Equal Opportunity:

National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Equal Employment Opportunity Program Could Be Improved

FPCD-75-107: Published: Apr 16, 1975. Publicly Released: Apr 16, 1975.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) affirmative action plans, focusing on: (1) hiring and promotion practices; (2) training and upward mobility programs; and (3) its discrimination complaint system.

GAO noted that: (1) minorities composed 4.3 percent of NASA's total professional employees and 8.8 percent of the nonprofessional employees; (2) women composed 5.6 percent of the professional and 35.5 percent of the nonprofessional employees; (3) 17 percent of the employees hired during fiscal years 1971-74 were minorities and 50 percent were females; (4) on February 2, 1974, NASA approved a recruiting plan designed to increase hiring of minority and women professionals; (5) the percentage of minorities and females in the Cooperative Education Program increased from 12.2 and 9.4 percent, respectively, in June 1972, to 22 and 16.1 percent, respectively, at the end of fiscal year 1974; (6) in March 1974, NASA implemented a National Aerospace Fellowship Program to encourage members of minority groups and women to undertake professional careers in scientific and engineering fields; (7) among the minority and female hiring problems facing NASA is the lack of minorities and females in the scientific and engineering fields; (8) at GAO's request, the Civil Service Commission compared minority and female employment at seven NASA locations with that of other agencies located in the same geographic areas; (9) as of February 28, 1974, NASA had the lowest percentage of minorities in all 14 occupations and the lowest percentage of females in 7 occupations; (10) the amount of training requested and received by minorities and females varied from one installation to another; (11) during fiscal years 1971-74, the percentage of promotions received by minorities and females NASA-wide was generally greater than the percentage of minorities and females in the NASA work force; (12) GAO did not conclude whether NASA's upward mobility program had been successful, since the program had only been partially operative for a short time at most NASA installations; (13) during fiscal years 1971-1974, 6.1 and 27.9 percent of the total number of NASA workforce separations were minorities and females, respectively; (14) except for failing to meet the time limit on processing formal complaints, NASA headquarters and field centers were processing discrimination complaints in accordance with Civil Service Commission (CSC) guidelines; (15) NASA employees expressed concerns about the complaint system; (16) the accomplishment section of NASA's plan showed that not all affirmative action items were accounted for or accomplished; and (17) NASA headquarters and centers did not provide Equal Employment Opportunity program training or evaluations to all managers and supervisors.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of NASA should ensure that all installations: (1) make participation by managers and supervisors in the development of the affirmative action plans mandatory; (2) require ongoing EEO training for managers and supervisors; (3) evaluate supervisors and managers on the basis of their EEO activity; (4) prepare at least annual evaluations of the EEO program; and (5) identify the causes for action items in the affirmative action plans not being accomplished. The Administrator of NASA and the Chairman of CSC should identify the causes of the apparent low percentage of names of minorities and females which are referred to NASA from the CSC registers so action can be initiated to correct this problem. The Chairman of CSC should analyze the potential supply of minorities and females with selected skills and make such analysis available to all agencies to insure that meaningful and realistic EEO goals can be established and to identify occupational categories with shortages of minorities and females. The Chairman of CSC should devise a system whereby CSC and other federal agencies can track applicants, by race and sex, on CSC registers through the selection or rejection process--such a system should protect the anonymity of the individual. The Administrator of NASA should require that agency and installation affirmative action plans specify: (1) the types of training to be provided; (2) the types of opportunities available to employees; and (3) the estimated number of minorities and females to attend training. The Administrator of NASA should maintain sufficient information on promotions so that determinations can be made as to who was considered, and how the final selection was made. The Administrator of NASA should ensure that NASA's upward mobility program will provide for a systematic identification of: (1) individuals or groups with development potential; (2) occupations which offer development opportunity; and (3) positions that do not offer opportunities for employees to perform and advance to their highest potential. The Administrator of NASA should develop a program that would instill more employee trust and confidence in the complaint system. The Administrator of NASA should publicize the use of its discrimination complaint system using additional methods, such as discussions at staff meetings. The Administrator of NASA should expedite formal complaint processing to meet time limits specified by CSC whenever possible. The Administrator of NASA should develop a process for selecting counselors which permits direct employee participation.

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