FAA acquisition workforce plans insufficient, says OIG
At a time when the Federal Aviation Administration faces twin challenges of an ongoing and expensive air traffic control modernization effort plus an acquisition workforce increasingly eligible for retirement, the agency lacks a comprehensive acquisition workforce plan, says the Transportation Department office of inspector general.
In a report dated Aug. 3, the DOT OIG notes that the air traffic control effort--known as NextGen--is significantly intensifying FAA's acquisition workload and sparking a requirement for new skills at a time when 20 percent of the agency's workforce is already eligible to retire. Forty percent will be eligible to retire by fiscal 2015, the report adds.
But the acquisition workforce picture at the agency is unclear; the FAA cannot rely on its personnel database to distinguish acquisition employees from non-acquisition employees, the report says. Instead, the FAA relies on managers' knowledge of employees acquisition role when it comes to identifying who is in the acquisition workforce, a situation that leads to some confusion--especially, the report notes, because the FAA continually revises how it defines "acquisition workforce."
"Ten of the acquisition employees we interviewed did not believe they were part of FAA's acquisition workforce," the report says.
The agency does know it needs to hire more acquisition employees and in fiscal 2009 even exceeded its hiring goals--but in a highly uneven way, inspector general data shows. Within the FAA's Air Traffic Organization, for example, the FAA hired 180 percent of its "acquisition and business" goal, but only 8.33 percent of its "technical operations" goal.
The report goes on to criticize the agency for not specifying the resources it needs to implement a workforce strategy, and for having developed internal certification programs for only half its acquisition discipline. Also, in one case, FAA granted unlimited warrant authority to an uncertified contracting officer.
An acquisition workforce plan developed in 2010 focuses only on federal employees, the report adds--not taking into account the contractor workforce. FAA officials told auditors that the plan only focuses on civil servants because they provide long-term staffing, whereas contractors are used to address fluctuating staff and skill requirements. But, the report notes that a July 2009 Office of Management and Budget memo (.pdf) directs agencies to adopt a framework for planning and managing both civil servants and contractors conducting acquisition duties.
Moreover, the workforce plan excludes employees--both federal and contractors--working on FAA support service contracts, the report says. Poor contract administration of a support services contract known as the Air Traffic Controller Optimum Training Solution led to cost overruns of $46 million in its first two years, the report adds.
- download the report, ZA-2011-148 (.pdf)