Federal Emergency Management Agency:

Workforce Planning and Training Could Be Enhanced by Incorporating Strategic Management Principles

GAO-12-487: Published: Apr 26, 2012. Publicly Released: Apr 26, 2012.

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What GAO Found

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is taking steps to integrate its workforce planning and training efforts across the agency consistent with critical success factors for strategic human capital management such as initiating working groups to coordinate related activities, but its efforts are in the early stages. Until recently FEMA’s efforts related to workforce planning have been independently conducted by various offices across the agency. In January 2012, FEMA human capital officials reported that they began integrating agencywide workforce planning initiatives underway by other program offices, such as FEMA’s Qualification System, which was developed to establish qualification requirements for FEMA’s workforce for deployment purposes, among other things. Additionally, FEMA’s Human Capital Office plans to release a directive that, according to officials, will address the need for integrating the agency’s training efforts consistent with critical success factors for strategic human capital management. Having integrated workforce planning and training could help FEMA ensure that it has the properly sized and skilled workforce to effectively meet its mission. However, the effectiveness of these integration efforts is dependent upon FEMA following through with its plans and it is, therefore, too early to assess their impact.

FEMA has taken steps to incorporate some strategic management principles into its workforce planning and training efforts but could incorporate additional principles to ensure a more strategic approach is used to address longstanding management challenges. Specifically, FEMA’s leadership has demonstrated commitment to effectively plan for and train its workforce, but has not established specific long-term goals, such as integrating agencywide training efforts, or quantifiable annual performance measures for these efforts. Such goals and metrics could help ensure accountability for FEMA’s workforce planning and training. Further, FEMA’s workforce planning and training could be enhanced by establishing lines of authority for these efforts. For example, FEMA’s Human Capital Office is responsible for providing leadership and direction for the agency’s human capital programs, but officials said that they have little authority over workforce planning efforts across the agency. Identifying lines of authority could help provide a strategic focus to FEMA’s workforce planning and training and ensure the agency is held accountable for the success of these efforts.

FEMA has not developed processes to systematically collect and analyze agencywide workforce and training data that could be used to better inform its decision making. Specifically, the contractor who conducted a March 2010 baseline assessment of FEMA’s workforce reported that they gathered workforce data from three different databases to conduct their analysis, noting that conflicting data from these databases had to be resolved to make the information useable for their analysis. Additionally, FEMA has taken steps to track training information, but its tracking processes do not provide a reliable account of all training activities of FEMA employees. Developing systematic processes to collect and analyze its agencywide workforce and training data could help FEMA make more informed decisions.

Why GAO Did This Study

FEMA, within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), employs a workforce of over 18,000 people, who are responsible for leading and supporting the nation in preparing for, protecting against, responding to, recovering from, and mitigating all hazards. GAO reported in 2007 and 2011 that changes in FEMA's workforce, workload, and composition have created challenges in FEMA’s ability to meet the agency's varied responsibilities and train its staff appropriately. GAO was asked to review FEMA’s workforce planning and training efforts. This report addresses: the extent to which FEMA has (1) integrated its workforce planning and training efforts, (2) incorporated strategic management principles into these efforts, and (3) systematically gathered workforce and training data to inform its human capital decisions. GAO reviewed relevant documentation that describes FEMA’s agencywide workforce planning and training efforts, such as the agency’s strategic plan, reviewed and assessed FEMA’s strategic planning documents, and interviewed DHS and FEMA program and regional office officials.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that FEMA: identify long-term quantifiable mission-critical goals; establish a time frame for completing the development of quantifiable performance measures; establish lines of authority for agencywide workforce planning and training efforts; and develop systematic processes to collect and analyze workforce and training data. DHS concurred with all recommendations.

For more information, contact David C. Maurer at (202) 512-9627 or maurerd@gao.gov.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To help ensure that FEMA's agencywide workforce planning and training efforts are conducted in a comprehensive and integrated manner, the FEMA Administrator should establish a time frame for completing the development of quantifiable performance measures related to workforce planning and training efforts.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Emergency Preparedness and Response: Federal Emergency Management Agency

