Management and Oversight Improvements Needed in Afghanistan

March 29, 2012

The Department of Defense (DOD) has taken steps to enhance its existing training program for contracting officer's representatives (CORs), but the required training does not fully prepare them to perform their contract oversight duties in contingency areas such as Afghanistan. DOD requires that CORs be qualified by training and experience commensurate with the responsibilities to be delegated to them. DOD took several actions to enhance its training program, such as developing a CORs training course with a focus on contingency operations. However, GAO found that CORs are not prepared to oversee contracts because the required training does not include specifics on how to complete written statements of work and how to operate in Afghanistan's unique contracting environment. For example, DOD contracting personnel told GAO about opening delays and additional expenses related to the construction of a dining facility, which was originally constructed without a kitchen because it was not included in the original statement of work. In some cases, contract-specific training was not provided at all. In addition, not all oversight personnel such as commanders and senior leaders receive training to perform contract oversight and management duties in Afghanistan because such training is not required of them. Because DOD's required training does not prepare CORs and other oversight personnel to oversee contracts, units cannot be assured that they receive what they paid for.

CORs do not always have the necessary subject area-related technical expertise to oversee U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) contracts they were assigned to. Contracting officials noted, for example, that the staircases on guard towers at a forward operating base were poorly constructed and unsafe to climb. The COR assigned to that contract had inadequate subject area-related technical expertise, preventing the early identification of the defective welding on the staircases. According to contracting officials, situations like this often occurred due to the shortage of CORs with expertise in construction. Also, at the time of GAO's field work, CORs for contracts written by CENTCOM contracting officers did not have access to subject matter experts, particularly those with construction experience. According to contracting personnel, because CORs do not have the subject area-related technical expertise needed to oversee contracts or access to subject matter experts, facilities were sometimes deficient and had to be reconstructed at great additional expense to the taxpayer. 

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