What the GAO found

For decades, the Department of Defense (DOD) has reported to Congress on its costliest weapons programs via Select Acquisition Reports. However, in January 2020, DOD adopted an Adaptive Acquisition Framework (AAF) with multiple acquisition paths that expanded the range of approaches that could be used for costly and complex acquisition efforts. The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2020 required DOD to propose a new method for reporting acquisition programs, including for programs using alternate acquisition routes.

DOD proposed a web-based reporting approach intended to improve data efficiency and transparency by providing real-time access to procurement information for Congress and other stakeholders. This proposal builds on broader and ongoing initiatives within the Department to make data more accessible to users. However, despite the proposal to begin using this approach in FY2022, DOD readiness for implementation has been limited and many questions remain open about how the approach would be implemented (see picture).

The DOD has yet to respond to open questions related to its proposed reporting approach.

The DOD has yet to determine key aspects of implementing its proposal, in part because it has not fully embraced the best practices associated with successful reform efforts. For example, the DOD has yet to develop an implementation plan with key milestones or identify the resources needed to enact its proposal, among other steps it might take.

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022, signed into law in December 2021, requires DOD to develop plans and demonstrations related to the reporting system that will supersede the requirements of the Select Acquisition Report. As the DOD moves forward to meet these new requirements, fully following key reform practices would improve the department’s readiness to effectively transform acquisition reports in a timely manner. With programs already using the AAF, delays in improving the DOD’s approach to reporting will ultimately affect Congress’s access to the comprehensive information about acquisition efforts it needs to fulfill its oversight role.

Why GAO Did This Study

The DOD spends billions of dollars each year to acquire systems critical to the country’s security, including major new weapons systems – such as aircraft, ships and satellites – and commercial systems to manage the operations of the DOD. The DOD’s acquisition of commercial weapons and systems has been on the GAO’s high-risk list since the 1990s. In recent years, the department has implemented significant reforms that introduced new considerations for procurement tracking and reporting. However, the ability of congressional leaders to provide timely oversight remains fundamental to ensuring that the procurement system meets the needs of combatants.

A House report included a provision for the GAO to consider the DOD’s proposal for a new reporting methodology for its acquisition programs. This GAO report describes the DOD’s proposed methodology and assesses the department’s readiness to implement the proposed approach. GAO reviewed DOD’s proposal, as well as relevant policies and other documents, and compared DOD’s planning efforts to its proposal and key reform practices from previous GAO work. The GAO also interviewed DOD officials.