Management of service projects in the United States Air Force
an empirical study of current practices
Aruna U. Apte, PhD, and
Uday M. Apte, PhD
The United States Department of Defense (DoD) has been increasing its procurement of services within the past decade. In terms of scope and dollars, the DoD has procured more services than supplies, equipment, or weapon systems (Camm, Blickstein, & Venzor, 2004). Between fiscal years 2001 and 2008, the DoD's obligations on contracts have more than doubled to over US$387 billion, with over US$200 billion spent for services (GAO, 2009c). The procured services presently cover a very broad set of service activities, including information technology and telecommunications services; maintenance and repair of equipment; professional, administrative, and management support; and transportation, travel, and relocation services. In this empirical study, we developed and deployed a web-based survey to collect data on the service project management practices used in the United States Air Force. We discuss the U.S. Air Force approach for managing service projects in terms of the organizational level of project management offices, the use of project teams, the use of designated project managers, project leadership, requirements management, and the staffing, training, and qualifications of project personnel. We analyze the implications and impact of the U.S. Air Force approach on the effectiveness of project management and make recommendations for improving the management of service projects in the U.S. Air Force.
Keywords: service project management; project procurement management; contracting
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has been increasing its procurement of services within the past decade. In terms of scope and dollars, the DoD has procured more services than supplies, equipment, or weapon systems (Camm, Blickstein, & Venzor, 2004). Between fiscal years 2001 and 2008, the DoD's obligations on contracts have more than doubled to over US$387 billion, with over US$200 billion spent for services (GAO, 2009c). The procured services presently cover a very broad set of service activities, including information technology and telecommunications services; maintenance and repair of equipment; professional, administrative, and management support; and transportation, travel, and relocation services.
Prior research on DoD service procurement identified the lack of a well-developed project management infrastructure for managing service projects (Apte & Rendon, 2007). This paper presents the results of our current research consisting of an empirical study of the management of service projects in the U.S. Air Force. In this empirical study, we developed and deployed a web-based survey to collect data on project management practices used at U.S. Air Force installations. Specifically, we studied the current management practices in three areas, which include project management, requirements management, and service project personnel management.
In this paper, we discuss the U.S. Air Force approach for managing service projects in terms of the organizational level of project management offices (regional versus installation); the use of project teams; the use of designated project managers, project leadership, requirements management; and the staffing, training, and qualifications of service project management personnel. This paper is organized into six sections, which include this introductory section. In the next section, we present a literature review. In the third section, we review the research objectives and describe the methodology used, including a discussion of the survey instrument. The survey findings and the analysis of those findings are presented in the fourth and fifth sections. A summary and conclusion of the study and our recommendations for improving services project management in the U.S. Air Force are presented in the last section.
The service sector represents the largest and the fastest-growing segment of the economies of the United States and other developed countries. For example, in the United States, services accounted for roughly 80% of employment in the year 2004 (U.S. Department of Labor, 2005). The growth of services in the overall economy is also mirrored by growth of service procurement in private sector companies (Smeltzer & Ogden, 2002) as well as in the federal government. In fiscal year 2008, the DoD procured over US$200 billion in services (GAO, 2009c).
Service production differs from manufacturing of products in several ways due to distinguishing characteristics of services. There is a growing body of literature in operations management about service firms. The key characteristics of services discussed in textbooks (Fitzsimmons & Fitzsimmons, 2006; Metters, King-Metters, & Pullman, 2003) include the intangibility of service output, co-production, simultaneity of production and consumption and the associated inability to inventory services, and the complexity in the definition and measurement of services. These characteristics also lead to differences in the marketing of services (Gordon, Calantone, & Di Benedetto, 1993), and several frameworks have been proposed in the marketing literature for services marketing (Lovelock, 1992; Hutt & Spec, 1998).
