Are defence procurement oversight mechanisms in place and are these oversight mechanisms active and transparent?
United States score: 50/100
Procurement oversight mechanisms are not formalised and their activity is inconsistent across changes in government. There may be persistent undue influence, e.g. by parliament or the military.
Procurement oversight mechanisms are not formalised. Or they are formalised but are dominated by undue influence and are not independent due to widespread undue influence.
Procurement oversight mechanisms are formalised, but they may be subject to persistent undue influence, e.g. by parliament or the military.
Procurement oversight mechanisms are independent, formalised processes. They may be subject to occasional undue influence from parliament, the military, business or politically well-connected individuals.
Procurement oversight mechanisms are independent, formalised processes. Parliament, the military, business, or politically well-connected individuals have no undue influence on their performance.
Various bodies, both internal and external, perform oversight of DoD acquisitions. The internal bodies are the DoD Defence Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) and the DoD Inspector General (DoD IG) and the external bodies are both the HASC and SASC, as well as the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The DCAA only has a mandate to audit contractors in terms of contract costs, both pre-award and after contract award . According to the DCAA’s 2018 report to Congress, they saved the DoD $3.2 billion in that year . The DoD IG has oversight over the entire operations of the DoD, including the Under Secretary of Defence for Acquisitions and Sustainment (USD(A&S)) . External to the DoD, the Senate Committee on Armed Services has a subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support, which is responsible for contracting and acquisition policy, including oversight of the USD(A&S) . The House Committee on Armed Services does not have a specific committee for acquisition oversight, however, the two subcommittees on ‘Tactical Air and Land’ and ‘Seapower and Project Forces’ each have some jurisdiction relating to procurement for those services, while the subcommittee on ‘Strategic Forces’ also provides oversight of nuclear and missile defence acquisition matters [5,6,7].
With regard to independence, the external oversight mechanisms are independent from the military and the executive. However, the DoD is providing the military with more oversight powers by granting services milestone decision authority, which approves entry of a programme into the subsequent phase of the acquisition process [8,9]. This has implications for external oversight undertaken by Office of the Secretary of Defense and congressional bodies, and could lead to the transfer of information and procedural transparency being compromised if the military services decide to reduce their engagement with due oversight mechanisms. Furthermore, with regard to independence, the two Armed Services Committees, as well as the DoD itself, are under the influence of the defence industry by way of the military-industrial complex. The revolving door between industry and government expounds conflicts of interest and leads to such instances as a 2019 letter by former military officers advocating for additional F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, many of whom would have benefited due to their close financial ties to the programme via the defence industry . The revolving door is a significant pathway to influence between the defence industry and the government, which undermines the independence of defence acquisitions .
 Defense Contract Audit Agency website. Accessed 6 February 2020 at: https://www.dcaa.mil/
 Defense Contract Audit Agency. 21 March 2019. ‘Report to Congress on FY 2018 Activities, Defense Contract Audit Agency’. Accessed 6 February 2020 at: https://www.dcaa.mil/Portals/88/DCAAFY2018ReporttoCongress-final.pdf?ver=2019-10-10-151649-753
 Department of Defense Office of Inspector General website. Accessed 6 February 2020 at: https://www.dodig.mil/
 Senate Committee on Armed Services. ‘Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support’. Accessed 6 February 2020 at: https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/about/subcommittees
 House Armed Services Committee. ‘Subcommittee: Tactical Air and Land Forces’. Accessed 6 February 2020 at: https://armedservices.house.gov/index.cfm?p=TacticalAirAndLandForces
 House Armed Services Committee. ‘Subcommittee: Seapower and Projection Forces’. Accessed 6 February 2020 at: https://armedservices.house.gov/index.cfm?p=SeapowerandProjectionForces
 House Armed Services Committee. ‘Subcommittee: Strategic Forces’. Accessed 29 April 2021 at: https://armedservices.house.gov/strategicforces
 Mehta, A., DefenseNews. 11 December 2017. ‘Policy shift: DoD is pushing major program management back to the military’. Accessed at: https://www.defensenews.com/pentagon/2017/12/11/policy-shift-dod-is-pushing-major-program-management-back-to-the-military/
 Acquipedia, Defense Acquisition University. ‘Milestone Decision Authority (MDA)’. Accessed at: https://www.dau.edu/acquipedia/pages/ArticleContent.aspx?itemid=312
 Smithberger, M., Project on Government Oversight. 9 August 2019. ‘Officers Advocating for More F-35s Often Had Financial Stakes’. Accessed at: https://www.pogo.org/analysis/2019/08/officers-advocating-for-more-f-35-often-had-financial-stakes/
 Vittori, J., Transparency International Defence & Security. 20 December 2019. ‘A Mutual Extortion Racket: The Military Industrial Complex and US Foreign Policy – The Cases of Saudi Arabia and UAE’. Accessed at: https://ti-defence.org/publications/a-mutual-extortion-racket-the-military-industrial-complex-and-us-foreign-policy-the-cases-of-saudi-arabia-uae/
United States score: 50/100
Procurement oversight mechanisms are highly inactive, or not active at all.
