July 11,2006

Grassley Comments on GAO Review of Contract Management by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration


TO: Reporters and Editors
FR: Jill Kozeny, 202/224-1308
RE: GAO report on contract management by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
DA: July 11, 2006

U.S. Sen Chuck Grassley made the comment below about a report issued today by the
Government Accountability Office (GAO) which reviewed the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) acquisition function. This federal agency is responsible
for making accurate and timely forecasts to protect life, property and natural resources, and for
protecting America’s ocean, coastal and living marine resources while promoting sustainable
economic development.

In recent years, NOAA experienced instances of poor contract management. In fiscal
year 2005, NOAA contracted for over $851 million in goods and services to support the agency’s
mission. Sen. Grassley asked the GAO to assess NOAA’s oversight of the acquisition process
and the extent to which NOAA has focused on succession planning to address impending
contracting workforce challenges.

The GAO found that while NOAA reorganized a major portion of its acquisition
divisions in 2005, NOAA’s acquisition director still lacks direct line authority over an
organizational unit which is responsible for contracts worth up to half a billion dollars. Some
NOAA field staff manage millions of dollars in contracts without appropriate oversight. Further,
these NOAA staff are not contracting officers but rather perform that function as a collateral
responsibility. GAO reported that NOAA adheres to the Department of Commerce’s acquisition
policies which lack a knowledge-based process to ensure contracts meet cost, schedule, and
performance targets. Finally, while NOAA established a human capital plan, it does not address
gaps in the agency’s contracting workforce. GAO recommended that the Department of
Commerce incorporate a knowledge-based approach in its acquisition policies and processes,
take necessary action to provide oversight of NOAA field acquisition staff and activities, and
conduct an assessment to determine NOAA's contracting workforce needs.
The GAO report - GAO-06-594 – is available at www.gao.gov.

Grassley comment -

“It’s good that steps have been taken to fix problems in the acquisition process, but the
agency still has a ways to go before its process prevents further waste of tax dollars. The
Department of Commerce needs to implement new policies and procedures to establish
appropriate oversight of contracts and staff responsible for acquisitions and contracts. One
important component is having skilled, knowledgeable staff to administer contracts from start to
finish. The fact that NOAA developed a strategic human capital plan that failed to address the
gaps in its contracting workforce defies logic. After all, these people are responsible for
hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.”