Information Technology:

DHS's Human Capital Plan Is Largely Consistent with Relevant Guidance, but Improvements and Implementation Steps Are Still Needed

GAO-07-425: Published: Sep 10, 2007. Publicly Released: Sep 10, 2007.

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In performing its missions, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) relies extensively on information technology (IT). Recognizing this, DHS's fiscal year 2006 appropriations act required its Chief Information Officer (CIO) to submit a report to congressional appropriations committees that includes, among other things, an IT human capital plan, and the act directs GAO to review the report. GAO's review addressed (1) whether the IT human capital plan is consistent with federal guidance and associated best practices and (2) the status of the plan's implementation. In performing its review, GAO compared DHS's plan and supporting documentation with 27 practices in the Human Capital Assessment and Accountability Framework of the Office of Personnel Management, and examined plan implementation activities at three DHS component agencies.

DHS's IT human capital plan is largely consistent with federal guidance and associated best practices; however, it does not fully address a number of important practices that GAO examined. Specifically, the plan and supporting documentation fully address 15 practices; for example, they provide for developing a complete inventory of existing staff skills, identifying IT skills that will be needed to achieve agency goals, determining skill gaps, and developing plans to address such gaps. They also provides for involving key stakeholders--such as the CIO, the Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO), and component agency CIOs and human capital directors--in carrying out the skill gap analyses and other workforce planning activities. Nevertheless, elements of 12 of the 27 practices are not included in the plan or related documentation. For example, although the plan and supporting documents describe the department's IT human capital goals and steps necessary to implement them, most steps do not include associated milestones. In addition, although the plan and supporting documents provide for involving key stakeholders, they do not specifically assign these stakeholders responsibility and accountability for carrying out planned activities. These and other missing elements of the practices are important because they help ensure that the plan is implemented efficiently and effectively. DHS officials provided various reasons why the missing practices were omitted, including uncertainty surrounding the source of resources for implementing the plan and the demands of other IT priorities, such as consolidating component agency data centers. To date, DHS has made limited progress in implementing the plan, according to officials from the offices of the department's CIO and CHCO and three DHS agencies (the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency). These officials said that they are nonetheless following several of the practices because they are required to report quarterly to the Office of Management and Budget on progress in meeting such human capital goals as filling mission-critical positions and delivering key IT training. DHS officials stated that the department's limited progress in implementing the plan was due to its focus on other priorities, and ambiguity surrounding plan implementation roles and responsibilities. Until DHS has a complete plan that fully addresses all practices and the department and components implement the plan, DHS will continue to be at risk of not having sufficient people with the right knowledge, skills, and abilities to manage and deliver the IT systems that are essential to executing the department's mission and achieving its transformation goals.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Consistent with our recommendation, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has taken steps to make resources available to carry out its IT strategic human capital plan. For example, the department's IT strategic human capital implementation plan (dated March 2011) assigns DHS's Chief Information Officer (CIO) with primary responsibility for ensuring that resources are made available for plan execution. In response, in March and April 2011, DHS's CIO established and staffed action teams to carry out activities related to (1) implementing strategic plan objectives in areas such as IT talent acquisition and branding, (2) defining a recruitment strategy, (3) developing IT competency models, and (4) drafting interview and selection processes.

    Recommendation: To strengthen DHS's management of IT human capital, the Secretary of Homeland Security should should direct the Under Secretary for Management and the head of each DHS component agency to instruct their respective CIOs and human capital directors to make development and implementation of a comprehensive IT human capital plan an imperative within each organization. In this regard, the Secretary should direct the Under Secretary and the component agency heads to ensure that resources needed to effectively and efficiently implement the plans are made available.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Consistent with our recommendation, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has taken steps to define IT human capital plan implementation roles and responsibilities. Specifically, in developing and issuing an updated strategic IT human capital plan in November 2010 and associated implementation plan in March 2011, the department defined roles and responsibilities for key department-level organizations and component agencies that are to implement the plans. For example, the plans call for a steering committee (referred to as the IT Human Capital Steering Committee and is comprised of senior representatives from component agencies such the Secret Service and TSA) to provide executive leadership in guiding implementation of the department?s strategic IT human capital efforts. In addition, the plans call for DHS?s Chief Information Officer (CIO) to provide resources for plan implementation. They also call for the component agency CIOs to (1) provide resources within their organization for plan implementation and (2) integrate human capital objectives into component human capital strategies. Further, the plans specify that managers and supervisors are to integrate human capital initiatives into organization and employees performance plans and communicate the importance of these efforts to their employees.

