Execution problems and funding delays are hinderingthe successful implementation of DoD plans to increase and improve the acquisition workforce, according to a report released by the General Accountability Office (GAO).  These problems “can result in uncertainty about the availability of funds and negatively impact the component’s ability to execute according to the approved plans for the year,” the report  stated.

Congress authorized the Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Fund (DAWDF) in 2008 to fund the recruitment, training, and retention of acquisition personnel.  DAWDF is largely funded by transferring funds  from operation and maintenance accounts and additional funding through the budget and appropriations process. DoD has used the fund to hire 5,855 new acquisition staff  provide 19,000 more classroom seats at the Defense Acquisition University (DAU), according to the GAO report.

Funding for DAWDF has grown from $300 million in 2008 to $1,180 for FY2013.  However, last year Congress reduced requested funding for DAWDF by $200 million in 2012, due to continuing large unobligated balances.  Congress also directed GAO to review funding mechanisms, statutory limits, and potential improvements to the DAWDF and its operations.

GAO acknowledges that DoD has set rebuilding and improving the acquisition workforce as a strategic priority.  However, according to GAO, DoD’s inability to align the DAWDF with its acquisition workforce plan and the lack of necessary outcome-related metrics is undermining success.  DOD components do track input-related metrics, such as the number of people hired, instructors  funded, and grants that have been made and workforce continuing learning and certification levels achieved.  But, GAO emphasizes that outcome-related metrics should be employed to provide a useful measure of programs and how they are meeting their goals.

The GAO identifies funding delays, funds collection and distribution problems, and the lack of clear guidance as major problems that are negatively affecting hiring and other acquisition workforce initiatives.  For example, the report  pointed out that only 39 percent of FY2011 funds available were distributed by the end of the year.

The GAO report recommends that DoD revise DAWDF guidance to make it clear when and how DAWDF funds should be collected, distributed, and used.  GAO also urges DoD to create performance metrics to allow leadership to better track how the fund supports acquisition and workforce improvement goals.  To enhance DAWDF effectiveness, GOA recommends that the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics and the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) work to align finding plans with acquisition workforce strategy.

In response to the GAO report, DoD agreed with the GAO finding that funding delays have contributed to the high unobligated balances and that better and clearer guidance would improve program execution.  A USD(Comptroller) official told GAO that revised guidance would be issued by September 30, 2012 and that DoD is working to better align a revised funding strategy with the execution of workforce initiatives.