In recent years, the U.S. government has seen a notable increase in contracting work – a shift that has caused the Defense Contract Audit Agency’s workload to grow rapidly.
To keep up with the accelerated pace of today’s federal contracting activities, the DCAA has begun to reevaluate its methods and embrace change to transform into an agile organization, according to Terri Dilly, director of the DCAA.
During a GovCon Wire-hosted fireside chat with Rich Wilkinson, director of GovCon industry marketing at Unanet, Dilly stressed that agility comes from how the agency adjusts to new circumstances and considers anomalies.
In line with this mindset, the DCAA has made reengineering its business processes a priority as it moves to adapt to the influx of federal contracts. This effort, said Dilly, centers two areas: the audits themselves and interaction with industry partners.
Dilly said that the agency has already put measures in place to ensure that when conducting audits, it can provide “reasonable assurance” regarding risk for the government and meet standards specific to the DCAA. Now, the agency is looking at these guidelines end to end, she said.
According to Dilly, this reframing has pushed the DCAA to assess which aspects of its approach provide value and recognize when it may have over-applied an audit standard internally.
When working with the private sector, Dilly said, the agency is working to clarify contracting requirements and simplify the mechanisms used for information sharing.
DCAA has also made efforts to streamline the process of getting small businesses involved in government contracting by making information more accessible, offering outreach events and providing a direct line of communication to the agency’s small business team.
“My goal for DCAA is for it to be clear, and it should be easy for industry to understand what the requirements are and where they can go to get help,” Dilly said.
“The DOD is committed to the conversation on revitalizing the industrial base – making sure that it has the health that is necessary. It is one area where there is a lot of widespread agreement, and in that, we are part of that process,” said the director.
A core part of bringing these goals to fruition is the DCAA’s workforce, which Dilly said is the “life and blood” of the agency. With major shifts occurring within the talent pool and working environments, the DCAA has had to reconsider how it approaches hiring and retention efforts.
Historically, said Dilly, those in the audit field have primarily come from an accounting background. Now, universities are graduating significantly fewer accounting majors, and when competing with private sector organizations, Dilly said that the DCAA is assessing how it can go about talent acquisition from a less traditional perspective. She suggested a pivot to hiring based on what specific skills are needed and who the rules will allow DCAA to bring in.
As the federal government continues to implement new technologies, such as automation, the DCAA needs to build a workforce with a diversity of knowledge to fully leverage these capabilities, said Dilly.
“When you talk about automation, business intelligence, you hear about ‘being able to do more with less.’ You have to look at your quantitative methods and those skill sets that may enable you to extrapolate fewer transactional reviews,” she said.
DCAA efforts to adjust to recent changes in the contracting space are tied to a larger trend within the Department of Defense, in which conversations about costs and financing are viewed through the lens of preparedness.
“In the broader conversation, it really has to do with the readiness of the Department of Defense to surge to a high-end fight,” she said.
GovCon Wire will host its Digital Transformation of Contract Management: Automation Imperative for Federal Contractors webinar on April 26. The event will provide insight into contract lifecycle management – a transformative approach that enables industry to better manage risk and bolster their contracting processes. To learn more and register to attend, please visit GovCon Wire’s events page.