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Defense IG: TRICARE Acquisition Staff Lack Required Certification and Training

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Procurement personnel at the TRICARE Management Activity, which had an acquisition budget of $18.8 billion in 2012,  lacked formal certification for their jobs, proper training and accurate position descriptions, the Defense Department Inspector General said in a highly critical report released yesterday.

These problems start at the top, the IG said, noting that none of the 32 senior TMA acquisition personnel met all the requirements for their positions mandated under the 1990 Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act, including those who held Acquisition Corps positions.

Nextgov reported Tuesday that the Pentagon had shifted management and oversight of health information technology procurements from the TRICARE Management Activity to Frank Kendall, under secretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics. TMA forecasted on April 18 that it planned to run health IT procurements valued at $2.3 billion this year.

The Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act requires Defense agencies to establish formal career paths for personnel who want to pursue careers in acquisition.  There are formal training and certification requirements for 15 positions at three levels: entry, intermediate and advanced. Defense agencies also are required to develop position descriptions for their acquisition workforce.

The Defense IG said that of TMA’s 237 acquisition personnel, 52 (22 percent) did not achieve the required certification. Seventy (29 percent) did not have position descriptions with critical acquisition designators, and 83 (35 percent) did not have position descriptions with certification requirements.

The law requires personnel to achieve certification within two years, a benchmark exceeded at TMA by 99 to 1,598 days, the IG reported, based on statistical samples.

The deputy program executive officer for the Defense Health Services System, which on its website bills itself as “the largest acquisition program” for the Military Health System, did not have any certification at all, even though “he shared oversight and management responsibility for the development, acquisition, distribution, and deployment of highly specialized and dynamic information systems with the principal emphasis on managing the business and acquisition aspects.”

The program executive officer for Joint Medical Information Systems is not an Acquisition Corps officer and the deputy PEO did not sign a three year tenure agreement, a condition of employment. This office manages the Defense electronic health record system and the network and computing infrastructure for MHS.

The Defense IG recommended that TMA develop a certification plan for its acquisition workforce based on a timeline it did not define, and said personnel who did not meet the goals should be removed from acquisition positions. The IG also recommended key TMA acquisition personnel meet requirements to become members of the Acquisition Corps and that the agency review position descriptions annually and validate certifications.

Katrina McFarland, assistant secretary of defense for acquisition, told the IG in a reply to the report that TMA’s leadership is “working diligently to improve compliance with acquisition workforce policy.”

Dr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for Health Affairs and the TMA director, said in an April 11 reply to the IG that all TMA acquisition personnel who have not met their certification requirements will be notified within 30 days and directed to obtain certification.

Woodson said all position descriptions in the TMA acquisition workforce will be reviewed within 60 days. The review will examine whether key leadership positions should require membership in the Acquistion Corps.

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