With a well-documented academic literature on the differences between producing services and manufacturing products, we must ask if there is also a difference between procuring services and procuring supplies or equipment. If differences do exist, then what are the differences, and what are the implications of these differences on the management of service procurement projects? Given today's service-based economy, these questions deserve attention. There are only a handful of studies in the academic literature that address these questions. In focus studies and surveys conducted to examine purchasing professionals' perceived differences between purchasing materials and purchasing services, Smeltzer and Ogden (2002) found that purchasing professionals do perceive differences between the process of purchasing materials and the process of purchasing services. Their research findings indicated that the purchasing of services was perceived to be more complex as compared with the purchasing of materials. Ellram, Tate, and Billington (2004) compared and contrasted the applicability of three product-based manufacturing models and, based on that comparison developed a supply chain framework appropriate for a services supply chain. Schiele and McCue (2006) used a case-based approach in their study of the procurement of consulting services in the public sector. They developed an improved understanding of the conditions under which municipal purchasing departments can be meaningfully involved in procurement processes for these types of services.
Given the increase in the DoD's procurement of services, the DoD must give greater attention to the management of service projects. In addition, related to this increase in service contracting is the reduction of the federal government workforce. The size of the federal workforce decreased from 2.25 million in 1990 to 1.78 million in 2000 (GAO, 2001). The combination of the increasing services procurement workload and the decreasing size of the government workforce, along with the unique nature and complexities associated with service procurement may have created the perfect storm—an environment in which adopting project management and contract management best practices has not always been feasible. Between 2001 and 2009, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued 16 reports related to trends, challenges, and deficiencies in contracting for services. Between 2002 and 2008, the DoD Inspector General (DoD IG), issued 142 reports on deficiencies in the DoD acquisition and contract administration process. These reports have identified project management, requirements management, personnel training, and contractor oversight as just some of the critical deficient areas in services contracts.
The use of project management tools and techniques, such as designated formal project managers, project teams, and project life cycles, has been considered a best practice in managing service contracts (Rendon & Snider, 2008). GAO and DoD IG reports have shown that the DoD lacks the use of sound business practices, proper management structure, and processes for managing services contracts (GAO, 2007a, 2007b; DoD IG, 2009).
Sufficient requirements management is essential for identification and development of needs for the DoD in terms of required services (Rendon & Snider, 2008). If requirements management is insufficient, the resulting service contracts will not adequately meet the customer's needs. The GAO and DoD IG reports have identified poorly defined requirements and insufficient requirements management as problems in service contracts (GAO, 2007b; DoD-IG, 2009).
Defense contract management requires a workforce with specialized skills and competencies that come from extensive training and experience. A properly trained and competent acquisition workforce is considered the heart of successful defense project management (Rendon & Snider, 2008). With the downsizing of the DoD workforce, the lack of a qualified acquisition and contracting workforce to manage the increased workload in DoD service contracts continues to plague DoD service contracting efforts (GAO, 2002b; GAO, 2009b).
The essence of DoD contract management is the proper administration of contracts and oversight of contractor performance (Rendon & Snider, 2008). The lack of effective contract administration and contractor oversight increases the government's risk of not ensuring total value for the dollars spent on service contracts. GAO and DoD IG reports have consistently identified contract administration and contractor oversight as problem areas in the management of service contracts (GAO, 2005; GAO, 2007a; GAO, 2007b; DoD IG, 2009).
The DoD is at risk of paying higher prices for services than necessary. Because of this, the GAO has identified DoD contract management as a “high-risk” area since 1992 (GAO, 2009a). This “high-risk” status reflects DoD's challenges in achieving desired outcomes in terms of meeting the service procurement cost, schedule, and performance objectives. The DoD Director of Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy (DPAP) has taken action to improve contracting for services throughout the DoD (DPAP, 2006, 2007).
Although these and other studies have started to address some of the questions identified above in the past several years, for the most part, the questions remain unanswered. Given the intricacies of the government contracting process and the GAO and DoD IG reports on the deficiencies in the DoD contract management processes, there exists a unique and significant opportunity for conducting research into the management of service projects in the DoD.
We have developed a stream of research in services contracting by exploring the major challenges and opportunities in DoD service supply chain management. We first completed in-depth case studies on services contracting in the Army (Presidio of Monterey), Air Force (Travis Air Force Base), and the Navy (Naval Support Detachment Monterey) (Apte, Ferrer, Lewis, & Rendon, 2006). We then studied the program management infrastructure used in services contracting by conducting two in-depth case studies of innovative project management approaches used by the U.S. Air Force at the Air Education and Training Command (AETC) and at Air Combat Command (ACC) (Apte & Rendon, 2007). In this empirical study of current practices in service project management in the U.S. Air Force, the researchers were assisted by their graduate students Solomon and Travieso (2008).