Procurement oversight mechanisms are active but they do not consistently engage in all the activities listed in score 4.
Procurement oversight mechanisms are highly active in summoning witness and documents, demanding explanations, issuing recommendations or conclusions that are being followed or implemented, and they can exercise their ability to cancel projects.
The DoD IG has 237 open recommendations regarding acquisition programmes, which suggests a fairly active oversight function . The fact that these recommendations remain open, some for over 5 years, suggests a poor response from the DoD. Congressional oversight is criticised on two accounts. First, a lack of resources and time given to the two armed services committees means that attention is largely devoted to high-profile acquisitions, leaving lower-visibility programmes without critical oversight . Additionally, long-term investigations are difficult given that the average tenure of a staff member on the SASC, for example, is only 3.5 years . The GAO produces an annual assessment of the DoD’s major weapon system acquistions, which has been on the GAO high risk list since 1990 and remained there in 2020 [3,4]. Although reports on DoD acquisition processes are frequently published by the GAO, reforms by the DoD are carried out at a slow pace [5,6]. In 2018, the Navy Secretary asked Congress to slow down on reforms, as they could not be implemented effectively at the rate required . The DoD IG recently evaluated the audit findings and reporting of the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) and found that, in 14 out of 30 of the DCMA audit reports, the DCMA contracting officers did not comply with FAR when they settled DCAA audit reports associated with two of the largest DoD contractors. The result of this misaction may have resulted in incorrectly reimbursing DoD contractors up to $97 million .
It is not clear whether these oversight bodies can cancel procurement, however, there was a case of the House prohibiting the US Air Force from cancelling their JSTARS recap programme in 2018 . Furthermore, in 2016, Congress removed funding for the Army’s blimp programme, effecitvely cancelling it . Overall, there is minimal evidence of oversight bodies cancelling procurements, oversight does not appear to be systematic, particularly for smaller programmes, and recommendations are only partially followed/implemented.