    Status: Open

    Comments: In April 2012, GAO reported that FEMA's workforce planning and training efforts could also benefit from the development of specific and quantifiable performance measures aligned with annual performance goals. While FEMA's Fiscal Year 2010 Human Capital Operational Plan documents the agency's strategic initiatives, priorities, related deliverables, and target deadlines, but does not identify outcome-oriented measures to assess the agency's progress in meeting its workforce planning and training goals. As a result, GAO recommended that the FEMA Administrator should establish a time frame for completing the development of quantifiable performance measures related to workforce planning and training efforts. In September 2013, FEMA provided GAO a copy of its Employee Development Division Evaluation Strategy which sets forth how FEMA will measure success, including measurements related to adoption (seats filled, number of attendees, etc.); utility (gaps/needs met); efficiency (cost per student and investment per employee); attainment (Stakeholder expectations met); Alignment (Audit of curriculum to processes and job/task/function analyses, competencies being addressed, etc.); and impact (learner experience and manager support). According to FEMA, the agency has been pilot testing the collection of data; and planned to begin collecting on October 1, 2013. While FEMA has taken steps to establish timeframes for developing quantifiable performance measures related to its training efforts, it has not provided documentation that it has developed similar measures for its workforce planning efforts. In order to fully address this recommendation, FEMA would need to provide documentation on established timeframes for completing the development of quantifiable performance measures related to the agency?s workforce planning efforts.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that FEMA's agencywide workforce planning and training efforts are conducted in a comprehensive and integrated manner, the FEMA Administrator should identify and document long-term and quantifiable mission critical goals that reflect the agency's priorities for workforce planning and training.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Emergency Preparedness and Response: Federal Emergency Management Agency

    Status: Open

    Comments: In April 2012, GAO reported that FEMA has developed initiatives and defined related outcomes for the management of its workforce, but neither the current Strategic Human Capital Plan nor the current FEMA strategic plan identify long-term, specific mission critical goals related to the agency's on-going workforce planning and training efforts. As a result, GAO recommended that the FEMA Administrator should identify and document long-term and quantifiable mission critical goals that reflect the agency's priorities for workforce planning and training. In September 2013, FEMA provided GAO a memo from its Acting Chief Component Human Capital Officer on supervisory training requirements, which, according to FEMA, supports Administrator's Imperative #2 - Foster Innovation and Learning and Priority #5 - Achieve Business and Management Excellence. FEMA also noted that the agency just awarded a contract to revise the existing Mission Readiness Course. In addition, FEMA provided GAO with information on the mission and goals of the Employee Development Division, that intends to provide developmental opportunities that meet the learning needs of employees and enhance mission accomplishment of the Agency. In order to fully address this recommendation, FEMA would need to provide documentation on any established long-term and quantifiable mission critical goals related to the agency's workforce planning and training efforts.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that FEMA's agencywide workforce planning and training efforts are conducted in a comprehensive and integrated manner, the FEMA Administrator should clearly establish lines of authority for agencywide workforce planning and training efforts.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Emergency Preparedness and Response: Federal Emergency Management Agency

    Status: Open

    Comments: In April 2012, GAO reported that clearly identifying lines of authority, through its Strategic Human Capital Plan or other strategic planning documents, could provide a strategic focus to FEMA's workforce planning and training efforts and could help ensure the agency is held accountable for the success of these efforts. As a result, GAO recommended that the FEMA Administrator should clearly establish lines of authority for agencywide workforce planning and training efforts. In September 2013, FEMA informed GAO that the EDD Director and Deputy participate on the FEMA Training Committee (FTC) as the Action Officers for Mission Support and Human Capital. FEMA also reported that the agency is currently drafting policy/manuals on Leader Development, Training Standards, Individual Development Plans, Continuing Service Agreements, Rotational Assignments, Executive Development, and Training Plans. FEMA also reported that EDD team is working with the Policy and Planning Team from the OCCHCO Front Office on workforce planning efforts. FEMA, however, did not provide documentation demonstrating that lines of authority for agencywide workforce planning and training efforts have been clearly established. To fully address this recommendation, FEMA would need to provide such documentation.

    Recommendation: To better inform FEMA's decision-making related to agencywide workforce planning and training efforts, the FEMA Administrator should develop systematic processes to collect and analyze workforce and training data.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Emergency Preparedness and Response: Federal Emergency Management Agency

    Status: Open

    Comments: In April 2012, GAO reported that FEMA's workforce-related decisions could be enhanced by developing systematic processes to collect and analyze its agencywide workforce and training data. As a result, GAO recommended that the FEMA Administrator should develop systematic processes to collect and analyze workforce and training data. In September 2013, FEMA informed GAO that EDD is utilizing the ISD Traveler Form to track all development and document process for each course. FEMA reported that it has just begun gathering data, and its first quarterly report would be produced in mid-October. Further, FEMA stated that it should have sample reports for all elements of the evaluation strategy available after FY14- Q1. FEMA, however, did not provide documentation that it has developed a systematic process to collect and analyze workforce data. To fully address this recommendation, FEMA would need to provide documentation that it has completed its efforts to develop a systematic process to collect and analyze training data and provide documentation that it has completed similar efforts to develop systematic processes to collect and analyze workforce data.

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