GAO’s Acquisition and Sourcing Management Team

thumbnail_gaoGAO’s workforce is organized largely by subject area, with most employees working in 1 of 14 mission teams, many of which we have highlighted on the WatchBlog. Today we’ll be putting the spotlight on the Acquisition and Sourcing Management (ASM) team, which determines how efficiently and effectively the federal government is spending hundreds of billions in tax dollars to acquire what it needs.


ASM reports cover issues in acquisition and sourcing. Acquisition issues are about what the government wants to buy, and sourcing issues are about how the government goes about buying these things and determining who will provide them.

  • Acquisition
    • Major Defense and Security Systems: The Department of Defense’s (DOD) acquisition of major weapon systems is on our High Risk List, and this 2013 testimony showed how Congress and DOD continually explore ways to improve acquisition outcomes. We also reported on major systems acquisitions at the Department of Homeland Security.
    • DOD Space Systems: A testimony from earlier this year assessed potential effects of future changes in DOD’s acquisition of space-based capabilities.
    • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA): This is one of our annual assessments of NASA’s projects, such as space transportation vehicles or satellites with advanced sensors for studying space and earth.
    • Best Practices: Since the 1990s, we have worked extensively on developing acquisition process best practices for government agencies, drawing from successful private sector firms.
  • Sourcing
    • Acquisition Planning and Management: This report assessed competition in DOD’s contracts for goods and services.
    • Strategic Sourcing: We identified practices at the leading edge in the private sector for buying strategically and explore what factors help or hurt the government’s strategic sourcing.
    • Agency Acquisition Capacity: DOD, the intelligence community, and other agencies turn to contractors for their acquisitions, often without the necessary oversight.
    • Acquiring and Protecting Critical Technologies: We have reviewed the effectiveness of government programs established to identify and protect technologies critical to U.S. interests, including export controls and non-export control programs.

For more information on our work, see our High Risk issue areas on DOD Contract Management, DOD Weapon Systems Acquisition, or NASA Acquisition Management. You can also see our numerous Key Issues by checking the “Government Operations,” “National Defense,” or “Space” boxes on this page.


In fiscal year 2014, ASM’s work saved taxpayers more than $12 billion. ASM directors testified before Congress 14 times, and Congress frequently cited our work as the impetus behind new laws, regulations, policies, and initiatives designed to save billions of dollars on government contracts and improved weapon system acquisitions.

A Closer Look at an ASM Report: Defense Acquisition “Quick Look”

The “Quick Look” is an annual assessment of DOD’s high dollar value acquisition programs, such as those shown below.

Gerald R. Ford Class Nuclear Aircraft Carrier

Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle


F-35 Lightning II Program

Images excerpted from GAO-14-340SP

Our 2014 assessment found the overall size of DOD’s large programs decreased, but the estimated cost increased by $14.1 billion. Additionally, we found that most of the programs we reviewed weren’t fully following a knowledge-based acquisition approach. This could carry risk into other phases of the acquisition, possibly resulting in increased costs and schedule delays.

GAO-14-340SP highlights fig

Excerpted from GAO-14-340SP

 Listen to this podcast with Michael Sullivan, a director in ASM, for more information on the 2014 Quick Look:


  • Questions on the content of this post? Contact Paul Francis at
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Introducing GAO’s Technical Chiefs

thumbnail_gaoGAO is well known for its financial and performance audits of the federal government. In our pursuit of objective, fact-based information, we often encounter technical issues related to accounting, actuarial science, economics, science, and technology. We have many employees with backgrounds in all of these areas and they are led by five experts—our Technical Chiefs—to help us dive deeper into  these areas.


GAO’s current Technical Chiefs


In addition to providing assistance to our mission teams, the Technical Chiefs also lead and contribute to reports and congressional testimony related to their areas of expertise. Here are descriptions of GAO’s Technical Chiefs and examples of the types of work they do:

