Gansler Report: Problems With US Army’s Expeditionary Contracting
On Sept 4/07, “$5B in CENTCOM Contracting Under Scrutiny” discussed ongoing investigations related to the wartime staple of contracting fraud. In mid-September 2007, Secretary of the Army Pete Geren appointed the “Special Commission on Army Acquisition and Program Management in Expeditionary Operations” to review contracting linked to the war effort. The 6-member commission was led by former Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Dr. Jacques Gansler, and now the report is in. Its blunt assessment? Many people have gone above and beyond the call of duty – but in the end a spiral of not enough people, too little training, and an antiquated system, equals serious problems managing contracting and fraud in Iraq. [Full report – PDF | Army article w. link to briefing video | Release: Army accepts report’s conclusions]
Secretary of the Army Geren pointed to post-Cold War cuts to the Army acquisition budget as one of the principal reasons behind the shortage of trained people, since it takes a number of years to restore that; at present, only 36% of those with contract oversight in Iraq and Kuwait are certified. Dr. Gansler, however, noted that the Army had 5 generals on the contracting force, and now has none. He recommended establishing an Army Contracting Agency and adding 5 generals to the Army contracting force, adding another 400 Soldiers and 1,000 Civilians, plus another 583 Army personnel to fill positions in the Defense Contract Management Agency.
Gansler acknowledged that “expeditionary contracting” is more demanding, because the needs of the operational commander are often immediate. This has been true since Wellington sent a reply to London from Spain, asking if they wanted him to oversee accounting or fight Napoleon. The question is how to implement valid shortcuts, while remaining within the law. In addition, products must often be purchased quickly from host-nation countries – indeed, involving host-nation businesses, who may have very different cultural standards and training, can be vital to military success. Making all of this work poses new challenges to military contracting, and success may require specific Congressional relief from statutory provisions such as Buy American, the Berry Amendment and Specialty Metals, and some civil service provisions. Not least of which is the proviso that contracting officers who volunteer to go to a war zone may lose their life insurance and medical benefits.
Overall, there is little question that the standard DoD contracting system is inadequate for dealing with the needs of expeditionary contracting in the modern world: too slow, too bureaucracy-laden, too nativist. The question is whether existing approaches to resolving that problem can be considered adequate either, and what should be done. The Gansler report is a first step toward offering answers.