Pentagon To Expand Its Acquisition Force

By Dana Hedgpeth

16 percent.

That's right. In an amazing turnabout, the Pentagon said it would hire 16 percent more acquisition workers to manage and oversee buying over the next five years. That's the largest increase in many years.

The problem has been that the procurement workforce has been stretched thin as projects have grown more sophisticated.

Shay Assad, the Pentagon's director of defense procurement and acquisition policy, announced new details about the changes one day after Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he was going to reorder the military's weapon priorities.

"We've had the same size workforce, but the workload has gone up three times," Assad said.

In the next five years, Assad said he plans to grow the acquisition workforce from 127,000 to about 147,000. That would bring the Pentagon's acquisition workforce to 1998 levels.

The roughly 20,000 new hires will include 2,500 workers at the Defense Contract Management Agency, which helps oversee contracts; 800 pricing specialists; 600 auditors; 5,500 contracting officers and procurement specialists; 250 acquisition lawyers; and another 11,000 workers who specialize in systems engineering, program management, and logistics. He's also going to convert 2,500 positions now done by contractors to being jobs done by federal government workers.

Assad calls it a "bold step" to addressing the chronic problems of buying expensive weapons systems that too often end up being over budget, late and fail to perform as expected.

Analysts and acquisition specialists say he's going to have a hard time finding such skilled workers, even in a bad economy.

But he's certainly going to give it a try as he sets out to reform a very broken system and as he says, "get the best deal for the taxpayers."

By Dan Beyers |  April 7, 2009; 4:38 PM ET
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The biggest single threat to the security of this nation since October of 1962 has been the plunder of the good credit of this nation by Congress, and the preferred constituencies of both parties. That threat continues as we speak, and the perpetrators on Wall Street and other private sector special interests go unpunished, not to mention their enablers in the Congress, who coincidentally happen to be the leaders of both parties.

The big lie in this discussion is that members of Congress are worried about the voters in their districts. They're worried about those voters only by coincidence, if their major campaign contributors happen to have business interests in their districts.

Robert Gates has been the best Secretary of Defense in my adult lifetime (40 years or so). I hope Secretary Gates doesn't give one dime back to the crooks and thugs who populate Capitol Hill (or, "Versailles by the Potomac", as I like to call it). To hell with tea-bags, we need a 21st Century National Razor setup on the steps of the Capitol.

Posted by: thomas777 | April 7, 2009 7:00 PM

Running defense for corporate profit or for a "jobs program" makes no sense. It diverts valuable investment from the true private sector -- both talent and investment dollars.

The ONLY way our country will start CREATING wealth again is to free up unnecessary government spending to the private sector.

The current Bush/Republican notion that you can run government itself for profit, then game that profit on Wall Street has greatly weakened our country and suffocated the private sector.

Getting back to sensible defense spending, productive service-focused government, and much less overhead on labor is our best defense. Thankfully Gates and Obama understand that.

Posted by: cmnsns | April 7, 2009 7:54 PM

The Pentagon shouldn't be hiring even one body to meet any need until they get rid of at least same number of positions that are not needed at all. Robert Gates can toss around numbers with the best of the pitchmen. But, while the workload may have gone up three times, computer speeds have gone up ten times.

Much of the increased workload is caused by the DOD acquisition process being held back in technology by two or more decades. The needlessly excessive amounts of paperwork, filing, refiling, searches, cross referencing and such as well as all of the incompatibilities between different databases in the DOD procurement system is what makes so much work. Much more of the process could have been automated by now.

Also, when it comes to wasting money, only the DOD would think that ten thousand dollars of testing is a good substitute for a hundred dollars of statistical analysis and process control.

You people in the Pentagon have apparently forgotten that the only reason you got away with so much waste over the years was because of our Congressional leaders who weren't about to bite the hands of their defense contractor benefactors. Now, the voters are getting wise to that.

No more employees. Get rid of the ones you don't need and fix your process. When Congressional leaders start crying about lost jobs, why don't you ask them if those jobs were even justified in the first place or were the tax payers buying half as much product for twice it's real value from one of their buddies.

Posted by: snerdguy | April 7, 2009 8:24 PM

Well-caught between a rock and a hard place. Cutting too much puts the US in jeopardy. But-there are too many outlandishly expensive projects that do not perform well. Of course-the big money people obviously have no patriotism-even in our time of dire need. Pork & ripoffs are the name of the game. It's been going on for a long-long time. Only difference is-now it's catching up & fast. Well-as Obama scrapes & bows &begs at the tables of the (restof) world-We continue receding into oblivion. So far in debt to China that we (in reality) don't push too hard against their buddy North Korea. Of course we make noises-but (in reality) know that nothing gets done. Same with Iran. Well-forget it-We'll lose -just a matter of time now. 3.5 trillion budget will go far to sink our ship. By then-China's military will by far overshadow ours. They won't have any problem calling in our debts. No money? Oh-We'll take land. Of course-we'll be slaves by then anyhow. Maybe the Eastern US will be totally muslim & western will be Asian. I hope not-but-where are we heading?

Posted by: Jumbo930 | April 7, 2009 9:03 PM

No reason for these bloated, snout-in-the-trough projects to even exist, much less be completed. President Obama and Secretary Gates are doing the correct thing and I REALLY hope we'll be able to hear RepubliKKKans squeal all the way to the ballot box. Like Limbaughs fat belly, these projects have grown way too big.
Let's celebrate and send Rush a box of steaks.
Economy, health care, energy, defense spending, education, environment, drugs,Afghanistan/Pakistan,infrastructure...sooo nice to have a President who can multitask. Now, if the old, white political guys can just pick up on those skills.....

Posted by: bgreen2224 | April 7, 2009 9:23 PM

Hiring more people seems to be the standard solution for solving problems in the Federal government. This approach generally fails because people are not the problem or the solution. All these new people will still be part of an ineffective and inefficient process. The administration's primary effort needs to be directed at fixing the process. Until this is done, don't expect any significant improvement.

Posted by: bigtom6156 | April 8, 2009 10:53 AM

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