DOD Civilian Personnel:

Intelligence Personnel System Incorporates Safeguards, but Opportunities Exist for Improvement

GAO-10-134: Published: Dec 17, 2009. Publicly Released: Dec 17, 2009.

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Since 2001, Government Accountability Office (GAO) has designated strategic human capital management as a high-risk area because of the federal government's long-standing lack of a consistent approach to such management. In 2007, the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence (USD(I)) began developing a human capital system--called the Defense Civilian Intelligence Personnel System (DCIPS)--to manage Department of Defense (DOD) civilian intelligence personnel. In response to a congressional request, GAO examined the extent to which DOD has (1) incorporated internal safeguards into DCIPS and monitored the implementation of these safeguards and (2) developed mechanisms to identify employee perceptions about DCIPS. GAO analyzed guidance, interviewed appropriate officials, and conducted discussion groups with employees at select DOD components. At the end of GAO's review, legislation was enacted that impacts, among other things, how DCIPS employees will be paid.

While early in its implementation of DCIPS, DOD has taken some positive steps to incorporate 10 internal safeguards to help ensure the fair, effective, and credible implementation of the system; however, opportunities exist to immediately improve the implementation of two of these safeguards, and continued monitoring of all is needed. For example, one safeguard requires employees to be trained on the system's operations, and GAO noted that DOD had provided extensive training to employees on DCIPS to include several Web-based and classroom courses. For another safeguard--which requires ongoing performance feedback--GAO noted that DOD's guidance requires feedback between employees and supervisors at the midpoint and at the close of the performance rating cycle. However, GAO determined that in the case of two safeguards--involving employees and fully implementing the merit principles--DOD could immediately improve its implementation. First, while DOD has leveraged mechanisms like town hall meetings and "brown bags" to involve employees in DCIPS, its guidance does not identify a formalized process for the continuous involvement of employees in the system implementation--which could ultimately undermine its credibility. Second, while DOD has stated that it will conduct an analysis of final ratings utilizing demographic data, DOD does not have a written policy outlining how this will be accomplished, and therefore may be unable to fully determine whether potential barriers to fair and equitable ratings exist. Without steps to improve implementation of this safeguard, employees may lack confidence in the system. Finally, GAO previously reported--for systems like DCIPS--that continued monitoring of such systems' safeguards is needed to help ensure agency actions are effective. In October 2009, DOD provided GAO with a draft DCIPS evaluation plan that would be executed after the first payout in January 2010. Without finalizing and executing the plan, DOD will not know if it has achieved desired outcomes from the system. DOD has used several mechanisms to provide employees with information; however, these mechanisms do not comprehensively identify and address employee perceptions of DCIPS. For example, USD(I), among other things, maintains a Web-site that contains frequently asked questions submitted by employees and responses by USD(I). Absent, however, are mechanisms to systematically identify employee perceptions. The nongeneralizable results of the discussion groups GAO conducted with employees and supervisors yielded mixed views. For example, participants generally expressed positive views about the concept of pay for performance. But participants at most of the Intelligence Components noted that DCIPS was being implemented too quickly or many questions went unanswered. Although DOD officials have drafted surveys that will allow them to more comprehensively collect employee perceptions about DCIPS, these surveys lack questions that would provide insight about employee perceptions of certain safeguards and overall acceptance of DCIPS. Without including such questions and expeditiously implementing its surveys, DOD will not have clear insight into employee perceptions.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with GAO's recommendation to finalize and execute its evaluation plan, with metrics, to assess the system, including the implementation of internal safeguards, to help ensure the department evaluates the impact of DCIPS. On April 17, 2012, DOD issued DOD Instruction 1400.25, Volume 2013, DCIPS Program Evaluation, which directs the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence to develop an annual DCIPS evaluation plan to be published in March of each calendar year. The instruction directs that the annual DCIPS evaluation plan will assess employee and manager satisfaction with the efficiency and effectiveness of DCIPS policies and processes and use core metrics to evaluate DCIPS. The metrics noted in the instruction include measuring transparency, diversity, competitiveness of the pay scale, and the rate of adverse actions and grievances, which the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence will use, along with the results from the Intelligence Community Climate Survey, to inform changes to DCIPS policy.

    Recommendation: To improve DOD's implementation of internal safeguards in DCIPS, and mechanisms to identify employee perceptions of it, the Secretary of Defense should direct that the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence to finalize and execute its evaluation plan with metrics to assess the system, including the implementation of internal safeguards, to help ensure the department evaluates the impact of DCIPS.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with GAO's recommendation to issue guidance on the analysis of finalized ratings that explains how to conduct a demographic analysis of ratings, to help ensure the equity and fairness of ratings determined under the system--the Defense Intelligence Personnel System (DCIPS). On April 17, 2012, DOD issued DOD Instruction 1400.25, Volume 2013, DCIPS Program Evaluation, which directs the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and the DOD components to annually examine the differences in performance-based payouts received by employees with different positions in a pay range, work categories, work levels, gender, ethnicity, age and other factors.

    Recommendation: To improve DOD's implementation of internal safeguards in DCIPS, and mechanisms to identify employee perceptions of it, the Secretary of Defense should direct that the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence to issue guidance on its analysis of finalized ratings that explains how the demographic analysis of ratings is to be conducted, to help ensure equity, fairness, and non-discrimination in ratings.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with GAO's recommendation to issue guidance to institutionalize a process to involve the employees continually in future design and implementation changes to the system--the Defense Civilian Intelligence Personnel System (DCIPS). DOD recently issued DOD Instruction 1400.24, Volume 2013, DCIPS Program Evaluation (Apr. 17, 2012). This instruction stipulates that the results of its enterprise-wide evaluations, which includes employee feedback and other metrics that gage employee and manager satisfaction with the efficiency and effectiveness of DCIPS policies, processes, and outcomes will be incorporated in DCIPS policy. Further, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence has conducted numerous employee surveys, focus groups, and town hall meetings and uses this feedback (e.g. surveys, focus groups, and town hall meetings) to inform its enterprise-wide assessment of the effectiveness of DCIPS policies and processes.

    Recommendation: To improve DOD's implementation of internal safeguards in DCIPS, and mechanisms to identify employee perceptions of it, the Secretary of Defense should direct that the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence issue guidance to institutionalize a process to involve employees continually in future design and implementation changes to DCIPS.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with GAO's recommendation to finalize and execute its evaluation plan, with metrics, to assess the system, including the implementation of internal safeguards, to help ensure the department evaluates the impact of the Defense Civilian Intelligence Personnel System (DCIPS). On April 17, 2012, DOD issued DOD Instruction 1400.25, Volume 2013, DCIPS Program Evaluation, which directs the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence to develop an annual DCIPS evaluation plan to be published in March of each calendar year. The instruction directs that the annual DCIPS evaluation plan will assess employee and manager satisfaction with the efficiency and effectiveness of DCIPS policies and processes and use core metrics to evaluate DCIPS. The metrics noted in the instruction include measuring transparency, diversity, competitiveness of the pay scale, and the rate of adverse actions and grievances, which the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence will use, along with the results from the Intelligence Community Climate Survey, to inform changes to DCIPS policy.

    Recommendation: To improve DOD's implementation of internal safeguards in DCIPS, and mechanisms to identify employee perceptions of it, the Secretary of Defense should direct that the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence to expeditiously implement mechanisms--including the four surveys--that comprehensively and accurately identify and measure employee perceptions; and ensure those mechanisms include questions regarding certain safeguards, such as the internal grievance process and employees' acceptance of DCIPS.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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