DOD Personnel:

DOD Actions Needed to Strengthen Civilian Human Capital Strategic Planning and Integration with Military Personnel and Sourcing Decisions

GAO-03-475: Published: Mar 28, 2003. Publicly Released: Mar 28, 2003.

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The Department of Defense's (DOD) civilian employees play key roles in such areas as defense policy, intelligence, finance, acquisitions, and weapon systems maintenance. Although downsized 38 percent between fiscal years 1989 and 2002, this workforce has taken on greater roles as a result of DOD's restructuring and transformation. Responding to congressional concerns about the quality and quantity of, and the strategic planning for the civilian workforce, GAO determined the following for DOD, the military services, and selected defense agencies: (1) the extent of top-level leadership involvement in civilian strategic planning; (2) whether elements in civilian strategic plans are aligned to the overall mission, focused on results, and based on current and future civilian workforce data; and (3) whether civilian and military personnel strategic plans or sourcing initiatives were integrated.

Generally, civilian personnel issues appear to be an emerging priority among top leaders in DOD and the defense components. Although DOD began downsizing its civilian workforce more than a decade ago, it did not take action to strategically address challenges affecting the civilian workforce until it issued its civilian human capital strategic plan in April 2002. Top-level leaders in the Air Force, the Marine Corps, the Defense Contract Management Agency, and the Defense Finance Accounting Service have initiated planning efforts and are working in partnership with their civilian human capital professionals to develop and implement civilian strategic plans; such leadership, however, was increasing in the Army and not as evident in the Navy. Also, DOD has not provided guidance on how to integrate the components' plans with the department-level plan. High-level leadership is critical to directing reforms and obtaining resources for successful implementation. The human capital strategic plans GAO reviewed for the most part lacked key elements found in fully developed plans. Most of the civilian human capital goals, objectives, and initiatives were not explicitly aligned with the overarching missions of the organizations. Consequently, DOD and the components cannot be sure that strategic goals are properly focused on mission achievement. Also, none of the plans contained results-oriented performance measures to assess the impact of their civilian human capital initiatives (i.e., programs, policies, and processes). Thus, DOD and the components cannot gauge the extent to which their human capital initiatives contribute to achieving their organizations' mission. Finally, the plans did not contain data on the skills and competencies needed to successfully accomplish future missions; therefore, DOD and the components risk not being able to put the right people, in the right place, and at the right time, which can result in diminished accomplishment of the overall defense mission. Moreover, the civilian strategic plans did not address how the civilian workforce will be integrated with their military counterparts or sourcing initiatives. DOD's three human capital strategic plans--two military and one civilian--were prepared separately and were not integrated to form a seamless and comprehensive strategy and did not address how DOD plans to link its human capital initiatives with its sourcing plans, such as efforts to outsource non-core responsibilities. The components' civilian plans acknowledge a need to integrate planning for civilian and military personnel--taking into consideration contractors--but have not yet done so. Without an integrated strategy, DOD may not effectively and efficiently allocate its scarce resources for optimal readiness.

Status Legend:

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  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To improve human capital strategic planning for the DOD civilian workforce, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, to define the future civilian workforce, identifying the characteristics (i.e., the skills and competencies, number, deployment, etc.) of personnel needed in the context of the total force and determine the workforce gaps that need to be addressed through human capital initiatives.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: As part of the reporting required for the President's Management Agenda Scorecard, information on the future civilian workforce is provided twice a year to the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Personnel Management.

    Recommendation: To improve human capital strategic planning for the DOD civilian workforce, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, to direct the military services and the defense agencies to align their strategic human capital plans with the mission, goals, objectives, and measures included in the department-wide strategic human capital plan and provide guidance to these components on this alignment.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD provided a copy of its fiscal year (FY) 2004 DOD Civilian Human Resources (HR) Strategic Execution Plan. It includes 51 performance measures that are aligned to DOD's seven strategic goals. As with the basic Department-wide Strategic Plan of 2002, the annual Execution Plan is a collaborative effort of DOD HR Directors. The starting point from which the basic strategic plan was built came from the Quadrennial Defense-Review and Readiness. The existing strategic plans for the services, DLA and Washington Headquarters Services were consulted, and the Office of Personnel Management's vision for the Federal government's human resources strategic focus was reviewed. In addition to collaborative planning, USD(P&R) conducts periodic joint meetings to evaluate progress toward meeting DOD goals and jointly adjusting the Execution Plan as required. A September29, 2003 USD(P&R) memorandum to the Service HR Directors, forwarded the DOD HR Performance Measures for review and comment in order to ensure a corporate approach to the measurement process. Measures were fine-tuned and incorporated into the FY04 Execution Plan. USD(P&R) also linked the DOD Civilian HR Strategic Plan to budget and legislative processes to ensure that the HR Strategic Plan drives planning, programming, budgeting, execution, and legislative activities. A September 30, 2003 memorandum to DOD HR Directors, describes the budget and legislative cycles, and presents a framework for linking HR Strategic Plan initiatives to these critical cycles. On October 27, 2003, the USD(P&R) requested Service Secretaries and Directors of Defense Agencies to review and report the progress made on the President's Management Agenda initiatives, one of which is Strategic Management of Human Capital.

    Recommendation: To improve human capital strategic planning for the DOD civilian workforce, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, to improve future revisions and updates to the DOD department-wide strategic human capital plan by more explicitly aligning with DOD's overarching mission, including results-oriented performance measures, and focusing on future workforce needs. To accomplish this, the revisions and updates should be developed in collaboration with top DOD and component officials and civilian and military human capital leaders.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: According to DAMIS, the recommendation does not recognize that the DOD Civilian Human Resources Strategic Plan imparts the Department's direction, with its vision, values, principles, critical success goals and objectives, and that it is based on DOD's challenges as defined in the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). The original version of this strategic plan was explicitly aligned with DOD's overall mission in that it was based on the recommendations of the Defense Science Board and the QDR. The Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Civilian Personnel Policy) represented the civilian Human Resource community on the QDR and the Senior Steering Group in the development of the Strategic Plan. The Strategic Plan contains detailed performance indicators and measures. DOD achievements against these standards are reported quarterly to the Office of Management and Budget. In addition, the current version of the strategic plan recognizes the need for results-oriented performance measures and in particular, Objective 4 requires that measures be developed for critical indicators of human resources success. Revisions and updates to the Strategic Plan have been, and will continue to be developed in collaboration with the Components, but must remain at a level of specificity to allow for the Components' varying missions and workforce needs. However, it is a Component responsibility to develop its strategic plan and outcomes to dovetail into the overarching DOD plan.

    Recommendation: To improve human capital strategic planning for the DOD civilian workforce, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, to assign a high priority to and set a target date for developing a department-wide human capital strategic plan that integrates both military and civilian workforces and takes into account contractor roles and sourcing initiatives.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD non-concurs with this recommendation. The Department stated that it has both a military and civilian strategic plan, and that the use of contractors is just another tool to accomplish the mission, not a separate workforce, with separate needs to manage. The Department, however, continues to assess its core functions as part of planning for outsourcing and managing its workforce of military, government civilian, and contractor personnel.

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