Afghanistan:

Improvements Needed to Strengthen Management of U.S. Civilian Presence

GAO-12-285: Published: Feb 27, 2012. Publicly Released: Feb 27, 2012.

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What GAO Found

U.S. agencies under Chief of Mission authority and the Department of Defense (DOD) have reported expanding their civilian presence in Afghanistan and took steps to improve their ability to track that presence. Since January 2009, U.S. agencies under Chief of Mission authority more than tripled their civilian presence from 320 to 1,142. However, although State could report total Chief of Mission numbers by agency, in mid-2011 GAO identified discrepancies in State’s data system used to capture more-detailed staffing information such as location and position type. State began taking steps in the fall of 2011 to improve the reliability of its data system. Also, DOD reported expanding its overall civilian presence from 394 civilians in January 2009 to 2,929 in December 2011 to help assist U.S. efforts in Afghanistan. The extent to which DOD’s data is reliable is unknown due to omissions and double counting, among other things. In a 2009 report, GAO noted similar data issues and recommended DOD improve data concerning deployed civilians. DOD concurred with the recommendation and expects the issues will be addressed by a new tracking system to be completed in fiscal year 2012.

DOD has taken preliminary steps to implement its Civilian Expeditionary Workforce (CEW) policy, including establishing a program office; however, nearly 3 years after DOD’s directive established the CEW, the program has not been fully developed and implemented. Specifically, DOD components have not identified and designated the number and types of positions that should constitute the CEW because guidance for making such determinations has not been provided by the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Officials stated that once key assumptions regarding the size and composition of the CEW have been finalized, implementing guidance will be issued. Until guidance that instructs the components on how to identify and designate the number and types of positions that will constitute the CEW is developed, DOD may not be able to (1) make the CEW a significant portion of the civilian workforce as called for in DOD’s fiscal year 2009 Civilian Human Capital Strategic Plan, (2) meet readiness goals for the CEW as required in DOD’s Strategic Management Plan for fiscal years 2012-2013, and (3) position itself to respond to future missions.

U.S. agencies under Chief of Mission authority and DOD provided Afghanistan-specific, predeployment training to their civilians, but DOD faced challenges. State offered predeployment training courses to address its requirements for Chief of Mission personnel and designated a centralized point of contact to help ensure that no personnel were deployed without taking required training, including the Foreign Affairs Counter Threat course. While predeployment training requirements were established for Afghanistan by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Combatant Commander, DOD relied on its various components to provide the training to its civilians. In some cases, DOD components offered duplicate training courses and did not address all theater requirements in their training because DOD did not have a process for identifying and synchronizing requirements and coordinating efforts to implement them, as called for in the Strategic Plan for the Next Generation of Training for the Department of Defense. Absent this process, DOD could not ensure that its civilians were fully prepared for deployment to Afghanistan and that training resources were used efficiently.

Why GAO Did This Study

In March 2009, the President called for an expanded U.S. civilian presence under Chief of Mission authority to build the capacity of the Afghan government to provide security, essential services, and economic development. In addition, the Department of Defense (DOD) deploys civilians under combatant commander authority to Afghanistan to support both combat and capacity-building missions. DOD established the Civilian Expeditionary Workforce (CEW) in 2009 to create a cadre of civilians trained, cleared, and equipped to respond urgently to expeditionary requirements. As the military draws down, U.S. civilians will remain crucial to achieving the goal of transferring lead security responsibility to the Afghan government in 2014.

For this report, GAO (1) examined the expansion of the U.S. civilian presence in Afghanistan, (2) evaluated DOD’s implementation of its CEW policy, and (3) determined the extent to which U.S. agencies had provided required Afghanistan-specific training to their personnel before deployment. GAO analyzed staffing data and training requirements, and interviewed cognizant officials from the Department of State (State), other U.S. agencies with personnel under Chief of Mission authority in Afghanistan, and DOD.

What GAO Recommends

GAO’s recommendations to DOD include developing key assumptions and identifying the number and types of positions that should constitute the CEW, and establishing a process to identify and synchronize training requirements. DOD concurred with GAO’s recommendations.

For more information, contact Brenda S. Farrell at (202) 512-3604 or farrellb@gao.gov, or Charles Michael Johnson Jr. at (202) 512-7331 or johnsoncm@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In January 2017, DOD issued a Directive-type Memorandum concerning the Civilian Expeditionary Workforce that identifies the number and composition of the Civilian Expeditionary Workforce. Specifically, the memorandum creates a force pool that defines the number and types of civilian (e.g. series and grade range) requirements that each force provider must be prepared to provide. Furthermore, the memorandum states that the size of the force pool is derived from the actual deployments of civilians from the past two years, the current year, and the next projected year. The formalization of the process for determining the size of the civilian force pool indicates that DOD has identified key assumptions concerning the size and composition of the civilian expeditionary workforce. These actions met the intent of our recommendation.

    Recommendation: To enable DOD to make the CEW a significant portion of the civilian workforce, meet readiness goals for the CEW, and position itself to respond to future missions, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to develop key assumptions concerning the size and composition of the emergency-essential, non-combat essential, and capability-based volunteer categories referred to in the 2009 CEW directive.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In January 2017, DOD issued a Directive-type Memorandum concerning the Civilian Expeditionary Workforce that creates a force pool and identifies the number and types of deployable civilian employees each force provider is expected to provide to support overseas operations. This information allows the components to take actions to identify the resources that could be required to satisfy their commitments for deployed civilians. Furthermore, the memorandum establishes procedures to ensure DOD civilians are included in its global force management process. As a result, this memorandum and the resulting force pool enable the components to identify the deployable civilians they are each expected to provide. These actions met the intent of our recommendation.

    Recommendation: To enable DOD to make the CEW a significant portion of the civilian workforce, meet readiness goals for the CEW, and position itself to respond to future missions, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to finalize the implementation guidance to DOD components on how to identify and designate the number and types of positions that constitute the emergency-essential, non-combat essential, and capability-based volunteer categories.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In the second quarter of FY 2013, the Civilian Expeditionary Workforce (CEW) identified and eliminated duplicative predeployment training and revised the predeployment training process. According to DOD officials, this resulted in streamlined processes for weapons certification and for reviewing medical evaluations and waiver requests, which reduced the predeployment training timeline by two weeks. In addition, the predeployment guidance for the CEW was updated in December 2013 to provide a consolidated list of training requirements for deploying civilians. This listing identifies the 40 hours of on-line training that all deploying civilians must complete and the residential training that must be completed as well as identifying the theater specific training that exists for locations such as CENTCOM and SOUTHCOM.

    Recommendation: To provide a consistent approach for synchronizing predeployment training for DOD civilians, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to establish a process to identify and approve predeployment training requirements for all DOD civilians.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In December 2013, the Civilian Expeditionary Workforce (CEW) predeployment guidance was updated in consultation with combatant commanders to ensure that the training was not only comprehensive, but also eliminated duplication. This revised guidance is posted on the CEW website and includes links to the applicable training requirements for required training such as Theater Specific Individual Readiness Training and combatant commander specific training requirements. Together, this consolidated list of existing training requirements and the links to theater specific and combatant commander training requirements provide a process for DOD to ensure that the various training requirements continue to be coordinated and synchronized among and within the DOD components and with department-wide guidance.

    Recommendation: To provide a consistent approach for synchronizing predeployment training for DOD civilians, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to establish a process to coordinate with key stakeholders such as the military services and subordinate commands to ensure that requirements are synchronized among and within DOD components and with departmentwide guidance.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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