RESEARCH OBJECTIVES AND METHODOLOGY
The objective of this research is to develop a comprehensive understanding of how service procurement projects are managed throughout the U.S. Air Force. The specific objectives and the research questions we focused on were driven by the findings of the GAO and DoD IG reports, as well as the survey of academic literature discussed earlier. Consequently, this study is focused on answering the following research questions:
1.How are service projects managed in terms of organizational level? What project management concepts—such as a designated project manager, project team, and project life cycle—are used in managing service projects?
2.How are service project requirements managed?
3.Are project management personnel adequately staffed, trained, and qualified?
The methodology for this research is similar to that discussed by Amundsen (1998) and involves the application of a survey instrument recently developed for this specific purpose (Compton & Meinshausen, 2007). The developed survey was pilot-tested for its validity and was used to collect additional empirical data regarding the current state of service project management in the U.S. Air Force (Solomon & Travieso, 2008).
The service project management research survey instrument begins with questions focused on specific demographic data for the U.S. Air Force installations. The survey then asks questions focusing on issues related to the approach, method, and procedures used in the management of service projects for certain specific categories of services. These service categories are considered to be the most common services acquired by the various DoD departments. The specific categories of services targeted in this research, as well as the dollars spent on these services by the U.S. Air Force between FY00 and FY09, as reflected in the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS), are shown in Table 1. These categories were selected because, collectively, they represent almost 50% of total spending for all services, excluding construction, purchased within the U.S. Air Force in FY 2009 (FPDS, 2010).
Table 1: Air Force Service Procurement FY 2000–2009
|Service Classification Code||Service Category Description||FY00*||FY01*||FY02*||FY03*||FY04*||FY05*||FY06*||FY07*||FY08*||FY09*|
|D||Automatic Data Processing and Telecommunication Services||0.983||1.16||1.179||1.418||1.768||1.671||1.762||1.671||1.696||1.754|
|J||Maintenance, Repair, and Rebuilding of Equipment||1.993||1.646||1.891||2.461||2.728||3.488||4.605||4.925||6.636||7.453|
|R||Professional, Administrative and Management Support Services||2.695||3.234||3.678||4.21||4.21||5.607||6.796||7.229||7.792||8.755|
|V||Transportation, Travel and Relocation Services||0.884||0.762||1.464||2.614||2.236||2.884||2.928||2.945||0.076||0.091|
|*NOTE: Amounts in Billions||Totals:||$6.52||$6.82||$8.21||$10.70||$10.94||$13.65||$16.09||$16.77||$16.20||$18.05|
Source: Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation (FPDS-NG)
The survey instrument includes questions related to the methods and procedures used in the procurement and management of service projects for these four categories of services. These survey questions focus on the following areas:
Project Management. This category of questions gains insight into the organizational aspects of service project management in the U.S. Air Force. For each of the contract management phases, the survey asks whether the phase was conducted at the installation, regional, or higher organizational level. (Every U.S. Air Force installation falls under a geographical region, as well as a major command, and finally, the headquarters of the U.S. Air Force). This category of questions also explores the use of project teams, the use of designated project managers to lead the project effort, and the use of project life cycles in managing service projects.
Requirements Management. This category of questions explores information on requirements management for service projects. In this research, the “requirement” is the specific service that is being procured; for example, aircraft maintenance service or information technology services. The requirements management process includes determining the requirement, documenting the requirement for use in contractual documents (e.g., a Statement of Work), modifying the requirement, assessing the effectiveness of the requirement, as well as ensuring the requirement is properly being performed by the service contractor and terminating the need for the requirement. The survey questions relate to requirement ownership, requirement document development, and requirement change management. The focus here is on implications of requirements management to managing service projects.
