New GAO Report Calls for Improved Reporting of the Effectiveness of Training Programs for Federal Acquisitions Personnel

Washington, DC – Today, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Ranking Member Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) joined Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) in releasing a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that underscores the importance of providing adequate training to federal acquisition personnel.

The report, titled “Acquisition Workforce: Federal Agencies Obtain Training to Meet Requirements, But Have Limited Insight into Costs and Benefits of Training Investment” reviews the effectiveness of training  programs developed and overseen by two government agencies, the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and the Federal Acquisition Institute. The report examines the implementation of training programs for the approximately 83,000 acquisition personnel at non-defense agencies throughout the government. Acquisition personnel help agencies buy what is needed at the right time, at reasonable costs and ensure that contractors deliver what is promised.

Federal acquisition programs and contracts have become more expensive and increasingly complex over the years. According to the GAO report, the shortage of trained acquisition personnel hinders agencies from managing and overseeing contracts effectively. As a result, the federal government is at risk for significant overcharges and wasteful spending. The top challenge reported by agencies in the report was obtaining adequate budgets to manage and provide training for their acquisition workforce. The report also found that when acquisition workforce training programs are implemented by agencies, there is a distinct lack of data collection on the benefits or effectiveness of the programs. As it stands, the data agencies collect on the cost of training is not comparable across the government.

“At a time when our nation is grappling with record deficits and now sequestration, the federal government needs to do what it can to stretch taxpayer dollars further by demanding better results for less money,” said Chairman Carper. “With the federal government spending over half a trillion dollars per year  on contracts, there is a lot that can go wrong if agencies do not have skilled professionals who are trained to make sure that the government buys no more than it actually needs, and at the best prices. This new report by the Government Accountability Office shows that agencies need to do a better job of measuring the effectiveness of various training programs across the government. Also, given that budgets for training are tight, agencies must leverage existing training programs and avoid creating redundant courses. As Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, I will continue to work with Dr. Coburn, my other colleagues and the Administration to do all that we can to make every federal program more efficient and get a better result for every taxpayer dollar spent by our government ”

“It is clear from GAO that federal agencies lack insight into what kind of training is most effective for their acquisition workforce. Understanding what works in this regard is key to ensuring that limited training budgets are spent in the most efficient and effective way possible. With roughly 83,000 civilian agency acquisition personnel responsible for managing about $160 billion in contract spending,  agencies must prioritize quality training  in order to  safeguard the use of taxpayer funds,” Dr. Coburn said.  “GAO has recommended that the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, a key player in promoting the health of the acquisition workforce, ensure that federal agencies report comparable cost data and analyze the effectiveness of training efforts.  I look forward to working with Chairman Carper to ensure that these recommendations are implemented in a timely fashion. “

“It only makes sense that we’ll get the best acquisition outcomes if the acquisition workforce is top-notch.  The GAO has found that agencies do not collect appropriate data, nor do they measure the effectiveness of acquisition workforce training investments,” said Senator Collins.  “The Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) and the Federal Acquisition Institute must ensure we have a well-trained acquisition workforce – and part of that responsibility means effectively leveraging limited training resources.  I authored the Federal Acquisition Institute (FAI) Improvement Act to strengthen OFPP oversight of the Federal Acquisition Institute.  This is critical to keeping pace with the federal government’s increasingly complex procurement of goods and services – and ensuring good outcomes for the taxpayer.  The FAI Improvement Act became law as part of the fiscal year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act.  I look forward to full implementation of this law.”

Chairman Issa said, “This report makes it clear that throwing more money into acquisition personnel without a strategy to utilize resources will just result in more wasted taxpayer dollars. Better management of training is the first step to strengthening our acquisition workforce.  The need for a well-trained acquisition workforce is critical- particularly for the management of information technology and the House Oversight Committee has already approved bipartisan legislation to address this ongoing problem.”

Ranking Member Cummings said, “This report demonstrates that, especially in eras of austerity, slashing training budgets is penny-wise and pound-foolish.  Skilled professionals should be at the heart of the federal acquisition process, and adequate training is essential to that goal.”