Homeland Security:

Oversight of Neglected Human Resources Information Technology Investment Is Needed

GAO-16-253: Published: Feb 11, 2016. Publicly Released: Feb 25, 2016.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Carol R. Cha
(202) 512-4456
ChaC@gao.gov

 

Rebecca S. Gambler
(202) 512-6912
GamblerR@gao.gov

 

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What GAO Found

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has made very little progress in implementing its Human Resources Information Technology (HRIT) investment in the last several years. This investment includes 15 improvement opportunities; as of November 2015, DHS had fully implemented only 1, see table below.

Status and Planned Completion Dates for Implementing the 15 Strategic Improvement Opportunities, as of November 2015

Strategic improvement opportunity name

Status

Original planned completiona

Current expected completion date

1. Data management and sharing

September 2014

Unknown

2. Performance measures tracking and reporting

December 2012

Unknown

3. Personnel action processing

September 2013

Unknown

4. Human resources document management

September 2014

Unknown

5. End-to-end hiring

December 2016

Unknown

6. Performance management

December 2012

Unknown

7. Off-boarding process

December 2012

Unknown

8. Policy issuances and clarification

June 2015

Unknown

9. Payroll action processing

June 2014

Unknown

10. HRIT deployment process

September 2012

Unknown

11. Knowledge management

December 2014

Unknown

12. Training

June 2015

Unknown

13. Communication and collaboration among Components

December 2012

Unknown

14. On-boarding process

December 2012

Unknown

15. HRIT intake process

December 2011

Implemented October 2011

Key: ●Fully implemented ◐Partially implemented ○Not yet started

Source: GAO analysis of data provided by DHS officials.

aDates reflect the last month of the quarter in which the opportunities were planned to be complete.

HRIT's limited progress was due in part to the lack of involvement of its executive steering committee—the investment's core oversight and advisory body—which was minimally involved with HRIT, such as meeting only one time during a nearly 2-year period when major problems, including schedule delays, were occurring. As a result, key governance activities, such as approval of HRIT's operational plan, were not completed. Officials acknowledged that HRIT should be re-evaluated and took early steps to do so (i.e., meeting to discuss the need to re-evaluate); however, specific actions and time frames have not been determined. Until DHS takes key actions to re-evaluate and manage this neglected investment, it is unknown when its human capital weaknesses will be addressed.

Why GAO Did This Study

DHS's human resources administrative environment includes fragmented systems, duplicative and paper-based processes, and little uniformity of data management practices, which according to DHS, are compromising the department's ability to effectively carry out its mission. DHS initiated HRIT in 2003 to consolidate, integrate, and modernize DHS's human resources information technology infrastructure. In 2011, DHS redefined HRIT's scope and implementation time frames.

GAO was asked to review DHS's efforts to implement the HRIT investment. GAO's objectives included, among others, evaluating the progress DHS has made in implementing the HRIT investment. GAO compared HRIT's goals and scope to the investment's actual accomplishments, and compared DHS's planned schedule for implementing strategic improvement opportunities (key areas identified by DHS as needing improvement) against its current schedule.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making 14 recommendations to DHS to, among other things, address HRIT's poor progress and ineffective management. For example, GAO recommends that the HRIT executive steering committee is consistently involved in overseeing and advising the investment. In addition, GAO recommends DHS evaluate the HRIT investment to determine whether its goals are still valid and reflect the department's priorities. DHS concurred with all 14 recommendations and provided estimated completion dates for implementing each of them.

For more information, contact Carol R. Cha at (202) 512-4456 or ChaC@gao.gov, or Rebecca S. Gambler at (202) 512-6912 or GamblerR@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In March 2016, DHS updated the charter for its HRIT executive steering committee to specify that committee meetings will be held at least quarterly, or more frequently as directed by the committee's co-chairs. As a result, DHS should have better assurance that the HRIT executive steering committee will meet regularly and carry out its responsibility to provide oversight and guidance to the HRIT investment.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the HRIT investment receives necessary oversight and attention, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Under Secretary of Management to update the HRIT executive steering committee charter to establish the frequency with which HRIT executive steering committee meetings are to be held.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: DHS has provided documentation demonstrating that the HRIT executive steering committee is consistently involved in overseeing and advising HRIT. DHS also provided documentation demonstrating that the Executive Steering Committee approved HRIT's operational plan for fiscal years 2016-2018. However, DHS still needs to demonstrate that the HRIT ESC has approved the schedule and cost estimate for HRIT.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the HRIT investment receives necessary oversight and attention, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Under Secretary of Management to ensure that the HRIT executive steering committee is consistently involved in overseeing and advising HRIT, including approving key program management documents, such as HRIT's operational plan, schedule, and planned cost estimate.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: DHS has drafted a high-level schedule estimate for implementing the strategic improvement opportunities. We will continue to monitor DHS's maintenance of this schedule estimate.

    Recommendation: To address HRIT's poor progress and ineffective management, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Under Secretary of Management to direct the Chief Human Capital Officer to direct the HRIT investment to update and maintain a schedule estimate for when DHS plans to implement each of the strategic improvement opportunities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: DHS concurred with the recommendation and is working to implement it. Subsequent to DHS stating that it has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.

    Recommendation: To address HRIT's poor progress and ineffective management, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Under Secretary of Management to direct the Chief Human Capital Officer to direct the HRIT investment to develop a complete life-cycle cost estimate for the implementation of HRIT.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  5. Status: Open

    Comments: DHS concurred with the recommendation and is working to implement it. Subsequent to DHS stating that it has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.