Service Project Personnel Management. This last category of questions is focused on service project management personnel. The survey asks questions about the level of staffing, training, and qualifications of service project management personnel, specifically quality assurance evaluators (QAEs) and contracting officer representatives (CORs). These questions use a Likert-type scale to measure the level of respondent's agreement or disagreement with the survey statements (Likert, 1932).
In this section, we present a summary of the survey data we gathered and present our observations about the data. We begin with a description of the survey results. Our analysis of the findings and research conclusions will then be presented in subsequent sections.
The survey instrument was deployed to 50 U.S. Air Force Contracting Squadrons representing six U.S. Air Force major commands. There were 34 responses from the survey, providing us with a 68% response rate. These responses represented all six U.S. Air Force major commands. Out of the 34 respondents, 10 were from the Air Combat Command (ACC); 7 respondents were from the Air Mobility Command (AMC); 6 respondents were from the Air Education and Training Command (AETC); 6 respondents were from the Air Force Space Command (AFSPC); 4 respondents were from the Air Force Material Command (AFMC), and, finally, one respondent was from the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC). This was a web-based survey and allowed for anonymous responses from each U.S. Air Force major command. Figure 1 reflects the percentage of survey responses from these U.S. Air Force major commands
Figure 1: Percentage of Responses from Air Force Major Commands
Organizational Level. The various military departments procure services and manage service projects at the installation level, regional level, or higher headquarters level. The survey respondents were asked to identify the organizational level at which the specific service projects were managed for each of the four service categories—more specifically, at what organizational level was the procurement process conducted for the service project? The results are shown in Table 2. Based on the U.S. Air Force survey responses, responses stating that the service procurement processes were performed at the installation level ranged from 56% (Transportation and Travel) to 85% (Maintenance and Repair). The responses under Not Applicable (N/A) can be interpreted as meaning that a specific aspect of the procurement process for the service project was managed at a higher headquarters level.
Table 2: Organizational Level
|Service/Acquisition Phase||Organization Level|
|Professional, Administrative, and Management Support|
|Maintenance and Repair of Equipment|
|Data Processing and Telecommunication|
|Transportation and Travel|
Project Team. The survey respondents were asked whether project teams were used in managing service projects. The results are shown in Tables 3 and 4. Based on the U.S. Air Force survey responses, responses stating that project teams were used ranged from 52% (Transportation and Travel) to 74% (Professional, Administrative, and Management Support).
Table 3: Using Project Teams
|Service Category||Total Number of Organizations||Organizations Using Project Teams|
|SubTotal||Who leads acquisition?||Who owns requirments?|
|Contracting Officer||Other (PM.QAE)||Contracting Officer||Customer (PM.QAE)|
|Professional, Administrative, and Management Support||34||25||21||4||5||20|
|Maintenance and Repair of Equipment||34||23||17||6||4||19|
|Data Processing and Telecommunication||34||21||12||9||3||18|
|Transporation and Travel||34||18||16||2||3||15|
Table 4: Not Using Project Teams
|Service Category||Total Number of Organizations||Organizations Using Project Teams|
|SubTotal||Who leads acquisition?||Who owns requirments?|
|Contracting Officer||Other (PM.QAE)||Contracting Officer||Customer (PM.QAE)|
|Professional, Administrative, and Management Support||34||9||8||1||1||8|
|Maintenance and Repair of Equipment||34||11||10||1||2||9|
|Data Processing and Telecommunication||34||13||7||6||2||11|
|Transporation and Travel||34||16||5||11||0||16|
Project Leader. In addition to the question on using project teams, the respondents were also asked about the project leader. As shown in Tables 3 and 4, the responses to these questions were relatively similar. For cases in which project teams were used (Table 3), responses stating that the contracting officer served as the project leader ranged from 57% (Data Processing and Telecommunications) to 89% (Transportation and Travel). For cases in which project teams were not used (Table 4), responses stating that the contracting officer served as the project leader ranged from 31% (Transportation and Travel) to 91% (Maintenance and Repair of Equipment). Thus, regardless of the use of project teams, the contracting officer predominantly leads the service project effort, except for Transportation and Travel service projects not using project teams.