  • The Chief Accountant is our expert on accounting, auditing, and business practices, such as financial management, financial reporting, and program cost effectiveness. The Chief Accountant supports GAO financial audits, including the audit of the U.S. government’s consolidated financial statements. The Chief Accountant also represents GAO in organizations such as the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board. Robert (Bob) Dacey, GAO’s current Chief Accountant, holds a J.D. from George Mason University and a B.B.A., magna cum laude, from the University of Cincinnati. Prior to his appointment, he distinguished himself through leadership in GAO’s financial audit, information security, and critical infrastructure work, and in the private sector.
  • The Chief Actuary is our expert on applying actuarial science to issues such as pensions and retirement security, health and disability insurance, and property and casualty insurance—helping to assess their liabilities, risks, and actuarial soundness. For example, the Chief Actuary has worked to help clarify the U.S. Postal Service’s liabilities for its pension, retiree medical, and workers’ compensation programs. Frank Todisco, GAO’s current Chief Actuary, is a nationally recognized expert on retirement security issues, and an incoming member of the Actuarial Standards Board, which establishes standards of practice for the U.S. actuarial profession. He has a bachelor’s degree, cum laude, in economics from Princeton University and an MA in economics from The New School for Social Research.
  • The Chief Economist provides direction on a variety of economic issues including cost-benefit analysis, pricing, competition, and decision-making under uncertainty (when the probability of potential outcomes is unknown or incalculable). The Chief Economist works on financial and consumer markets issues such as intellectual property. In addition, the Chief Economist leads seminars on economic issues for GAO’s senior management to keep them updated on developments in the field. Susan Offutt, our current Chief Economist, holds a PhD and MS from Cornell University. Prior to her work at GAO, she held leadership positions at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Office of Management and Budget, and the National Research Council.
  • The Chief Scientist assists our mission teams on topics like nuclear engineering, radiation detection systems, nanotechnology, biomedical sciences, and data analytics. The Chief Scientist leads technology assessments such as this one on nanotechnology in the U.S. manufacturing sector. Timothy Persons, GAO’s current Chief Scientist, holds a PhD in biomedical engineering and an M.Sc. in computer science from Wake Forest University, and an M.Sc. in nuclear physics from Emory University. He previously held leadership positions within the national security community.

The chiefs also work together—for example, the Chief Scientist and Chief Technologist both direct GAO’s Center for Science, Technology, and Engineering. The Center’s work focuses on science, engineering, computer security, operations research, and the aforementioned technology assessments.

In a time of complex federal challenges, our Technical Chiefs provide the expertise we need to continue our work on topics that are important to you.


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Podcast on Federal Agencies’ Customer Service Efforts

GAO Podcast IconFederal agencies provide many types of services to the public, such as border and airport security and visitor education in national parks and forests. But how do they know that these services are meeting people’s needs?

Hear our podcast with Chris Mihm, Managing Director of GAO’s Strategic Issues team, who led a recent review of how selected federal agencies evaluate and improve their customer service.

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Podcast on Disaster Loans to Small Businesses Following Hurricane Sandy

GAO Podcast IconOn October 29th, 2012, Hurricane Sandy made landfall, causing an estimated $65 billion in property damage. In the wake of the storm, the Small Business Administration (SBA) provided physical and economic injury disaster loans to help businesses and individual homeowners recover.

Hear our podcast on delays in loans to small businesses in the wake of this disaster with Bill Shear,  a director in GAO’s Financial Markets and Community Investment team, who led the recent review of SBA’s administration of its disaster loans.

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School Bullying and Legal Protections for Vulnerable Groups

Education Thumbnail imageMillions of American children and teens have been physically, verbally, relationally, or electronically bullied by their peers. Bullying can have harmful psychological, academic, and behavioral outcomes for victims. Because October is National Bullying Prevention Month, we wanted to highlight our report on school bullying and legal protections for vulnerable groups.

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Watching Out for Federal Cybersecurity

thumbnail_information_securityThe federal government relies on computer networks and systems to provide essential services affecting the health, economy, and defense of the nation. Incidents of hacking or cyber attacks place sensitive information at risk, with potentially serious effects on federal and military operations; critical infrastructure; and government, private sector, and individual privacy. The Department of Homeland Security has designated October as National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. To mark the month, we are highlighting some of our findings on federal cybersecurity efforts.

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Podcast on Food Safety and Reducing Pathogens in Poultry

GAO Podcast IconThe U.S. food supply is one of the safest in the world, yet the CDC estimates that pathogens like salmonella in contaminated food, especially poultry, cause more than 2 million human illnesses per year.

Hear our podcast with Alfredo Gomez, a director in GAO’s Natural Resources and Environment team, who led a recent review of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s approach to reducing pathogens in poultry products.

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Flu Season Is Here!

Thumbnail Health CareIt’s the start of fall, the leaves are starting to change color, and the days are getting shorter. But fall also means the return of seasonal influenza—it’s flu season. Getting the flu vaccine is one of the best ways you can protect yourself against the flu. Earlier is better so you and others are protected before the season begins. However, getting vaccinated even in December or later still helps, because flu season lasts into early spring. Check out some of our findings on public health issues related to flu season.

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Addressing Global Hunger

thumbnail international affairsIn 1979, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) designated October 16th as World Food Day to bring attention to the crisis of global hunger. According to FAO, there are more than 800 million people around the world who are chronically malnourished. The United States is the largest donor of international food assistance, spending about $2 billion per year to provide food assistance to countries where people are facing food shortages and malnutrition. In addition, the United States tries to help with emergency food aid to address humanitarian crises, such as the current crisis in Syria, and with programs that support agricultural development. We have reviewed several of these U.S. programs to address global hunger. Here are some of our key findings:

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Controlling Costs for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

thumbnail_defenseFrom acquisition to operations and maintenance, Department of Defense weapons programs are consistently of interest to the federal government and the public. Since 2000, we have been assessing DOD’s most costly weapons program, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The defense acquisition best practices we have developed have helped us recommend ways to control costs for such an ambitious program.

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