Three years ago, an independent commission led by Dr. Jacques Gansler, the former Under Secretary of Defense of Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, pointed to systemic problems in the Army’s contracting system. According to a 2007 release from the Army, the report found that there were “not enough people, too little training, and an antiquated system.”
The report by the Commission on Army Acquisition and Program Management in Expeditionary Operations became better known as the Gansler report.
Gansler, currently a professor at the University of Maryland, joined Francis Rose in the Pentagon Solutions series to discuss the parallels between his report’s recommendations and the actions the Defense Department is taking now to address the department’s large and growing use of contractors.
“What we found, which was a big surprise, was that all the services had neglected the importance of contracting for all those contractors,” Gansler said.
When the commission was working on its study, DoD had 270,000 contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, making up half of the total U.S. forces overseas.
There is, “a huge gap in the contracting dollars and the contracting people,” Gansler said.
The Gansler report made four recommendations:
Increase the stature, quantity and career development of the Army’s contracting personnel
Restore responsibility to facilitate contracting and contract management
Provide training and tools for overall contracting activities in expeditionary operations
Obtain legislative, regulatory, and policy assistance to enable contracting effectiveness in expeditionary operations
Gansler said Congress is “beginning to see the light” when it comes to the need to build up the contracting-related workforce, recognizing that DoD’s reliance on contractors will not go away. Contractors offer skills and expertise not always available within government. For example, it makes sense to have contractors maintain the equipment they built since they best understand that equipment, Gansler said. Also, innovation — particularly in IT — will come from industry, he said.
“We want to take full advantage of that,” Gansler said.
Francis Rose is the host of In Depth, which airs weekdays from 4-7 p.m. on 1500 AM in the Washington, DC metro area and online everywhere. Francis has covered all three branches of the federal government as a broadcast journalist since 1998. He joined Federal News Radio in 2006, and launched In Depth in 2008 as a daily show focused on connecting federal executives to the information they need to do their jobs better.