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Too Many DoD Contracts; Too Few Workers

The head of Pentagon acquisition, John Young, has said over and over again that hiring greater numbers of people and more experienced people is one of the keys to improving how the military manages the buying of weapons.

A hearing by the Senate Appropriations Committee made very clear just how deep is the personnel crisis faced by the Pentagon's acquisition corps, especially in the Army. Unable to adequately manage the enormous quantity of contracts ($71 billion worth issued through nearly 98,000 contracts) generated in Iraq, the Army Materiel Command has requested five new general officer slots for acquisition and 1,500 new bodies to manage what Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England admitted has been a deluge of contracts that "was not anticipated." The AMC is responsible for managing most of those contracts, including the infamous botched electrical wiring jobs.

The drawdown of acquisition workers after the Cold War was mentioned and England admitted "it will take some time to rebuild our acquisition workforce," telling Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W. Va.), chairman of the Appropriations Committee, that it is "difficult" to find qualified personnel and "it takes time to train" them.

However, Loren Thomspon, one of the cannier watchers of Pentagon acquisition, said there is no need for more people in the acquisition force. The workforce is "grossly overmanned" he said. "Adding more people to the acquisition system won't make much difference," he said. And Thompson does not think better training would make much difference since he "does not trust" the Pentagon to do it effectively.

Still, not all has been mismanaged or misappropriated. In his testimony, England noted that the Defense Contract Audit Agency has performed 2,500 contract audits, "taking exception to $12 billion as either not acceptable or not supported." That has saved or led to restitution of more than $1.3 billion, he said.

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