Project Life Cycle. The use of a life cycle to manage and control the progress of a project is considered a best practice in project management (Rendon & Snider, 2008). The project life cycle allows the project to be managed in phases, with each phase controlled by gates and decision points. The survey asked Likert-scale questions related to the use of a project life cycle for routine and non-routine service projects. The responses are reflected in Table 5. Here, the answers are divided into three categories: percent of respondents who Disagreed, percent of respondents who were Neutral, and percent of respondents who Agreed. Disagreed and Agreed categories include those who Disagreed or Agreed Strongly. Based on the survey results, 50% of the respondents agreed that a project life cycle was used for routine service projects. However, only 29% of the respondents agreed that a project life cycle was used for non-routine service projects. Approximately 22% of the responses were neutral on the use of a project life cycle for either routine or non-routine services.
Essential aspects of project management are the determination, approval, and management of the project requirement. Tables 3 and 4 reflect the responses to the survey question “who owns the requirement?” Based on survey responses, the project manager or quality assurance evaluator is predominantly considered the requirements owner regardless of whether project teams are used. Table 5 reflects that 91% of the respondents agreed that the requirements owner (the person identifying the requirement) also writes the requirement document (Statement of Work [SOW] or Statement of Objective [SOO]). Table 5 also reflects that 79% of the respondents agreed that a proper level of oversight is afforded to monitor the contractor's performance of the service.
Table 5: Project Lifecycle. Responsibilities, aucl Pioject Billets
|Disagree (%)||Neutralm (%)||Agree (%)|
|For routine services, this was the dominant strategy||23.5||21||50|
|For non-routine services, this was the dominant strategy||41||23.5||29|
|Responsibilities of project Staff Members|
|Person identifying requirement also writes the SOW/SOO document.||6||3||91|
|Proper level of oversight is afforded to monitor contractor performance.||15||6||79|
|Service Project Billets|
|There is an adequate number of staff positions.||59||6||35|
|These positions are adequately filled.||65||9||18|
|These staff members are adequately trained.||9||21||53|
|These staff members are adequately qualified.||9||265||65|
|QAE receive prior formal/documented training.||0||0||100|
Service Project Personnel Management
In addition to the project management and requirements management areas previously discussed, our research also investigated issues related to service project management personnel staffing, training, and qualifications. The survey included Likert-scale questions related to staffing (number and staffing of billets) and training/qualifications of service project management personnel. Table 5 reflects the responses from the survey regarding these areas.
As reflected in Table 5, 59% of the respondents disagreed with the statement that there is an adequate number of service project management staff positions, and 65% of the respondents disagreed with the statement that these service project management staff positions were adequately filled. However, 53% and 65% of the respondents agreed that service project management personnel were adequately trained and adequately qualified, respectively. Finally, from Table 5, we see that 100% of the respondents agreed that the quality assurance evaluator (QAE) received formal and documented training prior to being assigned QAE duties on a service contract.
ANALYSIS OF FINDINGS
This research provided a first look at primary empirical data related to service project management within the Department of Defense. The application of the survey to U.S. Air Force installations provided some real-world data on the current practices of service project management. Below is an analysis of our research findings and research conclusions.
The U.S. Air Force is unique in terms of the organizational level at which the service projects and related contracts are managed. For the U.S. Air Force, the majority of the service contracts are conducted and managed at the installation level. On the other hand, other DoD departments (e.g., the Navy), manage service contracts at the regional level. This difference in organizational level may provide additional insight into the effectiveness of the U.S. Air Force's service project management. The proximity of where the projects and related contracts are managed to where the services are actually performed may have an impact on the effectiveness of the project management, as well as the success of the service project. Services performed at one location, with the contract and overall project managed at a distant location may result in less than adequate management and control of the project, as well as less than proper surveillance of the service contractor. Insufficient control of the project and less than adequate surveillance of the service contractor increases the risk to the U.S. Air Force of not receiving the full value of its service procurement dollars.
Concerning the use of project teams for managing service projects, the U.S. Air Force used project teams according to the majority of the respondents. Service projects, such as information technology services or aircraft maintenance services, are typically technically complex and require support from various functional areas such as engineering, procurement, finance, and logistics. Best practices in project and contract management reflect the use of project teams—specifically cross-functional teams—in the management of service projects. The use of project teams facilitates the proper integration and control of the various functional disciplines involved in the project effort. Insufficient control and functional integration of project activities increases the risk of not achieving the project's cost, schedule, and performance objectives.
