The Department of State has its own procurement system, however sometimes when it needs a critical item or service — which can be anything from fuel to dining services — it asks the Department of Defense to purchase the item for them. This “interagency acquisition” has been increasingly common as the State Department plays a greater role in Afghanistan and Iraq. Earlier this month, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) released the results of a review of interagency acquisitions between the Departments of State and the Defense Department.
The review examined on over twenty interagency acquisitions between the Departments of Defense and State, worth almost $1 billion. Researchers compared the deal’s documentation with relevant regulations and official guidance. Specifically, the GAO’s research focused on three areas. First, the extent of the State Department’s interagency acquisitions through the Department of Defense. Second, the reasons State had to use interagency acquisitions with the DOD rather than using its own internal procurement process. Third, whether the interagency acquisitions two government departments are complying with regulations and guidance.
The GAO’s review found that State and the DOD regularly failed to comply with government regulations regarding interagency acquisitions. More specifically, in 12 of the 20 cases reviewed by researchers, State officials failed to meet “Office of Management and Budget and Federal Acquisition Regulation requirements for determining that using DOD contracts was the best procurement approach.” Furthermore, in another 13 cases, the agreements between the government agencies failed to meet legal requirements for interagency acquisitions, reportedly resulting in “confusion regarding oversight responsibilities and payment for DOD’s assistance.”
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State Department officials claimed their reliance on the DOD for acquisitions was based on “the urgency of ensuring requirements were met as the two departments prepared for U.S. military forces to withdraw from Iraq at the end of 2011” and that "State lacked sufficient personnel, both in numbers and expertise, to conduct acquisition activities and that it did not have the requisite time to increase its workforce.” Furthermore, the GAO found that while the State Department had made some process in correcting this workforce gap, they had not examined if these efforts have been sufficient to meet the need.
Mike Jones is a researcher, writer, and analyst on national and international security. He lives in the DC area.