Human Capital:

Opportunities Exist to Build on Recent Progress to Strengthen DOD's Civilian Human Capital Strategic Plan

GAO-09-235: Published: Feb 10, 2009. Publicly Released: Feb 10, 2009.

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Having the right number of civilian personnel with the right skills is critical to achieving the Department of Defense's (DOD) mission. With more than 50 percent of its civilian workforce (about 700,000 civilians) eligible to retire in the next few years, DOD may be faced with deciding how to fill numerous mission-critical positions--some involving senior leadership. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2006 requires DOD to develop a strategic human capital plan, update it annually through 2010, and address eight requirements. GAO previously found that DOD's 2007 plan did not meet most requirements. The 2007 NDAA added nine requirements to the annual update to shape DOD's senior leader workforce. GAO was asked to assess the extent to which DOD's 2008 update addressed (1) the 2006 human capital planning requirements, (2) the 2007 senior leader requirements, and (3) key factors that may affect civilian workforce planning. GAO analyzed the update, compared it with the requirements, and reviewed factors identified in the update and prior GAO work.

While DOD's 2008 update to its strategic human capital plan, when compared with the first plan, shows progress in addressing the FY 2006 NDAA requirements, the update only partially addresses each of the act's requirements. For example, DOD identified 25 critical skills and competencies--referred to as enterprisewide mission-critical occupations, which included logistics management and medical occupations. The update, however, does not contain assessments for over half of the 25 occupations, and the completed assessments of future enterprisewide mission-critical occupations do not cover the required 10-year period. Also, DOD's update included analyses of "gaps," or differences between the existing and future workforce for about half of the 25 occupations. Finally, DOD's update partially addressed the act's requirements for a plan of action for closing the gaps in DOD's civilian workforce. Although DOD recently established a program management office whose responsibility is to monitor DOD's updates to the strategic human capital plan, the office does not have and does not plan to have a performance plan--a road map--that articulates how the NDAA requirements will be met. Until such a plan is developed, DOD may not be able to design the best strategies to address the legislative requirements and meet its civilian workforce needs. DOD's 2008 update and related documentation address four of the nine requirements in the FY 2007 NDAA for DOD's senior leader workforce and partially address the remaining five. For example, the update identifies a plan of action to address, among other things, changes in the number of authorized senior leaders. However, the update noted that DOD had conducted only initial leadership assessments as a first step in identifying some of its needs, capabilities, and gaps in the existing or projected senior leader workforce and stated that the final assessments would not be completed until the summer of 2009. Although DOD recently established an executive management office to manage the career life cycle of DOD senior leaders, as well as the FY 2007 NDAA requirements, this office has not and does not plan to develop a performance plan to address the NDAA-related requirements. While DOD's 2008 update identified some key factors that could affect civilian workforce plans, such as base closures and legislation requiring the use of government employees for certain functions, it does not include strategies for addressing these factors. For example, the update noted that DOD may consider using government employees to perform, among other things, an activity performed by a contractor when an economic analysis shows DOD civilian employees are the low-cost providers, but DOD does not provide a strategy for doing so. Further, GAO's body of work has noted a similar factor not discussed in DOD's update--DOD's extensive reliance on contractors and its long-standing challenges in developing a civilian workforce strategy to address the use of contractors and the appropriate mix of contractors and civilians. Without strategies that address key factors like the use of contractors, DOD may not have the right number of people, in the right place, at the right time, and at a reasonable cost to achieve its mission in the future.

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 continue the progress DOD has made with its human capital strategic planning efforts, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to task the newly established program management office, which is responsible for addressing the requirements of the FY 2006 NDAA, to develop a performance plan that includes establishing implementation goals and time frames, measuring performance, and aligning activities with resources.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In accordance with our recommendation that DOD develop a performance plan that includes establishing implementation goals and time frames, and measuring performance, DOD, in its 2012 update to its strategic workforce plan included implementation goals and time frames for improving its strategic workforce planning capabilities in order to fully meet mandated strategic planning requirements. Specifically, DOD's 2012 plan identified goals to be met by fiscal year 2015 such as developing and acquiring tools to assess competencies, monitoring the implementation and effectiveness of strategies to close gaps, and identifying lessons learned to improve data collection, forecasting, and workforce analysis. DOD's 2012 plan also identified 18 goals intended to facilitate addressing all the mandated strategic workforce planning requirements by 2015. Additionally, DOD's 2012 update to its strategic workforce plan also included performance measures for tracking the implementation of the plan. Specifically, the plan included four measures to assess the department's progress in implementing and refining the overall strategic workforce plan: (1) percent of managers reporting they have the talent they need to meet mission requirements, (2), percent difference between mission-critical occupation actual end-strength and target end-strength, (3) percent of workforce planning key milestones in the rolling wave model completed by each mission-critical occupations, and (4) number of mission-critical occupation competency models developed. These efforts address the intent of our recommendation that DOD develop a performance plan for its strategic workforce plan and, as a result, DOD will be in a better position to meet mandated strategic workforce planning requirements.

    Recommendation: To continue the progress DOD has made with its human capital strategic planning efforts, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to task the newly established executive management office, which is responsible for addressing the requirements of the FY 2007 NDAA, to develop a performance plan that includes establishing implementation goals and time frames, measuring performance, and aligning activities with resources.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In accordance with our recommendation that DOD develop a performance plan that includes establishing implementation goals and time frames, and measuring performance, DOD, in its 2012 update to its strategic workforce plan DOD included implementation goals and time frames for improving its strategic workforce planning capabilities in order to fully meet mandated strategic planning requirements. Specifically, DOD's 2012 plan identified goals to be met by fiscal year 2015 such as developing and acquiring tools to assess competencies, monitoring the implementation and effectiveness of strategies to close gaps, and identifying lessons learned to improve data collection, forecasting, and workforce analysis. DOD's 2012 plan also identifies 18 goals intended to facilitate addressing all the mandated strategic workforce planning requirements by 2015. Additionally, DOD's 2012 update to its strategic workforce plan also included performance measures for tracking the implementation of the plan. Specifically, the plan included four measures to assess the department's progress in implementing and refining the overall strategic workforce plan: (1) percent of managers reporting they have the talent they need to meet mission requirements, (2), percent difference between mission-critical occupation actual end-strength and target end-strength, (3) percent of workforce planning key milestones in the rolling wave model completed by each mission-critical occupations, and (4) number of mission-critical occupation competency models developed. These efforts address the intent of our recommendation that DOD develop a performance plan for its strategic workforce plan and, as a result, DOD will be in a better position to meet mandated strategic workforce planning requirements.

    Recommendation: To continue the progress DOD has made with its human capital strategic planning efforts, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to incorporate, in future updates to its strategic human capital plan, strategies for addressing factors that could significantly affect DOD's civilian workforce plans--including contractor roles and the effect contractors have on requirements for DOD's civilian workforce.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD's latest strategic workforce plan did not address specific factors that could significantly affect DOD's civilian workforce plans. Specifically, DOD's 2010-2018 update to its strategic workforce plan did not address contractor roles and the effect contractors have on requirements as stated in the recommendation. DOD expects to issue its next workforce plan in September 2013. At that time, we will begin our assessment to determine if DOD addressed the specific factors from our recommendation.

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