According to InsideDefense.com (subscription required), Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) is proposing a bill that will require all military personnel to participate in contract management and contractor oversight training before deployment.
According to Rep. Sestak’s proposal, the training would encompass federal acquisition rules, the DoD acquisition framework, and rapid acquisition provisions for expedited requirements. The training is also to include ethics, interactions with contractors, and monitoring contractor performance. Other areas of training include conflicts of interest rules, in addition to fraud, waste, and abuse regulations.
Joe Langdon, Sestak's spokesman, told this is the first time the congressman has offered such a bill. Sestak's office is not aware of any recently offered bills that are similar, he said.
…“This came about in response to the consensus among many observers that the military is not sufficiently prepared to manage contractors during expeditionary operations,” he said. “Our bill goes further by requiring that all deployed service members receive at least some training and mandates further training for those service members with direct contracting responsibility.” …
Rep. Sestak is a House Armed Services Committee member, a retired three-star admiral, and also sits on the committee's new defense acquisition reform panel. Although I respect his service and intentions, I think the bulk of this bill is misguided and unrealistic. The training aspects of a deploying force are always important, but they need to be mission focused. Combat forces getting trained on contract management is a poor used of resources.
The bill, however, does have some factors that are critical to improving contract management for deploying forces. The bill would require more comprehensive training for personnel with direct responsibility for contracting decisions (e.g. mission focused training). The training entail cost analysis principles, in addition to tools and techniques for developing and evaluating alternative proposals to ensure best value and wide expenditures of resources.
This bill does overlap with some provisions in the Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Authorization Act, according to the article.
Under the Act, DoD, and especially the Army, are required to train military personnel who are outside the acquisition workforce but are expected to have acquisition responsibility and to incorporate contractors and contract operations into mission exercises, Langdon noted.
One of the key lessons learned from the problems with Iraq was the level of gross misconduct, incompetence, and vast waste, fraud, and abuse in respect to reconstruction and overall contract management with deployed forces. However, training all forces in these skills will not solve anything; in fact it will get worse. Unskilled personnel will be thrown into contracting situations they are not prepared for, under the auspices that they have had contract training. The result: Iraq Contracting Part II, The Case of the Missing $XXX (insert number here) Billion.
I would recommend to Rep. Sestak, and those members of Congress on the defense acquisition reform panel, that before deployment, the forces have the correct mix of skills and personnel necessary to perform the mission. The contracting problems in Iraq boiled down to poor planning, inadequate resources, and untrained or unskilled personnel. Reforming the acquisition workforce will be paramount to future success, and should be the focus of the panel and future bills presented to address these issues.