In addition to the use of project teams, another best practice is formally designating a trained project manager with the authority to lead the project effort. The project manager is typically a coordinator and integrator of the various functional disciplines involved in the project and has overall responsibility for the project's success. The project manager focuses on the project's overall objectives and integrating and balancing the interests of the various functional disciplines (engineering, procurement, finance, and logistics) involved in the service project. For U.S. Air Force service projects in which a project team was used, the majority of the respondents stated that the contracting officer informally led the project team. These results reflect the precarious situations in which contracting officers find themselves as they manage the service procurement process. Not only are they responsible for managing the contractual aspects of the project, ensuring that the service contracts meet the statutory and regulatory procurement requirements, they are also responsible for leading the project team and coordinating, integrating, and balancing the interests of the various functional areas, including the contracts area, to achieve the project's objective. It should be noted that at U.S. Air Force installations, the service's project team members (engineering, finance, and logistics) are not parts of the contracting organization, nor do they work for the contracting officer. This may be problematic for the success of the service project, especially the service contract. The contracting officer may be challenged in ensuring proper contractor surveillance is performed when the quality assurance evaluator responsible for contractor surveillance is not part of the contracting organization or works for the contracting officer. Having a formally designated, authorized, and trained project manager may resolve these challenges.
Having a contracting officer performing project manager responsibilities also has the potential to jeopardize the achievement of the overall project objectives. It is also interesting to note that at U.S. Air Force installations where a project team approach is not used in service projects, the contracting officer is still responsible for leading the project effort, according to the majority of the respondents. This situation, in which the contracting officer must lead a coordinated and integrated effort in procuring critical services without the use of a project team, may catalyze some of the problems in managing service projects that were identified by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). It should also be noted that U.S. Air Force contracting officers are typically not trained in project management techniques or even trained to be project managers. Not formally designating a trained project manager to lead mission-critical service projects may jeopardize the project's success in meeting its cost, schedule, and performance objectives, thus increasing the risk of the U.S. Air Force not receiving full value for its service procurement dollars.
In addition to the use of project teams and formally designated project managers, the use of a project life cycle should be a concern for ensuring proper management of service projects, especially non-routine services. In the management of routine service projects, over 50% of U.S. Air Force respondents stated that a life cycle approach was used. Of note is that only 29% of U.S. Air Force respondents stated that the use of a life cycle approach was used in the management of non-routine service. For these types of services, the services being procured and managed are of a non-routine nature, one would expect higher levels of uncertainty—and thus, higher levels of cost, schedule, and performance risk—in the management of these service projects. Best practices in reducing project risk includes the use of a project life cycle—with project phases, gates, and decision-points for monitoring and controlling the progression of the service project procurement process as well as the resulting service. Without the use of a project life cycle, the service project may be vulnerable to excessive risk in terms of meeting cost, schedule, and performance objectives. This would especially be true in the procurement and management of high-risk non-routine services.
Also related to service project leadership is the question of who owns and manages the project requirement. In this research, the “requirement” is the specific service that is being procured—for example, information technology services or aircraft maintenance services. It is important to note that the contract management process and, more specifically, the authorities and responsibilities of the contracting officer, do not include requirements management activities (such as determining the requirement, modifying the requirement, assessing the effectiveness of the requirement, or terminating the need for the requirement). These requirements management authorities and activities belong to the requirements manager of the organization responsible for the service being procured. Once the requirements organization identifies, develops, and defines the requirement, the contracting organization performs the contracting activities to procure the needed service. Contracting officers, however, may support the development of the requirements documents by providing business and procurement expertise in this area. For example, an aircraft maintenance squadron would own the aircraft maintenance service requirement being procured by the contracting organization for that specific installation.
