Gates: Unleash the Auditors of War!

By Nathan Hodge April 13, 2009 | 1:01:19 PMCategories: Cash Rules Everything Around Me, Iron Triangle, Politricks  


Last week, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates unveiled a plan to hire more auditors and managers to oversee those massive Pentagon contracts. It’s part of a larger push to cut back on waste, fraud and mismanagement in the Pentagon.

That’s easier said than done, however. A good portion of the Defense Department’s so-called “acquisition” workforce are themselves contract workers. So boosting oversight will mean weaning the department off of outsourced support. In an interview with Federal Times, Shay Assad, the Pentagon’s director of acquisition policy, said Gates wants to “change the mix” inside some offices to ensure that more federal employees are minding the store.

“It wasn’t necessarily, in some organizations, that we didn’t have enough people,” he said. “We just needed to change the mix from contractors to federal civilians because we felt those [jobs] were more appropriately performed by federal civilians.”


Assad said a recent internal study identified problems with the way the Pentagon does cost estimates. That should come as little surprise to readers of DANGER ROOM: The cost estimates for complex programs like the Army’s Future Combat Systems often vary wildly, making it hard to account for reasonable cost growth and measure progress.

Another issue is whether the Pentagon can rebuild its own in-house engineering expertise. In recent years, the department has effectively handed more control to “lead systems integrators” like Boeing to manage complex projects like FCS. So does this budget, as David Axe argues, spell doom for the systems integrators? Perhaps in the long term. But as Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council (a trade association that represents contractors) recently pointed out to Government Executive, finding individuals with the right expertise is easier said than done.

“Simply creating and funding a position does not necessarily mean that the position will be filled,” he said.