    Recommendation: To address HRIT's poor progress and ineffective management, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Under Secretary of Management to direct the Chief Human Capital Officer to direct the HRIT investment to document and track all costs, including components' costs, associated with HRIT.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In February 2016, DHS documented its planned time frames for re-evaluating the strategic improvement opportunities in the Human Capital Segment Architecture Blueprint and determining how to move forward with HRIT. Specifically, DHS planned to re-evaluate the strategic improvement opportunities in February and March 2016. Additionally, by the end of April 2016, DHS planned to finalize a report documenting, among other things, the highest priority strategic improvement opportunities and proposed solutions for implementing them. As a result, DHS is better positioned to update the blueprint and address inefficiencies in the Department's human resources environment.

    Recommendation: To address HRIT's poor progress and ineffective management, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Under Secretary of Management to direct the Chief Human Capital Officer to direct the HRIT investment to establish time frames for re-evaluating the strategic improvement opportunities and associated projects in the Human Capital Segment Architecture Blueprint and determining how to move forward with HRIT.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In June 2016, the HRIT Executive Steering Committee approved an updated Human Capital Segment Architecture Blueprint, which reflects the department's evaluation and re-prioritization of HRIT's strategic improvement opportunities, as recommended in our February 2016 report. Specifically, within the updated blueprint, DHS documented, among other things, the current status of each of the 15 original improvement opportunities, the department's determination on whether each one was still valid, and the department's reprioritization of those that are still relevant. As a result, DHS is better positioned to make informed resource decisions on the implementation of the strategic improvement opportunities, and to address inefficiencies in its human resources environment.

    Recommendation: To address HRIT's poor progress and ineffective management, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Under Secretary of Management to direct the Chief Human Capital Officer to direct the HRIT investment to evaluate the strategic improvement opportunities and projects within the Human Capital Segment Architecture Blueprint to determine whether they and the goals of the blueprint are still valid and reflect DHS's HRIT priorities going forward, and update the blueprint accordingly.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  8. Status: Open

    Comments: DHS concurred with the recommendation and plans to implement it. Subsequent to DHS stating that it has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.

    Recommendation: To address HRIT's poor progress and ineffective management, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Under Secretary of Management to direct the Chief Human Capital Officer to direct the HRIT investment to update and maintain the department's human resources system inventory.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  9. Status: Open

    Comments: DHS has provided documentation demonstrating that the department has been working to decide whether to fully deploy PALMS for FEMA, TSA, and USCG. However, DHS decided to defer the implementation decisions at these components and an updated time frame for determining these implementation decisions has not been provided. Additionally, it is unclear whether or not ICE is fully committed to implementing PALMS's performance management capabilities.

    Recommendation: To improve the Performance and Learning Management System (PALMS) program's implementation of IT acquisition best practices, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Under Secretary of Management to direct the Chief Information Officer to direct the PALMS program office to establish a time frame for deciding whether PALMS will be fully deployed at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), and determine an alternative approach if the learning and/or performance management capabilities of PALMS are deemed not feasible for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, FEMA, the Transportation Security Administration, or USCG.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  10. Status: Open

    Comments: DHS concurred with the recommendation and plans to implement it. Subsequent to DHS stating that it has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.

    Recommendation: To improve the Performance and Learning Management System (PALMS) program's implementation of IT acquisition best practices, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Under Secretary of Management to direct the Chief Information Officer to direct the PALMS program office to develop a comprehensive life-cycle cost estimate, including all government and contractor costs, for the PALMS program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  11. Status: Open

    Comments: DHS provided the PALMS program office's updated integrated master schedule. However, the schedule does not yet include all of the planned deployment milestones related to performance management.

    Recommendation: To improve the Performance and Learning Management System (PALMS) program's implementation of IT acquisition best practices, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Under Secretary of Management to direct the Chief Information Officer to direct the PALMS program office to develop and maintain a single comprehensive schedule that includes all government and contractor activities, and includes all planned deployment milestones related to performance management.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  12. Status: Open

    Comments: DHS concurred with the recommendation and plans to implement it. Subsequent to DHS stating that it has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.

    Recommendation: To improve the Performance and Learning Management System (PALMS) program's implementation of IT acquisition best practices, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Under Secretary of Management to direct the Chief Information Officer to direct the PALMS program office to track and monitor all costs associated with the PALMS program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  13. Status: Open

    Comments: DHS has provided evidence demonstrating that the PALMS program is documenting its progress reviews. However, the department has not yet provided evidence that the program's milestone reviews are being documented.

    Recommendation: To improve the Performance and Learning Management System (PALMS) program's implementation of IT acquisition best practices, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Under Secretary of Management to direct the Chief Information Officer to direct the PALMS program office to document PALMS's progress and milestone reviews, including all issues and corrective actions discussed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  14. Status: Open

    Comments: DHS has provided documentation demonstrating that the PALMS program risks in the government- and vendor-managed risk registers were prioritized by risk level. However, the mitigation strategies were not sufficiently defined for all of the risks because the strategies did not always have planned completion dates identified (where appropriate).

    Recommendation: To improve the Performance and Learning Management System (PALMS) program's implementation of IT acquisition best practices, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Under Secretary of Management to direct the Chief Information Officer to direct the PALMS program office to establish a comprehensive risk log that maintains an aggregation of all up-to-date risks (including both government- and vendor-identified)and associated mitigation plans. Additionally, within the comprehensive risk log, the PALMS program office should (1) identify and document planned completion dates for each risk mitigation step (where appropriate), and (2) prioritize the risks by determining each risk's relative priority and overall risk level.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

 

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