Understanding Defense Acquisition Workforce Challenges

April 2017
Topics: Government Agency Operations, Management (General)
Colleen Murphy, The MITRE Corporation
Adam Bouffard, The MITRE Corporation
Download PDF (332.34 KB)

The Department of Defense (DoD) acquisition system is a complex enterprise requiring professionals with many years of experience to execute the process expertly. However, the acquisition workforce faces several key challenges. First, the number of experienced acquisition professionals in the DoD is declining. They are being replaced by a young generation facing a long learning curve. Second, the acquisition workforce lacks the experience, knowledge, and tools necessary to digest and apply the wealth of information related to acquisition. Third, the workforce struggles to keep pace with the increasing complexity of the federal acquisitions.

The MITRE Corporation conducted this research to validate the significance of the key challenges facing the workforce and provide a foundation for “next steps”. MITRE developed an independent survey to document the issues facing practitioners in the field. Through our research, we validated that the workforce believes they are ill-equipped to meet the demands of the acquisition environment. We determined that the workforce needs solutions to assist them to shorten the learning curve, modern tools that appeal to the changing workforce demographic, and cultural changes that support and encourage the workforce to think critically to successfully operate in a complex environment. The recommendations proposed as part of this research include a digitized work environment, tailored acquisition models, and workforce cultural changes.

A digitized work environment is necessary to appeal to the junior acquisition workforce. They are accustomed to technology at their fingertips to answer questions and solve problems. Currently, acquisition policy and guiding documents are mainly a collection of static pdf documents spread across a variety of federal and organizational level websites. Digesting volumes of information to understand how to navigate acquisition processes is neither efficient nor appealing to a young and digitally focused workforce. Digitized policy provides centralized access to current policy and reference material to simplify complex processes.

Tailored acquisition models, provide streamlined approaches to address direction from acquisition leadership to tailor acquisition strategies when appropriate. Tailored models include the only the required elements for a specific type of acquisition and enable less experienced professionals to successfully navigate a tailored approach.

Workforce cultural changes include recommendations to address implementation at the workforce level. For example, policy changes to approve tailored models, implementing a coaching environment to transition the knowledge of the departing experienced workforce to the junior workforce, and implementing modern tools and apps to deliver digital capabilities.

Publications

Interested in MITRE's Work?

MITRE provides affordable, effective solutions that help the government meet its most complex challenges.
Explore Job Openings

Publication Search