DHS Strategic Workforce Planning:

Oversight of Departmentwide Efforts Should Be Strengthened

GAO-13-65: Published: Dec 3, 2012. Publicly Released: Dec 3, 2012.

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What GAO Found

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has taken some relatively recent steps to enhance strategic workforce planning across the department. These steps are generally consistent with leading principles, but the department has not yet implemented an effective oversight approach for monitoring and evaluating components' progress. Specifically, recent steps DHS has taken to develop and implement strategic workforce planning efforts are consistent with the leading principles GAO has reported that include involving management and stakeholders, identifying skills and competencies, developing strategies to fill gaps, and building capability through training. For example, the department demonstrated stakeholder involvement by including component-level stakeholders in the development of the DHS Workforce Strategy. Though DHS has taken steps to implement strategic workforce planning, recent internal audits, as well as GAO's previous work, identified challenges related to workforce planning at the component level that could impair the continued implementation of recently initiated strategic workforce planning efforts. For example, GAO reported in July 2009 that the Federal Protective Service's (FPS) workforce planning was limited because FPS headquarters did not collect data on its workforce's knowledge, skills, and abilities and subsequently could not determine optimal staffing levels or determine how to modify its workforce planning strategies accordingly, amongst others. GAO recommended that FPS take steps to address these issues. FPS officials agreed with our recommendations, and in June 2010 drafted a staffing plan consistent with our recommendation, but as of November 2012, FPS has not gained approval of its staffing plan.

Although DHS began taking positive steps for managing strategic workforce planning in 2011, DHS officials have not yet taken steps to implement an effective oversight approach for monitoring and evaluating components' progress in implementing strategic workforce planning. According to this principle, agencies should measure the effectiveness of the workforce plan and help ensure that the strategies work as intended by monitoring and evaluating the contributions workforce plans make to strategic results. To do this, agencies should determine how well the agency implemented its workforce plan and the contribution that its implementation made toward achieving programmatic goals. However, the Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer (OCHCO) has developed limited performance measures to provide a basis for monitoring and evaluating departmentwide strategic workforce planning efforts. GAO's analysis identified performance measures that reported on only 2 of the 15 elements in DHS's strategic workforce planning model. OCHCO relies on an informal process to evaluate component workforce planning, though processes exist that it could leverage to provide oversight. For example, OCHCO performs internal audits and requires components to develop annual operations plans to implement the department's workforce strategy. However, the results of the audits are not used to evaluate components' workforce planning. Without (1) performance measures that more comprehensively address DHS's strategic workforce planning process, and (2) policies and procedures for ensuring monitoring and evaluation of departmentwide workforce planning, DHS's OCHCO does not have reasonable assurance that such efforts will be institutionalized. Further, the department will not be able to produce departmentwide evidence of component alignment with DHS strategic workforce planning guidance.

Why GAO Did This Study

With more than 240,000 employees doing diverse jobs, DHS's workforce supports the department's multiple missions to prevent terrorism and enhance security, secure and manage the nation's borders, and ensure resilience from disasters, amongst others. Strategic workforce planning focuses on developing long-term strategies for acquiring, developing, and retaining an organization's total workforce, including federal staff and contractors, to meet the needs of the future. GAO has previously identified workforce-related challenges faced by DHS components. In light of these ongoing challenges, GAO was asked to review DHS's strategic workforce planning efforts. This report assesses whether DHS has incorporated strategic workforce planning leading principles into the department's management of strategic workforce planning efforts. GAO reviewed DHS strategies and guidance related to strategic workforce planning, compared them with leading principles identified in previous GAO work, and discussed ongoing strategic workforce planning efforts with officials from the seven components selected because they constitute the majority of DHS personnel.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that, among other actions, the Secretary of Homeland Security (1) identify and document additional performance measures to assess workforce planning efforts and (2) document policies and procedures regarding the use of internal audit results. DHS concurred with our recommendations.

For more information, contact David C. Maurer at (202) 512-9627 or maurerd@gao.gov.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • 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 help ensure that DHS strategic workforce planning is effectively implemented departmentwide, and to provide a basis to monitor and assess the effectiveness of departmentwide strategic workforce planning, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer to identify and document additional performance measures, such as measures to monitor component efforts to develop and implement action plans to address workforce supply and demand discrepancies, and use them to assess and report on components' progress in implementing DHS's strategic workforce planning process.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In November 2013, DHS's Balanced Workforce Program Management Office officials provided documentation of additional performance measures they planned to use to monitor, assess, and report on component efforts to develop and implement action plans to address workforce supply and demand discrepancies and their progress in implementing DHS's strategic workforce planning process. Specifically, DHS's Human Resources Operations Assessment contains a specific critical success factor that focuses on workforce planning program requirements that staff use to monitor, evaluate and report on the status of component progress on workforce planning. Along with the critical success factor for workforce planning, DHS also identified expected outcomes for strategic management, identification of mission-critical occupation gaps, and component management strategies for addressing the gaps. They provided a copy of the revised DHS Workforce Planning Guide that incorporates these requirements. These steps should help ensure that DHS strategic workforce planning is effectively implemented departmentwide. Therefore, this recommendation is being closed as implemented.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that DHS strategic workforce planning is effectively implemented departmentwide, and to provide a basis to monitor and assess the effectiveness of departmentwide strategic workforce planning, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer to document policies and procedures for the Balanced Workforce Program Management Office and the Human Capital Policy and Programs Office to use the results of audits related to componentlevel workforce planning.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In November 2013, DHS's Balanced Workforce Program Management Office officials provided a revised version of the DHS Workforce Planning Guide that describes the roles and responsibilities of the Balanced Workforce Program Management Office, identifies the audits as a step in the workforce planning process, and calls for components to capture lessons learned and identify modifications to be made going forward. As a result of these steps, DHS should have greater assurance that strategic workforce planning is effectively implemented departmentwide. Therefore, this recommendation is being closed as implemented.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that DHS strategic workforce planning is effectively implemented departmentwide, and to provide a basis to monitor and assess the effectiveness of departmentwide strategic workforce planning, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer to integrate the results of these audits with components' annual operational plans and review the plans and provide timely feedback to enhance components' implementation of strategic workforce planning efforts.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

    Status: Open

    Comments: In November 2013, DHS's Balanced Workforce Program Management Office officials reported that they planned to coordinate with Components to integrate results from Human Resource Operational Audits into Component Operational Plans, where appropriate. They also reported that they planned to institute a new process of establishing one-on-one Component follow-up meetings to discuss the audit results from a workforce planning perspective and report audit trends to Components and provide guidance and tools where necessary to improve workforce planning efforts at the Department on a yearly basis through DHS's Workforce Planning Council. This recommendation will remain open until these actions are taken and we receive relevant documentation of their implementation from DHS officials.

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