Equal Employment Opportunity:

DHS Has Opportunities to Better Identify and Address Barriers to EEO in Its Workforce

GAO-10-160T: Published: Oct 14, 2009. Publicly Released: Oct 14, 2009.

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This testimony discusses the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) efforts to identify and address barriers to equal employment opportunity (EEO) in its workforce. Since its inception in March 2003, DHS has faced a number of challenges, one of which is effectively and strategically managing its large workforce (about 216,000 employees) to respond to current and emerging 21st century issues. The federal government is faced with a workforce that is becoming increasingly eligible for retirement. We have reported that it is important for federal agencies, including DHS, to use available flexibilities to acquire, develop, motivate, and retain talented individuals who reflect all segments of society and our nation's diversity. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) Management Directive (MD) 715 provides that in order to attract and retain top talent, federal agencies are to identify barriers to EEO in the workplace, execute plans to eliminate barriers, and report annually to EEOC. This testimony is based on our report that we recently issued entitled Equal Employment Opportunity: DHS Has Opportunities to Better Identify and Address Barriers to EEO in Its Workforce. This testimony discusses (1) the extent to which DHS has taken steps, according to its MD-715 reports, to identify barriers to EEO in the workplace; (2) efforts DHS has taken to address identified barriers and what progress has been reported; and (3) how DHS oversees and supports its components in identifying and addressing barriers. For this work, we analyzed DHS's identified barriers and plans to address those barriers obtained from its fiscal year 2007 and 2008 reports. In addition, we reviewed DHS policies, guidance, directives, and diversity plans related to identifying and addressing barriers. We interviewed DHS officials from its Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer (OCHCO). We also reviewed MD-715 and EEOC instructions and guidance on MD-715, and interviewed EEOC officials from its Office of Federal Operations. We obtained information from the Office of Personnel Management's (OPM) Strategic Human Resource Policy Division on the availability of Federal Human Capital Survey (FHCS) data to federal agencies. Our report contains a more detailed discussion of our objectives, scope, and methodology. Our work was performed in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.

We found that (1) DHS has not regularly included employee input from available sources to identify potential barriers to EEO; (2) DHS has modified nearly all of its original target completion dates on planned activities to address identified barriers and has not completed any of those planned activities; and (3) DHS uses a variety of means to oversee and support components, including conducting program audits and convening a council of EEO directors from each of the components.

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