    Recommendation: To strengthen DHS's management of IT human capital, the Secretary of Homeland Security should should direct the Under Secretary for Management and the head of each DHS component agency to instruct their respective CIOs and human capital directors to make development and implementation of a comprehensive IT human capital plan an imperative within each organization. In this regard, the Secretary should direct the Under Secretary and the component agency heads to ensure that roles and responsibilities for implementing the resulting IT human capital plan and all supporting plans are clearly defined and understood.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Consistent with our recommendation, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has taken actions to increase the extent to which its IT human capital planning efforts satisfy federal guidance and related best practices. Specifically, in developing and issuing an updated strategic IT human capital plan in November 2010 and associated implementation plan in March 2011, DHS incorporated key aspects of federal guidance and related best practices that were missing from earlier planning efforts. For example, these updated plans assigned stakeholders the responsibility for completing key efforts specified in the plans. In particular, they assigned the department?s Chief Information Officer (CIO) responsibility for providing staff resources for implementing the plans and for holding component agency CIO?s responsible for effectively implementing the plans within their respective agencies. In addition, the plans (1) called for establishing action teams (of subject matter experts from the department and component agencies) to carry out key efforts (i.e., projects) specified in the plans and (2) assigned the teams responsibility for managing the projects, including defining, tracking, and reporting on project measures. Further, the plans specified and timeframes and metrics for completing key efforts. As an example, the plans called for the development of an IT recruitment strategy during the second, third, and fourth quarters of fiscal year 2011, and identified key performance indicators (e.g., the improvement of recruiting fulfillment metrics such as the number of requisitions, their age, and any backlogs) that DHS is to use to measure progress and effectiveness.

    Recommendation: To strengthen DHS's management of IT human capital, the Secretary of Homeland Security should should direct the Under Secretary for Management and the head of each DHS component agency to instruct their respective CIOs and human capital directors to make development and implementation of a comprehensive IT human capital plan an imperative within each organization. In this regard, the Secretary should direct the Under Secretary and the component agency heads to ensure that IT human capital planning efforts fully satisfy relevant federal guidance and related best practices.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Consistent with our recommendation, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has taken steps to (1) improve measuring the department?s progress in implementing its IT strategic human capital planning efforts and (2) report such progress to DHS leadership. Specifically, in its updated IT strategic human capital implementation plan (dated March 2011), DHS incorporated time frames and performance measures for completing key efforts detailed in the department?s IT strategic human capital plan (dated November 2011). For example, the implementation plan calls for the development of an IT recruitment strategy during the second, third, and fourth quarters of fiscal year 2011 and identifies key recruiting fulfillment metrics (such as the number of requisitions, aging, and backlog) that are to be used in measuring progress and effectiveness. With regard to progress reporting, the implementation plan calls for key department participants involved in implementation activities to report to top management on the progress of their efforts. For example, the plan specifies that the IT Human Capital Steering Committee, which is the DHS working group responsible for guiding implementation of the efforts specified in the IT human capital plan, is to provide progress reports to the department's Chief Information Officer's (CIO) Council, which is headed by the DHS CIO and includes component agency CIOs as members. Consistent with this requirement, the steering committee has periodically reported such progress to the CIO's council as well as other top DHS executives. For example, in March 2011, the steering committee briefed the CIO's Council on, among other things, accomplishments to date and next steps to be taken. In addition, in July 2011, the steering committee briefed the DHS Under Secretary for Management on the status of the program, including where the department stood with respect to establishing teams to implement IT human capital plan objectives.

    Recommendation: To strengthen DHS's management of IT human capital, the Secretary of Homeland Security should should direct the Under Secretary for Management and the head of each DHS component agency to instruct their respective CIOs and human capital directors to make development and implementation of a comprehensive IT human capital plan an imperative within each organization. In this regard, the Secretary should direct the Under Secretary and the component agency heads to ensure that progress in implementing the plans is regularly measured and periodically reported to DHS leadership and Congress.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

 

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