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Inherently Governmental: Can DCMA Adopt the New Definition Quickly?

dcmaLast week, we looked at the new definition of “Inherently Governmental” that OFPP plans to adopt on May 31.  The question is: how long will it take DCMA to implement it?

The Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) is the agency responsible for management and oversight of government contracts, so it’s most likely the agency that will handle many of the initial questions of whether a particular contract involves inherently governmental functions.

The problem for DCMA is that it takes a lot of time to train and certify contractor oversight personnel within the Federal Government.  The acquisition process wasn’t outsourced because the federal government had cost-effective and agile processes in place and qualified professionals to manage them.  In fact, DCMA currently suffers from a serious personnel shortage.

A recent GAO report outlined serious shortcomings in DCMA’s present oversight of contractor personnel.  For example, in March of 2009, DCMA requested 57 subject matter experts for food, water, medical, fire, and petroleum services, but by January 2010, only 19 additional personnel had arrived in theater.  Also, the June 2009 Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan found that DOD had insufficient logistics subject matter experts in Iraq and Afghanistan and therefore could not provide contract oversight.  Another unit, responsible for moving materiel out of the Iraq theater through Kuwait, “had 32 government personnel to provide oversight for more than 3,000 contractor personnel…In July 2009 this unit identified the lack of oversight personnel as a significant concern with respect to successfully moving equipment out of Kuwait.”

In fact, leading up to the troop increase in Afghanistan, GAO found that “with the exception of planning for the increased use of LOGCAP, USFOR-A had not begun to consider the full range of contractor services that might be needed to support the planned increase of U.S. forces.”

Putting aside the question of whether OFPP’s new definition of Inherently Governmental is a good one, a more immediate concern is whether the federal government has the manpower to implement this new definition.  While OFPP can mandate that work be done by government employees, several problems currently face the federal government’s acquisition workforce.  First, it’s too small.  Second, it’s older than the private sector.

From ExecutiveBiz’s interview with Congressman Gerry Connolly last year, “thirty-three percent of the entire federal workforce has more than 25 years of service, which means they’re coming up on retirement. Another 27% have 15-24 years of service. So, when you look at the federal workforce, one of the challenges we’re going to face is, ‘How do we recruit and maintain a skilled workforce in the future?'”

Next week: Inherently Governmental and contractor employees.

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