GAO: DOD Needs to Collect & Maintain Better Data on Space Acquisition Workforce

The Department of Defense (DOD) does not routinely monitor the size, mix, and allocation of the 8,000 personnel who are involved in space acquisition activities, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

[Full Report — PDF]

The audit found the DOD’s workforce data systems are not configured to identify personnel working on space acquisition activities across the department’s sprawling bureaucracy.

The Pentagon also lacks a complete list of its space acquisition programs. Further, some organizations support both space and non-space acquisition.

GAO said that complete data are needed as the Defense Department prepares to establish restructure its operations with a new Space Force, Space Development Agency and Space Command.

“Without complete and accurate data, DOD cannot assess gaps in the overall capabilities of the space acquisition workforce,” the report stated. “Identifying space programs and collecting such data would also better position DOD to ensure that the appropriate space acquisition personnel are assigned to the new Space Development Agency and the United States Space Command.

The DOD concurred with a GAO recommendation to identify the programs that space acquisition and to make a report to Congress. However, the Pentagon disagreed with a second draft recommendation to collect and maintain data on the space acquisition workforce.

“DOD stated that the manner in which personnel data are captured in its human resource and development systems makes it difficult to identify, collect, and maintain data on the military and civilian personnel working on space acquisition programs,” the audit stated. “Further, DOD raised concerns over contractual limitations on collecting and maintaining data on contractor and  FFRDC[federally funded research and development centers] personnel supporting space acquisitions.”

As a result, GAO modified the second recommendation “to focus on tracking the contractor and FFRDC workforce general levels of effort supporting space acquisition activities and the resources spent to obtain this assistance, rather than—as we stated in our draft recommendation—tracking the individuals who perform such work.

“However, we continue to believe that collecting and maintaining more robust data on that workforce will support DOD’s planning efforts and better inform Congress,” the audit added.

A summary of the report is below.

Defense Space Systems: DOD Should Collect and Maintain Data
on Its Space Acquisition Workforce

Government Accountability Office
GAO-19-240
March 2019

Full Report

Why GAO Did This Study

DOD plans to spend about $65 billion from fiscal year 2019 to 2023 on space acquisition programs—including satellites, launch vehicles, ground components, and user equipment. DOD’s space acquisition personnel perform a variety of activities, such as preparing and reviewing acquisition documents, to manage or oversee programs that develop or procure space capabilities. DOD recently announced it plans to establish a new Space Development Agency and a United States Space Command.

A House Report accompanying a bill for the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act contained a provision for GAO to review DOD’s space acquisition workforce. This report examines, among other things, what is known about the size, mix, and location of that workforce. GAO collected data from DOD’s acquisition workforce data systems and multiple space acquisition organizations. GAO interviewed officials from these organizations and from a non-generalizable sample of 10 space acquisition programs, representing a range of dollar values and stages in the acquisition process.

What GAO Found

The Department of Defense (DOD) does not routinely monitor the size, mix, and location of its space acquisition workforce. However, data GAO collected and aggregated from multiple DOD space acquisition organizations show that at least 8,000 personnel in multiple locations nationwide were working on space acquisition activities at the end of 2017 (see figure). Also as shown, military and civilian personnel comprise the majority of the overall workforce, while contractor and Federally Funded Research and Development Center personnel also provide support.


Several factors hinder DOD’s ability to collect data needed for a comprehensive view of its space acquisition workforce:

  • DOD does not maintain a complete list of its space acquisition programs;
  • DOD’s workforce data systems are not configured to identify personnel working on space acquisition activities; and
  • DOD space acquisition personnel are dispersed across organizations and some personnel support both space and non-space programs.

Without complete and accurate data, DOD cannot assess gaps in the overall capabilities of the space acquisition workforce. Identifying space programs and collecting such data would also better position DOD to ensure that the appropriate space acquisition personnel are assigned to the new Space Development Agency and the United States Space Command. Finally, comprehensive data on the space acquisition workforce would also be beneficial to support DOD’s efforts related to its recent legislative proposal regarding the establishment of the United States Space Force.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that DOD (1) identifies the universe of its space acquisition programs and the organizations that support them and (2) collects and maintains data on the workforce that supports these programs. DOD agreed with the first recommendation, but not the second. GAO revised the second recommendation to address DOD’s concerns.