Too Slow, Too Little

According to Steve Schooner, co-director of the Government Procurement Law Program at George Washington University Law School, the Defense Department plan to rebuild its acquisition workforce to 1998 levels by the year 2015 “is not only too slow, but it aspires to far too little.” He made that dire claim during a July 21 hearing conducted by the House Armed Services Committee’s temporary panel on defense acquisition reform. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on April 6, when he previewed his 2010 budget plans, said the Pentagon would convert 11,000 contractors and hire 9,000 new government acquisition professionals by 2015. Schooner maintains 1998 is a false marker since the “lion’s share” of workforce cuts came before 1998. In his view, too, there is no way the DOD hiring plan can keep up with its “looming retirement crisis,” in which DOD predicts some 50 percent of its acquisition force will be eligible to retire in the next five years. However, the lagging economy may have put the skids on some retirement plans, Shay Assad, director of defense procurement acquisition policy, told the lawmakers. He said there has been “a slowdown,” but he acknowledged that leaves the department with “an aging workforce” that is still understaffed. Schooner maintained that since it took the department 20 years to reach this acquisition crisis, “it will take far more than five years of timid efforts to restore and reinvigorate the acquisition workforce.”