GAO’s 2017 High-Risk List Cites Continuing Procurement Issues

The Government Accountability Office has released is High-Risk List for 2017. The HRL, issued every two years, examines federal programs and operations that are especially vulnerable to waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement, or that need transformative change. The report, GAO-17-317, HIGH-RISK SERIES: Progress on Many High-Risk Areas, While Substantial Efforts Needed on Others, addresses 32 high-risk areas from the 2015 HRL. The 2017 HRL includes six procurement-related areas that appeared on the 2015 HRL:

  • Improving the Management of IT Acquisitions and Operations. This area was new to the HRL in 2015. Government efforts to improve the management of information technology acquisitions and operations have resulted in meeting one of the five criteria for removal from the HRL—leadership commitment—and partially meeting the remaining four criteria—capacity, action plan, monitoring, and demonstrated progress. However, GAO identified this as one of five areas that still need substantive attention.
  • DOD Supply Chain Management. This area was added to the HRL in 1990 because the Department of Defense experienced weaknesses in the management of its supply chain. In the 2017 report, GAO finds that DOD made progress in addressing all three dimensions of its supply chain management: inventory management, materiel distribution, and asset visibility.
  • DOD Weapon Systems Acquisition. Since the addition of this area to the HRL in 1990, DOD has made progress in addressing challenges, such as through the Better Buying Power initiatives outlined by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics. DOD has partially met the criteria for monitoring by issuing a series of annual performance reports on the portfolio of major defense acquisition programs.
  • DOE’s Contract Management for the National Nuclear Security Administration and Office of Environmental Management. GAO designated DOE contract management a high-risk area in 1990 because DOE’s record of inadequate management and oversight of contractors left DOE vulnerable to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement. GAO found DOE made progress in contract and project management and continues to meet the criterion for demonstrating a strong commitment and top leadership support for improving project management.
  • NASA Acquisition Management. NASA acquisition management was designated as high risk in 1990 in view of its history of persistent cost growth and schedule delays in the majority of its major projects. GAO found NASA made progress over the past five years in a number of key acquisition management areas, but NASA faces significant challenges in some of its major projects largely driven by the need to improve the completeness and reliability of its cost and schedule estimating, estimating risks associated with the development of its major systems, and managing aggressive schedules.
  • DOD Contract Management. This area was added to the HRL in 1992. GAO identified challenges in three segments of DOD contract management: acquisition workforce, service acquisitions, and operational contract support. The new report finds DOD made significant progress in addressing OCS issues since 2015, and some progress in managing its acquisition workforce. Demonstrated progress in managing service acquisitions was more limited.

The full text of the 684-page report can be found here.

About William Van Huis

Bill Van Huis is a Senior Writer/Analyst for Wolters Kluwer Law & Business who tracks and analyzes new regulations impacting federal government contracting. He also follows court decisions involving bid protests and contract disputes. You can find his work in WK publications like Government Contract Reports and the FAR and DFARS Matrix Tools. Bill is a Certified Professional Contracts Manager, and he has a law degree from Southern Illinois University, where he graduated summa cum laude. Prior to joining WK, Bill worked both inside and outside state and local government in the areas of procurement and municipal finance. Bill also worked as a staff attorney for the Illinois Supreme Court.
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