DoD, State implement only fraction of wartime contracting recommendations

Thursday - 8/2/2012, 7:27pm EDT

The Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan disbanded nearly a year ago, after making more than 50 recommendations to improve the management of contingency contracting.

But a new report by the Government Accountability Office found that three main actors in contingency contracting — the Defense and State Departments and the U.S. Agency for International Development — will likely only implement a fraction of those recommendations.

The agencies have either determined their existing policies already address the commission's concerns or they disagreed with the recommendation in the first place, GAO found.

Agencies haven't elevated contingency contracting

Of the 51 recommendations made in the commission's final report, 30 applied to DoD, 27 to State and 25 to USAID. Many other recommendations were addressed to Congress. GAO found DoD had taken action — or planned to — on about half of the commission's recommendations. State and USAID planned action on about a third of them.

One of the commission's key recommendations, which has so far gone unmet, was to elevate the authority of agency officials responsible for overseeing contingency contracting.

The commission recommended that DoD create a new directorate for contingency contracting, which DoD has declined to do because it "already has a significant amount of senior leadership involvement and support for operational contract support," the report stated.

Similarly, State has declined to stand up a separate bureau for acquisition, because State deems its current system — joint oversight by the assistant secretaries for administration and management — sufficient, GAO said.

The commission also recommended the agencies create deployable cadres of civilian workers to help stabilize and rebuild in contingency environments as an alternative to contractors. However, only DoD reported making any progress on that specific recommendation. The Pentagon stood up a working group in February aimed at developing a program model which will be implemented beginning in fiscal 2013.

State and USAID have not taken action, citing current crisis-response activities that they said meet the commission's recommendation.

Progress on increasing competition

Despite the unchecked boxes on many of the commission's recommendations, the agencies have made progress in some key areas.

DoD amended its acquisition regulations to allow the Pentagon to withhold a percentage of contractors' payments if their business systems are found deficient.

In October, State issued guidance detailing suspension and debarment procedures, requiring a written memo when the agency decides not to pursue a proposed suspension-and-debarment case.

Bolstering competition in contingency contracting is one of the few areas where all three agencies have taken action. In its final report, the commission blasted "unprecedented reliance" on single-award, long-term contracts that had "undermine(d) effective competition."

Through the 2012 Defense Authorization Act, DoD, along with State and USAID, implemented competition goals for contingency contracting and developed better ways of tracking procurements.

All three agencies told GAO they had no comments on the draft report beyond technical comments.

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