DoD reforms parallel Gansler Commission findings

Tuesday - 11/2/2010, 7:49pm EDT

By Jolie Lee
Federal News Radio

Three years ago, an independent commission led by Dr. Jacques Gansler, the former Under Secretary of Defense of Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, pointed to systemic problems in the Army's contracting system. According to a 2007 release from the Army, the report found that there were "not enough people, too little training, and an antiquated system."

The report by the Commission on Army Acquisition and Program Management in Expeditionary Operations became better known as the Gansler report.

Gansler, currently a professor at the University of Maryland, joined Francis Rose in the Pentagon Solutions series to discuss the parallels between his report's recommendations and the actions the Defense Department is taking now to address the department's large and growing use of contractors.

"What we found, which was a big surprise, was that all the services had neglected the importance of contracting for all those contractors," Gansler said.

When the commission was working on its study, DoD had 270,000 contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, making up half of the total U.S. forces overseas.

There is, "a huge gap in the contracting dollars and the contracting people," Gansler said.

The Gansler report made four recommendations:

  • Increase the stature, quantity and career development of the Army's contracting personnel
  • Restore responsibility to facilitate contracting and contract management
  • Provide training and tools for overall contracting activities in expeditionary operations
  • Obtain legislative, regulatory, and policy assistance to enable contracting effectiveness in expeditionary operations

There are some positive signs that the military is moving in the direction of the Gansler recommendations. The Army Contracting Command held a press conference in September to get the word out about its need for trained and experienced contracting officers.

Gansler said Congress is "beginning to see the light" when it comes to the need to build up the contracting-related workforce, recognizing that DoD's reliance on contractors will not go away. Contractors offer skills and expertise not always available within government. For example, it makes sense to have contractors maintain the equipment they built since they best understand that equipment, Gansler said. Also, innovation -- particularly in IT -- will come from industry, he said.

"We want to take full advantage of that," Gansler said.