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Shining a Spotlight on the Defense Acquisition Workforce -- Again

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Occasional paper

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Todays defense environment is placing growing pressure on defense policy makers to be nimble and adaptive, particularly with respect to acquisition systems and processes. This occasional paper is one in a series drawing upon the expertise of core RAND Corporation staff to explore issues and offer suggestions on topics that are likely to be of critical importance to the new leadership the use of competition, development of novel systems, prototyping, risk management, organizational and management issues, and the acquisition workforce. The papers are designed to inform new initiatives for markedly improving the cost, timeliness, and innovativeness of weapons systems that the Department of Defense DoD intends to acquire. This paper assesses the evidence regarding whether and to what extent specific workforce issues contribute to poor acquisition outcomes in DoD. It describes key concerns about the size, mix, and quality of the defense acquisition workforce, and provides an overview of the workforce and the policy environment influencing its management. It also assesses the strength of the evidence supporting these key concerns, arguing that the information available on workforce size, mix, and quality is insufficient to assess whether more workers, more highly skilled workers, or a different mix of workers would improve acquisition outcomes. We highlight areas where better evidence is needed to understand the linkage between workforce attributes and acquisition outcomes, and recommend steps for assembling the information needed to make, refine, or dismiss the case for major new hiring or training initiatives. The following three workforce-related claims feature most prominently in the current debates 1 the current workforce is too small to meet the current workload, 2 DoD overuses or inappropriately uses contractors to perform acquisition functions, and 3 the workforce lacks the skills to accomplish the workload.

Subject Categories:

  • Personnel Management and Labor Relations
  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Logistics, Military Facilities and Supplies

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