Our research indicated that for U.S. Air Force service projects in which project teams were employed, the majority of the respondents stated that program management personnel owned and managed the requirement. Additionally, in U.S. Air Force service projects in which a project team was not used, the majority of the respondents stated that program management personnel owned and managed the requirement. It is interesting to note that although program management personnel owned and managed the requirement in these service contracts, we still see contracting officers leading the service projects effort, according to the majority of responses. These situations—in which contracting officers are leading the project effort (managing the service project activities), while the project requirements are owned and managed by program personnel—may prove problematic to the effectiveness of the project and increase the risk of not meeting project cost, schedule, and performance requirements. Project team leadership typically involves making requirement-related decisions (e.g., determining the requirement, modifying the requirement, assessing the effectiveness of the requirement, or terminating the need for the requirement). This situation in which contracting officers are leading project teams could result in the blurring of, or at least a conflict in, the roles, responsibilities, and authorities between requirements management and contracting officers in service projects. When these two distinct processes, roles, and responsibilities are mixed, blurred, or performed by the same organization or individual, there is a potential for unsuccessful project management results and a higher risk of not meeting project cost, schedule, and performance objectives. In addition, the question of whether the contracting officer has the requisite technical expertise to manage the requirement (for example, aircraft maintenance services) also raises a critical issue. Of even greater importance, when requirements management and contracting authorities, roles, and responsibilities are crossed or blurred, there is a greater potential for violation of internal controls such as segregation of duties and assignment of authority and responsibility, which can lead to incidents of fraud (Albrecht, Albrecht, Albrecht, & Zimbelman, 2008; Cendrowski, Martin, & Petro, 2006).
Service Project Personnel Management
The survey responses to the project management personnel questions provide some additional insight into the staffing of service project management billets. These questions focused on the number of billets, staffing of these billets, training of personnel, and the qualifications of personnel. The survey results reflect that there is a concern for the number of service project management billets as well as the filling of these billets. However, there does not seem to be the same level of concern for the training and qualifications of the service project management personnel. Based on the survey results, although over half of the respondents indicated that the number and staffing of service project billets are inadequate, over half of the respondents indicated that the few service project management personnel serving on these billets are considered adequately trained and qualified. Thus, the survey results reflect a need for additional service project management personnel. This seems to support the finding that contracting officers are also serving as project managers, possibly due to the lack of sufficient personnel to serve as formally designated project managers.
These survey results reflect a critical area of service project management in the Department of Defense. Recent GAO and Department of Defense Inspector General (DoD IG) reports have indicated the need for increased emphasis on contractor surveillance as well as contractor performance measurement. The Quality Assurance Evaluator (QAE) is the member of the service project team who is responsible for contractor surveillance and contractor performance measurement. Without adequate contractor surveillance personnel, the Air Force runs the risk of not acquiring full value for the dollars spent on service procurement.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
In summarizing our results, our research indicated that U.S. Air Force service projects are procured and managed at the installation level, as opposed to regional, major command, or higher headquarters level. Additionally, our research indicates that, although project teams were predominantly used in managing the service projects, a formal project manager was not used, but the project leadership was informally provided by the contracting officer. The use of a project life cycle in managing routine service projects was used, according to half of the survey responses, whereas only 29% of the responses stated that life cycles were used in non-routine service projects. Based on the survey responses, requirements management is predominantly performed by the customer. Finally, our survey results indicated that although the majority of respondents felt that there were an inadequate number of service project management positions and that the existing positions were inadequately filled, the existing service project management personnel were adequately trained and qualified.
The U.S. Air Force spends billions of dollars every year on mission-critical services such as information technology, equipment repair, professional management support, and transportation/travel. The GAO and DoD IG have identified major deficiencies in managing service projects, specifically in the areas of management and control of service projects and, oversight and surveillance of service contractors. The results of this empirical research on U.S. Air Force service projects reflect the implications of using project teams, formally designated project managers, and project life cycles on service project management and control. Adopting these project management practices will help the U.S. Air Force increase its management and control of these mission-critical services. In addition, the empirical research findings related to service project management billets and staffing also have implications on service contractor oversight and surveillance. Increasing service project management personnel billets will be instrumental in the DoD, providing the required level of oversight and surveillance for these critical services projects. We believe that addressing these service project research findings related to management, control, oversight, and surveillance of service projects and contractors will help the U.S. Air Force ensure that it is receiving full value for the billions of dollars being spent on services.
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