 Department of Defense Office of Inspector General. As of March 31, 2019. ‘Compendium of Open Office of Inspector General Recommendations to the Department of Defense’. Accessed 6 February 2020 at: https://media.defense.gov/2019/Jul/24/2002161372/-1/-1/1/2019%20COMPENDIUM.PDF
 Guenov, T. & Ross, T., War on the Rocks. 9 March 2018. ‘At a Crossroads, Part 1: How Congress can find its way back to effective defense oversight’. Accessed 6 February 2020 at: https://warontherocks.com/2018/03/at-a-crossroads-part-i-how-congress-can-find-its-way-back-to-effective-defense-oversight/
 Government Accountability Office. March 2017. Report to Congressional Committees: ‘Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs’. Accessed at: https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-17-333sp
 Government Accountability Office. Report to Congressional Committees: ‘HIGH-RISK SERIES: Dedicated Leadership Needed to Address Limited Progress in Most High-Risk Areas’. March 2021. Accessed at: https://www.gao.gov/assets/gao-21-119sp.pdf
 Government Accountability Office. June 2019. Report to Congressional Committees: ‘DoD Acquisition Reform: Leadership Attention Needed to Effectively Implement Changes to Acquisition Oversight’. Accessed at: https://www.gao.gov/assets/gao-19-439.pdf
 Government Accountability Office. October 2015. Report to Congressional Committee: ‘Defense Acquisitions: Joint Action Needed by DOD and Congress to Improve Outcomes’. Accessed at: https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-16-187t
 Department of Defense Office of Inspector General. 26 February 2021. Redacted Report: ‘Evaluation of Defense Contract Management Agency Actions Taken on Defense Contract Audit Agency Report Findings Involving Two of the Largest Department of Defense Contractors’. Accessed at: https://media.defense.gov/2021/Mar/02/2002591274/-1/-1/1/DODIG-2021-056_REDACTED.PDF
 Insinna, V. & Gould, J., DefenseNews. 25 April 2018. ‘House lawmakers move to stop Air Force from canceling JSTARS recap’. Accessed at: https://www.defensenews.com/air/2018/04/25/hasc-members-set-up-hurdles-for-jstars-recap-cancelation/
 Judson, J., DefenseNews. 27 May 2016. ‘Congress Nails Runaway Blimp’s Coffin Shut’. Accessed at: https://www.defensenews.com/land/2016/05/27/congress-nails-runaway-blimp-s-coffin-shut/
United States score: 75/100
Procurement oversight mechanisms are entirely non-transparent about their activities.
Evidence of activity is rarely made public by the relevant procurement oversight institutions and the content is missing key information.
Evidence of activity is occasionally made public by the relevant procurement oversight institutions but content is either completely aggregated or missing key information.
Evidence of activity is made public by the relevant procurement oversight institutions but content is limited to the justification or rejection of procurement.
Comprehensive evidence of activity (e.g. reports, announcements in the press of the cancellation of procurement programmes, the release of financial information) is made available to the public by the relevant procurement oversight institutions (e.g. parliamentary committee, a national audit function or bureau of public procurement).
The vast majority of GAO and DoD OIG reports relating to defence acquisitions are published publicly on their websites. This includes reviews and reports both on specific acquisition programmes and acquisition processes [1,2]. Financial audits of acquisition programmes are published by the DoD OIG, for example . As noted in 59B, there is little evidence of the oversight bodies cancelling procurements.
 Government Accountability Office. ‘Reports & Testimonies’. Accessed at: https://www.gao.gov/reports-testimonies
