Best Practices and Leading Practices in Acquisition Management
With hundreds of billions of tax dollars spent each year on goods and services, it is essential that federal acquisition be managed in an efficient and effective manner. Our work has shown that four interrelated elements promote an efficient and accountable acquisition environment and process: 1) Organizational Alignment and Leadership, 2) Policies and Processes, 3) Human Capital's Acquisition Workforce and 4) Knowledge and Information Management.
Organizational Alignment and Leadership
Acquisition activities can be facilitated by ensuring the procurement function is appropriately placed within the agency and by clearly defining the roles and responsibilities of key stakeholders. Officials are able to make strategic decisions to achieve desired acquisition outcomes when they have the committed support of senior leadership.
- Establish and fill the position of chief acquisition officer, designating the officer with primary responsibility for managing the agency's acquisitions.
- Define roles and responsibilities for all participants in the acquisition process.
- Establish and communicate to all levels of the agency a strategic vision for the acquisition function, including goals and metrics related to acquisition efficiency, effectiveness, and achieving mission results.
- Evaluate and adjust the current structure of the acquisition function to assure changes in mission, budget, workforce, and technology are incorporated.
Policies and Processes
Clear, transparent, and consistent policies and processes are needed to implement strategic decisions through acquisitions. Such policies and processes govern the planning, award, administration, and oversight of acquisition efforts.
- Establish cross-functional teams in which key stakeholders coordinate and execute the acquisition tasks.
- Identify metrics, assess performance, and provide feedback on performance to agency suppliers.
- Establish mechanisms that promote the participation of small business suppliers.
- Strategically assess agency needs and how acquisition can meet those needs, including:
- identify and analyze agency-wide acquisitions planned in the next 12-24 months.
- ensuring needs in the agency budget request submission are consistent with planned acquisition strategies.
- Implement continuous improvement mechanisms, including revisions to acquisition-related policies and processes when appropriate, to incorporate staff and affected parties' needs and concerns.
Human Capital's Acquisition Workforce
To successfully acquire goods and services and execute and monitor contracts, agencies need to value and invest in the acquisition workforce. Agencies must think strategically about recruiting, developing, and retaining talent, and creating a results-oriented culture within the acquisition workforce.
- Include acquisition officials in the agency's human capital strategic planning process.
- Identify acquisition needs in the human capital plan, including strategies for recruiting, retaining, and developing acquisition staff.
- Conduct an acquisition workforce assessment to ensure employees have clearly defined roles and responsibilities, performance measures, and the appropriate workload, skills and training to perform their jobs effectively.
- Establish performance expectations and metrics for acquisition officials and managers at all levels.
Knowledge and Information Management
Effective knowledge and information management provides credible, reliable, and timely data to make strategic acquisition decisions in support of organizational missions.
Key practices are:
- Identify and maintain an inventory of key agency suppliers.
- Collect and maintain data on major categories of spending to inform agency decision-making.
- Use knowledge on spending patterns to leverage agency-wide acquisitions to obtain favorable pricing and other concessions from key suppliers.
- Conduct and maintain an inventory identifying activities performed by government personnel as commercial or inherently governmental, and provide justification of inherently governmental functions.
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GAO-12-400SP: Published: Mar 29, 2012. Publicly Released: Mar 29, 2012.
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GAO-12-207SP: Published: Mar 1, 2012. Publicly Released: Mar 1, 2012.
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GAO-05-218G: Published: Sep 1, 2005. Publicly Released: Sep 1, 2005.
Federal agencies are relying increasingly on contractors to perform their missions. With hundreds of billions of tax dollars spent each year on goods and services, it is essential that federal acquisition be handled in an efficient, effective, and accountable manner. The Government Accountability Office (GAO), however--as well as other accountability organizations, inspectors general, and the agen...
GAO-19-556: Published: Sep 5, 2019. Publicly Released: Sep 5, 2019.
DOD spends billions of dollars acquiring products and services. DOD's acquisition workforce (e.g., contracting officers) manages this process, but thousands of other DOD employees can be involved. For example, pilots are sometimes asked to oversee aircraft contracts. We found DOD has identified some of the non-acquisition personnel performing certain acquisition-related duties, but has not made a...
GAO-19-509: Published: Aug 15, 2019. Publicly Released: Aug 15, 2019.
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GAO-19-512: Published: Aug 9, 2019. Publicly Released: Aug 9, 2019.
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GAO-19-489: Published: Jul 11, 2019. Publicly Released: Jul 11, 2019.
For years, Congress has been trying to improve how DOD buys products and services by enacting annual acquisition reform legislation. DOD implements these reforms through regulations. We found that DOD has taken actions to address 180 acquisition reforms since 2010. On average, implementation was completed within a year of the legislation being enacted, but some provisions took over 2 years to imp...
GAO-19-641T: Published: Jun 26, 2019. Publicly Released: Jun 26, 2019.
The federal government has spent billions on information technology projects that have failed or performed poorly. Some agencies have had massive cybersecurity failures. These IT efforts often suffered from ineffective management. We testified about 2 issues on our High Risk List: management of IT acquisitions and operations, and cybersecurity. Since 2010, agencies have implemented 60% of our 1...
GAO-19-439: Published: Jun 5, 2019. Publicly Released: Jun 5, 2019.
Members of Congress have been concerned that DOD's weapons acquisition process is too bureaucratic and slow to deliver innovations to the field. (DOD acquisitions are on our High Risk List.) Recent legislation included reforms to try to speed up the process. DOD has begun to carry out these reforms, including shifting more oversight decisions from the Office of the Secretary of Defense to the mil...
GAO-19-581T: Published: May 22, 2019. Publicly Released: May 22, 2019.
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GAO-19-456T: Published: May 2, 2019. Publicly Released: May 2, 2019.
This testimony provides updates on 2 acquisitions: the F-35 fighter aircraft and the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS), which is intended to replace the systems that currently track air, land, and sea targets. The F-35 program is embarking on a $10.5 billion modernization effort through FY 2024 to meet evolving threats. We found that the program needs to complete its business case—the pr...
GAO-19-482T: Published: Apr 3, 2019. Publicly Released: Apr 3, 2019.
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GAO-19-458T: Published: Mar 27, 2019. Publicly Released: Mar 27, 2019.
This testimony updates the Senate on DOD space system acquisitions, such as satellites and ground equipment. Our work has found many major DOD space programs exceed their budgets and are late. For instance, the cost of a satellite communications system has grown 117% and its first launch was delayed more than 3.5 years. Today, as DOD is simultaneously undertaking major acquisitions to replenish...