Wednesday, October 9, 2019

GAO to Study DOE's Acquisition Workforce and Audit Needs

The Senate Committee on Armed Services released a report to accompany its 2018 NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act). The Senate and the House versions of the NDAA are currently in conference committee to resolve differences before going to a vote by the full chambers. The Committee report offers some insight into why the Senate added various provisions to the NDAA. One of the provisions called out in the NDAA (Senate version) is for the GAO (Government Accountability Office) to review the applicability of the Section 809 Panel to the Department of Energy. We last discussed this back in July (see NDAA 2020 - Study the Applicability of Section 809 Panel Recommendations to Energy Department) so today's blog represents a refresher and update to what we wrote previously.

Section 809 of the 2016 NDAA required DoD to establish an advisory panel on streamlining and codifying acquisition regulations for the Department of Defense. Between January 2018 and January 2019, the Section 809 Panel (as it came to be called) issued several reports containing recommendations related to improving the defense acquisition process. While these recommendations were not aimed at the Energy Department, the Senate Armed Services Committee believes that DOE face a number of the same acquisition challenges as the DOD. That is why the Committee inserted the requirement for GAO to assess the application of a subset of these recommendations to DOE.

If enacted, the GAO will be directed to review issues affecting DOE's acquisition workforce. Specifically, the Armed Services Committee is interested in DOE's workforce planning efforts related to (i) how DOE determines the number of acquisition professionals needed and the skills and training required for those positions, (ii) whether DOE's acquisition professionals attain the needed training and skills, (iii) any challenges in recruitment and retention of DOE's acquisition workforce, and (iv) any systemic challenges for those professionals in performing their acquisition oversight responsibilities.

Volume 1 of the Section 809 Panel's final report provides examples of essential audit and non-audit services provided by DoD agencies across the contract life-cycle. Most of these services are performed pursuant to requirements in FAR (Federal Acquisition Regulation), which are generally applicable to all agencies, including the DOE. The Senate Armed Services Committee wants GAO to review how the DOE obtains the required audit and non-audit services and whether there are opportunities for improvement or efficiency in how the DOE obtains these services. Up until six or so years ago, DOE acquired its contract audit services through DCAA (Defense Contract Audit Agency) after which it began contracting with commercial accounting firms for the service. Whether the switch was beneficial to the Government is a question that the GAO will try to assess.

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