Improving the Credibility and Management of the Federal Work Force Through Better Planning and Budgetary Controls

FPCD-81-54: Published: Jul 17, 1981. Publicly Released: Aug 17, 1981.

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GAO was asked to address problems associated with workforce planning, including the use of the indirect workforce, personnel ceilings, and the limitations of agency budget data in identifying total workforce costs. In response, GAO conducted a review which covered the period of November 1980 to May 1981. GAO and other reports addressing the use of personnel ceilings and the development and use of workforce planning procedures were reviewed, including decisions on the proper mixture of the direct and indirect work force. GAO reviewed the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Office of Personnel Management (OPM) instructions and reports of personnel ceilings and budget development and interviewed representatives from these agencies and 10 other agencies that have tested a new full-time equivalent ceiling system. GAO also examined two legislative proposals which specifically concerned the issues in the review.

The Administration and Congress need to place a renewed interest on workforce planning through strong leadership and advocacy. GAO generally agrees with the provisions of a recently proposed bill concerning workforce planning. However, a first step toward improving workforce planning is for OMB and OPM to jointly develop a Federal workforce planning policy and test the policy and procedures in several agencies. GAO questioned the use of personnel ceilings and questioned the ceilings' value as a staffing control device. With a budget review each year, proper monitoring of an agency's workforce would be achieved and agency management would have the flexibility to efficiently manage within designated funding limitations. The full-time equivalency system has increased part-time employment and decreased end-of-year personnel actions to modify staffing levels. However, GAO is concerned with its value as a direct workforce control mechanism. The current budget process and related documents do not give Congress data in the form needed to make informed decisions about the size and composition of the total Federal work force. Several alternatives are available to better identify, manage, and control total workforce costs. These include: (1) revising the object class structure and budget justification document; (2) revising the budget classification system; (3) improving existing data systems; (4) developing a totally new system for recording workforce costs; and (5) establishing a workforce budget which segregates workforce data from other budget elements.

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