can on its investment in goods and services. For decades, GAO has reported on a number of systemic challenges in agencies' acquisition of goods and services. These challenges are so significant and wide-ranging that GAO has designated four areas of contract management across the government to be high-risk. This testimony highlights four key acquisition challenges agencies face: (1) separating wants from needs, (2) establishing and supporting realistic program requirements, (3) using contractors in appropriate circumstances and contracts as a management tool, and (4) creating a capable workforce and holding it accountable. Given the current fiscal environment, agencies must separate wants from needs to ensure that programs provide the best return on investments. Our work has shown that some agencies budget and allocate resources incrementally, largely based on historical precedents, rather than conducting bottom-up reviews and allocating resources based on agencywide goals. We have also seen examples of agencies using fragmented decision-making processes for acquisition investments. Agency spending actions that would not otherwise be taken based on an objective value and risk assessment and considering available resources, work against good strategic planning. Such spending can circumvent careful planning and divert resources from more critical needs, and can serve to exacerbate our serious long-range fiscal imbalance. Agencies also need to translate their true needs into executable programs by setting realistic and stable requirements, acquiring requisite knowledge as acquisitions proceed through development, and funding programs adequately. However, agencies too often promise capabilities they cannot deliver and proceed to development without adequate knowledge. As a result, programs take significantly longer, cost more than planned, and deliver fewer quantities and different capabilities than promised. Even if more funding were provided, it would not be a solution because wants will usually exceed the funding available. No less important is the need to examine the appropriate circumstances for using contractors and address contract management challenges. Agencies continue to experience poor acquisition outcomes in buying goods and services in part because of challenges in setting contract requirements, using the appropriate contract with the right incentives, and ensuring sufficient oversight. Exacerbating these challenges is the evolving and enlarging role of contractors in performing functions previously carried out by government personnel. Further, while contract management challenges can jeopardize successful acquisition outcomes in normal times, they also take...


Related Articles

  • Mandate on the Department of Defense's Contract Award Procedures for Directed Spending Items. Sherrill, Andrew // GAO Reports;11/19/2008, p1 

    The article focuses on mandate on the contract award procedures for directed spending items of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). It explores the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 which directed the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to compare processes employed for...

  • DEFENSE ACQUISITIONS: Status of DOD's Implementation of Independent Management Reviews for Services Acquisitions. Hutton, John P. // GAO Reports;1/28/2010, preceding p1 

    The article highlights the research conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the status of the implementation of independent management reviews for service acquisitions in the U.S. It states that the Department of Defense (DOD) is the largest purchaser of contractor-provided...

  • keeping up with the "new" fiscal law. Hurley, Richard L. // Armed Forces Comptroller;Spring2005, Vol. 50 Issue 2, p14 

    Examines several fiscal law developments with which all financial managers of the U.S. Department of Defense should know. Updated Government Accountability Office resources for appropriations law principles and decisions; Trend toward relaxation of personal-related expenses; Pecuniary liability...

  • U.S. Government Accountability Office: Performance and Accountability Highlights: Fiscal Year 2006: GAO-07-3SP. Walker, David M. // GAO Reports;1/30/2007, p1 

    This report presents the highlights of GAO's fiscal year 2006 Performance and Accountability report. In short, fiscal year 2006 was an exceptional year for GAO. For example, we received a clean opinion from independent auditors on our financial statements. Senior GAO executives and the...

  • DOD Systems Modernization: Management of Integrated Military Human Capital Program Needs Additional Improvements: GAO-05-189. Hite, Randolph C.; Wilshusen, Gregory C. // GAO Reports;2/11/2005, p1 

    The Department of Defense (DOD) has long-standing problems with its information technology (IT) systems supporting military personnel and pay. To address these problems, DOD initiated the Defense Integrated Military Human Resources System (DIMHRS) program, which is to provide a joint,...

  • Major Systems Acquisitions: A Paradigm for Success. Dobriansky, John // Contract Management;Jul2010, Vol. 50 Issue 7, p82 

    The article offers information on the aspects of major systems acquisitions program of the U.S. federal government. It mentions the Government Accountability Office (GAO) review on the acquisition programs of the Department of Defense (DOD), such as the U.S. Army's Future Combat System (FCS),...

  • Leveraging Best Practices and Reform Initiatives Can Help Defense Manage Major Investments.  // GAO Reports;2/26/2014, preceding p1 

    The article focuses on a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) on leveraging practice and reform initiatives to manage major investments, released on February 28, 2014. Topics include federal government's plan to spend 82 billion dollars on information technology (IT) in...

  • Space Acquisitions: DOD Needs a Departmentwide Strategy for Pursuing Low-Cost, Responsive Tactical Space Capabilities: GAO-06-449.  // GAO Reports;3/15/2006, p1 

    For more than two decades, the Department of Defense (DOD) has invested heavily in space assets to provide the warfighter with mission-critical information. Despite these investments, DOD commanders have reported shortfalls in space capabilities. To provide tactical capabilities to the...

  • The GAO's Annual Audit of the U.S. Government. Kranacher, Mary-Jo // CPA Journal;Mar2013, Vol. 83 Issue 3, p80 

    The author criticizes the failure of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to render an opinion on the federal government's 2012 consolidated financial statements. She offers commentaries on the issues cited by the GAO as the three main obstacles to rendering an audit opinion. These...


Read the Article


Sorry, but this item is not currently available from your library.

Try another library?
Sign out of this library

Other Topics