DoD Still Wasting Taxpayer Dollars

Has the Department of Defense (DoD) begun utilizing a more efficient workforce and stopped wasting taxpayer dollars? According to a May 2013 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the Pentagon’s human capital, no.

The Pentagon’s workforce consists of three components: civilian personnel, military personnel, and contractor employees. DoD is the government’s largest purchaser of contractor-provided services (see GAO highlights), which range from medical services to intelligence support.

According to the GAO report, the Pentagon is attempting to “improve its understanding and management of its workforce,” but there are still systemic shortcomings in its process of determining the appropriate mix of civilian, military, and contractor personnel.

GAO found that, although DoD is required to include an assessment of the appropriate workforce mix in its strategic workforce plan—a workforce analysis based on organizational objectives—the DoD has yet to do so. The Pentagon has also yet to update its workforce policies to reflect the most recent statutory requirements for workforce mix determinations. Lastly, the GAO report questions the accuracy of the Pentagon’s contractor component estimates, as officials rely on outdated and incorrect data to make projections.

In other words, the DoD is not doing what it should regarding the creation of an efficient workforce.

The GAO report comes more than three years after the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) issued a memorandum outlining business rules for the Pentagon. According to the memo, it is DoD policy that “defense officials are aware of the full costs of manpower and have a thorough understanding of the implications of those costs to the Department of Defense.” But policy and reality appear to be different things at the Pentagon. The GAO report indicates that DoD is not aware of these cost implications.

This finding is consistent with Project On Government Oversight’s conclusions. A recent POGO blog post analyzed another May 2013 GAO report which detailed the faulty contracting personnel estimates DoD makes. But neither DoD nor GAO has any idea how inaccurate the Pentagon’s inventory data is or how much waste it generates by placing undue reliance upon service contractors. This is because the Pentagon’s records are unreliable regarding how many contractors it keeps on its books, or how much it expends on those contract employees.

And in a letter last October, POGO challenged the Pentagon’s inability to “provide appropriate stewardship” for the money it spent on contracting. POGO’s letter documents that DoD spends, on average, nearly three times for contractors what is would cost federal employees to provide the services. With no way to track Pentagon dollars accurately, Congress is unable to hold DoD accountable for its budget.

POGO has pushed the Pentagon for better cost modeling and improved inventories.

The Pentagon claims to have initiatives underway to improve its workforce mix, but these initiatives are not expected to be fully implemented for several years. The GAO report foresees “incremental improvements in the fidelity of contractor [personnel] projections,” leaving in question: how many more taxpayer dollars will the DoD waste before open, useful initiatives are implemented to make its workforce more efficient? Effective planning and hiring at the Pentagon enables a more efficient DoD, and therefore should be prioritized. Given that national defense receives the lion’s share of American tax dollars, the American people should demand an efficient DoD workforce.