 Department of Defense Office of Inspector General. ‘Reports’. Accessed at: https://www.dodig.mil/reports.html/
 Department of Defense Office of Inspector General. 21 February 2018. ‘Financial Management and Contract Award and Administration for the Armed Forces Retirement Home DODIG-2018-077’. Accessed at: https://www.dodig.mil/reports.html/Article/1447484/financial-management-and-contract-award-and-administration-for-the-armed-forces/
Compare scores by country
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|Country||59a. Independence||59b. Effectiveness||59c. Transparency|
|Albania||50 / 100||0 / 100||75 / 100|
|Algeria||25 / 100||0 / 100||0 / 100|
|Angola||25 / 100||50 / 100||25 / 100|
|Argentina||75 / 100||NEI||25 / 100|
|Armenia||50 / 100||50 / 100||50 / 100|
|Australia||100 / 100||50 / 100||75 / 100|
|Azerbaijan||0 / 100||NA||NA|
|Bahrain||0 / 100||NA||NA|
|Bangladesh||75 / 100||NEI||0 / 100|
|Belgium||100 / 100||100 / 100||100 / 100|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||100 / 100||50 / 100||50 / 100|
|Botswana||100 / 100||0 / 100||0 / 100|
|Brazil||25 / 100||50 / 100||50 / 100|
|Burkina Faso||25 / 100||0 / 100||0 / 100|
|Cameroon||0 / 100||NA||NA|
|Canada||100 / 100||75 / 100||50 / 100|
|Chile||75 / 100||25 / 100||25 / 100|
|China||25 / 100||NEI||0 / 100|
|Colombia||75 / 100||NEI||25 / 100|
|Cote d'Ivoire||25 / 100||0 / 100||0 / 100|
|Denmark||100 / 100||75 / 100||75 / 100|
|Egypt||25 / 100||0 / 100||0 / 100|
|Estonia||75 / 100||75 / 100||100 / 100|
|Finland||100 / 100||100 / 100||100 / 100|
|France||100 / 100||50 / 100||50 / 100|
|Germany||75 / 100||75 / 100||75 / 100|
|Ghana||50 / 100||0 / 100||0 / 100|
|Greece||100 / 100||50 / 100||50 / 100|
|Hungary||0 / 100||NA||NA|
|India||100 / 100||50 / 100||75 / 100|
|Indonesia||75 / 100||50 / 100||0 / 100|
|Iran||0 / 100||NA||NA|
|Iraq||25 / 100||0 / 100||0 / 100|
|Israel||50 / 100||50 / 100||25 / 100|
|Italy||100 / 100||100 / 100||100 / 100|
|Japan||100 / 100||50 / 100||100 / 100|
|Jordan||0 / 100||NA||NA|
|Kenya||50 / 100||25 / 100||25 / 100|
|Kosovo||50 / 100||50 / 100||50 / 100|
|Kuwait||25 / 100||50 / 100||25 / 100|
|Latvia||100 / 100||75 / 100||75 / 100|
|Lebanon||25 / 100||50 / 100||0 / 100|
|Lithuania||100 / 100||75 / 100||100 / 100|
|Malaysia||50 / 100||25 / 100||0 / 100|
|Mali||50 / 100||0 / 100||25 / 100|
|Mexico||50 / 100||25 / 100||75 / 100|
|Montenegro||75 / 100||0 / 100||75 / 100|
|Morocco||0 / 100||NA||NA|
|Myanmar||25 / 100||0 / 100||0 / 100|
|Netherlands||100 / 100||75 / 100||100 / 100|
|New Zealand||100 / 100||50 / 100||100 / 100|
|Niger||25 / 100||0 / 100||0 / 100|
|Nigeria||0 / 100||0 / 100||25 / 100|
|North Macedonia||100 / 100||100 / 100||75 / 100|
|Norway||100 / 100||75 / 100||100 / 100|
|Oman||0 / 100||NA||NA|
|Palestine||25 / 100||50 / 100||0 / 100|
|Philippines||75 / 100||50 / 100||75 / 100|
|Poland||75 / 100||75 / 100||0 / 100|
|Portugal||100 / 100||50 / 100||75 / 100|
|Qatar||0 / 100||NA||NA|
|Russia||50 / 100||75 / 100||50 / 100|
|Saudi Arabia||0 / 100||NA||NA|
|Serbia||25 / 100||25 / 100||25 / 100|
|Singapore||100 / 100||50 / 100||100 / 100|
|South Africa||100 / 100||100 / 100||100 / 100|
|South Korea||75 / 100||50 / 100||75 / 100|
|South Sudan||25 / 100||0 / 100||0 / 100|
|Spain||50 / 100||50 / 100||50 / 100|
|Sudan||0 / 100||NA||NA|
|Sweden||100 / 100||50 / 100||100 / 100|
|Switzerland||100 / 100||75 / 100||100 / 100|
|Taiwan||75 / 100||50 / 100||50 / 100|
|Tanzania||50 / 100||25 / 100||25 / 100|
|Thailand||25 / 100||0 / 100||0 / 100|
|Tunisia||25 / 100||50 / 100||50 / 100|
|Turkey||25 / 100||0 / 100||0 / 100|
|Uganda||75 / 100||50 / 100||25 / 100|
|Ukraine||75 / 100||25 / 100||25 / 100|
|United Arab Emirates||0 / 100||NA||NA|
|United Kingdom||75 / 100||100 / 100||100 / 100|
|United States||50 / 100||50 / 100||75 / 100|
|Venezuela||50 / 100||0 / 100||0 / 100|
|Zimbabwe||25 / 100||25 / 100||0 / 100|