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FAA Faces Challenges in Tracking Its Acquisition Workforce and Ensuring Compliance With Training, Certification, and Warrant Requirements

Self-initiated
Project ID: 
ZA2021037
What We Looked At
Between fiscal years 2013 and 2018, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) awarded over $17 billion in contracts. Within FAA, three key categories of acquisition professionals work together to award and manage contracts critical to meeting the mission of the agency: Contracting Officers (COs), Contracting Officer’s Representatives (CORs), and Program/Project Managers (P/PMs). However, our prior work has raised concerns about the adequacy of FAA’s acquisition workforce certification and warrant practices. Given the importance of a high-performing acquisition workforce in managing FAA’s multibillion-dollar contract budget, we conducted this audit. Specifically, our audit objective was to assess FAA’s oversight and compliance with Federal and Agency requirements for acquisition workforce training, certification, and warrants.
 
What We Found
FAA faces challenges in tracking its acquisition workforce and ensuring compliance with training, certification, and warrant requirements. First, FAA lacks effective processes for identifying, tracking, and assessing its acquisition workforce. For example, FAA relies on six separate information systems to identify and track its COs, CORs, and P/PMs, making it difficult to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the Agency’s workforce-related data. In addition, until recently, FAA had been using the Federal Acquisition Institute’s Acquisition Training System (FAITAS) as its system of record for tracking whether acquisition professionals have required certifications. Yet, more than 5 years after adopting FAITAS, FAA did not fully implement nor ensure its use. Second, FAA does not ensure its acquisition workforce meets all certification and warrant requirements. For example, FAA grants COs varying levels of warrant authority authorizing them to obligate funds on the Government’s behalf. However, we found that 6 of 46 COs were assigned to contracts without the required certification level to support their warrant. Further, almost half the CORs in our sample (32 out of 69) were uncertified and yet had been assigned to contracts totaling $184 million. As a result, FAA may be putting Federal funds at risk by allowing its acquisition workforce to manage contracts without the experience, training, and certifications required to manage highly complex, costly, and mission-critical acquisitions.
 
Our Recommendations
FAA concurred with our eight recommendations to improve its oversight and compliance with certification, training, and warrant requirements for COs, CORs, and P/PMs. We consider all recommendations resolved but open pending completion of planned actions.

Recommendations

Open

Closed

No. 1 to FAA

Establish and implement an effective process for: (i) identifying and tracking the Agency's acquisition workforce (such as Contracting Officers (COs), Contracting Officer's Representatives (CORs) and Program/Project Managers (P/PMs) ) and (ii) collecting and maintaining their certifications and related training records. Data collected via this process and maintained in repositories should be complete, accurate, and readily accessible.

No. 2 to FAA

Identify, remove, and/or rectify those COs, CORs, and P/PMs—currently assigned to a contract or program—that lack the required training or certification to fulfill their designated role.

No. 3 to FAA

Develop and implement training and guidance related to the Agency's replacement of FAITAS. This training and guidance should address acquisition certification requirements, documentation, and application processes under the new system.

No. 4 to FAA

Implement performance and certification metrics for CORs and P/PMs.

No. 5 to FAA

Revise AMS to reflect FAA's decision to delegate approval authority for COR certifications to the Acquisition Career Manager.

No. 6 to FAA

Strengthen the process for nominating CORs to include completing, issuing, and storing COR Delegation Letters and Nomination Forms in the contract file.

No. 7 to FAA

Strengthen quality assurance procedures to verify accuracy when identifying and reporting the acquisition P/PMs assigned to OMB Major Programs.

No. 8 to FAA

Establish a timeline to implement and verify compliance with the requirement that all P/PMs assigned to OMB Major Programs obtain and maintain a FAC P/PM Information Technology Certification.