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A New Approach to Building a 21st Century Defense Acquisition Workforce


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Every year, the Department of Defense (DOD) spends roughly $300 billion to purchase everything from nuclear submarines to accounting services. The defense acquisition workforce is responsible not only for negotiating prices, enforcing requirements, and managing delivery on these acquisitions, but also for addressing issues like interoperability, sustainability, cyber protection, and supply chain security. And every year, Congress adds complexity to the system, with more than 300 provisions of acquisition legislation enacted in the last four years alone. Advocates of acquisition reform have long sought changes in the civil service rules to make it easier to build the talent that DOD needs to meet this challenge, but despite the wide array of legislative authorities now available, little has changed. What is needed is not a new set of rules, but a new mindset: If the DOD wants to develop employees rather than just manage them for immediate performance, it must stop making hiring decisions position by position and establish a system that enables it to rotate future civilian leaders through a series of time-limited, career building assignments. Instead of managing civil service positions, DOD must start managing its people.



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