Secretary of the Army Pete Geren accepted Nov. 1 the report of an independent commission citing structural weaknesses and organizational shortcomings in the U.S. Army's acquisition and contracting system used to support expeditionary operations.

Dr. Jacques Gansler, former undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, presented "The Commission on Army Acquisition and Program Management in Expeditionary Operations" report to Secretary Geren, who earlier this year formed the commission to assess the Army's acquisition system. Geren said the report offered the "blunt and comprehensive assessment we asked for and needed, and a plan for the way ahead."

Gansler was named chairman of the commission on Sept. 12 by Geren, who determined the Army's acquisition system needed a comprehensive review to examine its role in support of large-scale expeditionary operations. Geren sought an uncompromising, big-picture review of the system. He wanted recommendations addressing how to best ensure that the Army is properly equipped for a future characterized by persistent conflict.

Complementing the commission's strategic review, Geren also formed a task force to review current contracting operations and take immediate action where appropriate. The Army Contracting Task Force, co-chaired by Lt. Gen. N. Ross Thompson, military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology; and Ms. Kathryn Condon, executive deputy to the commanding general of Army Materiel Command, has already made actionable recommendations and is implementing improvements.

Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have demonstrated the demand that expeditionary military operations place on the contracting system and contracting personnel, Geren pointed out. The U.S. Army has never fought an extended conflict that required this much to be outsourced. Approximately half of the personnel currently deployed in Iraq are contractor employees, who provide food services, interpreters, communications, equipment repair and other important services.

"Contracting and procurement must be an Army core competency," Geren said. "I deeply appreciate the good work of Dr. Gansler and his commission. We are responding positively and quickly to the commission's findings and recommendations."

Gansler's commission and the Army Contracting Task Force's efforts followed investigations and audits which have cited contractors and government contracting officials for corrupt activity related to contingency contracting. The investigations continue. As of Oct. 23, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command is conducting 83 investigations relating to contract fraud in Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan.

While the cases vary in severity and complexity, most involve bribery. There are confirmed bribes in excess of $15 million. As of Oct. 24, 23 U.S. government employees, both military and civilian, have been charged or indicted in federal court. Contracts valued at more than $6 billion are affected. The Army reorganized its contracting office in Kuwait, replaced its leaders, increased the size of the staff and provided more ethics training.

"The overwhelming majority of our contracting workforce, civilian and military, is doing an outstanding job under challenging circumstances," Geren said. "But, we must do a better job of organizing, resourcing and supporting them in their critical work. We will take the steps necessary to ensure that we execute our responsibility effectively, efficiently and consistently with Army values."

The commission outlined four areas as critical to future success: (1) increased stature, quantity and career development for contracting personnel - both military and civilian, particularly for expeditionary operations; (2) restructure of the organization and responsibility to facilitate contracting and contract management; (3) training and tools for overall contracting activities in expeditionary operations; and (4) obtaining legislative, regulatory, and policy assistance to enable contracting effectiveness - important in expeditionary operations.

Commission members include David J. Berteau, former principal deputy assistant secretary of defense (resource management & support); retired Gen. Leon Salomon, former commander, Army Materiel Command; retired Gen. David M. Maddox, former commander, U.S. Army Europe; and retired Rear Adm. David R. Oliver Jr., former director, Office of Management and Budget, Coalition Provisional Authority, Iraq.

The Gansler report traced many of the difficulties to post-Cold War cuts in the Army acquisition budget, which led to an undersized acquisition workforce in the face of an expanding workload.

"This workforce has not been properly sized, trained, structured, or empowered to meet the needs of our warfighters, in major expeditionary operations," Geren said. "We also need to do a better job in training our commanders on their responsibilities for requirements definition and contractor performance."

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