Housing and Urban Development:

Strategic Human Capital and Workforce Planning Should be an Ongoing Priority

GAO-13-282: Published: Mar 15, 2013. Publicly Released: Mar 15, 2013.

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What GAO Found

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) reports that it is moving forward with strategic human capital and workforce planning efforts after several years of delays. HUD's most recent workforce plan expired in 2009 and since then HUD has launched several planning efforts. According to HUD, these efforts were preempted by other important priorities, such as responding to the economic crisis. HUD undertook initiatives such as training key program office staff on the need to determine up front the staff HUD could afford to hire. In HUD's latest effort, a contractor is expected to complete human capital and workforce plans no later than fiscal year 2014. In June 2012, an Office of Personnel Management (OPM) review found that HUD's human capital and workforce planning activities did not always follow key principles for planning, implementing, and evaluating the results of human capital management policies and practices. For example, the review found that HUD's human resources policies and programs are not aligned with the organization's mission, strategic goals, or performance outcomes. As a result of these weaknesses, OPM concluded that HUD cannot continually assess and improve human capital planning and investments or measure the impact on mission accomplishment.

HUD is reexamining its resource management processes, which do not fully consider all standards identified by the National Academy of Public Administration in a 1999 report on ways that HUD could address its resource management challenges. GAO's review found that HUD provides central guidance on how work is defined and collected, and involves headquarters and field staff in the workload definition process. However, HUD has not created incentives or accountability for staff to report accurate workload data. GAO found that HUD's program offices selectively use the department's resource estimation and allocation process (REAP) to define workload and estimate resources and there is no widespread agreement that the process produces the quality of data needed to effectively estimate resources. As a result, staff are entering information into the Total Estimation and Allocation Mechanism (TEAM), REAP's validation component (which compares actual staff time to estimated staff time) on an inconsistent basis and officials report that the information is often not used to inform decision-making.

HUD's budget submission could more clearly explain the underlying rationale for HUD's budget request, even though primary users acknowledge that 2013 was an improvement over prior years. The primary users of the congressional budget justification (CBJ) are appropriations staff who said that CBJs from fiscal years 2008 to 2012 generally contained data tables for some program areas and did not always contain narrative that explained or justified the full-time equivalent request. According to HUD officials, HUD provided data tables because prior submissions with more detail did not prompt questions from Congress. Users of the CBJs GAO spoke to agreed that the fiscal year 2013 changes which provided more detail improved the clarity and utility of the justifications, but some still raised questions about the lack of adequate, consistent information available to help Congress make resource allocation decisions.

Why GAO Did This Study

HUD has faced challenges accurately determining the staff resources it needs to fulfill its mission of creating strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. GAO's prior work has shown that strategic human capital management, including efficient and effective workforce planning, helps ensure agencies have people with the skills needed to carry out their missions. GAO was directed to review the status of HUD's workforce planning efforts. GAO reviewed (1) HUD's strategic human capital and workforce planning efforts; (2) the extent to which HUD's resource management systems reflects identified standards; and (3) how clearly HUD presents its rationale behind staff resource requests in the budget request. GAO reviewed department-wide human capital and resource management efforts and selected four of the largest HUD program offices for further review. GAO reviewed documentation of HUD planning efforts and interviewed HUD officials and relevant congressional staff. The results from the reviews of the four program offices cannot be generalized to all offices within HUD.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that the Secretary of HUD follow through on developing and maintaining human capital and workforce plans that clearly incorporate key principles; create incentives for staff to report accurate data for managing staff resources; and consult with congressional decision makers to determine what additional information about resource decisions should be presented, and how, in its CBJ. HUD agreed with GAO's recommendations.

For more information, contact Michelle Sager at (202) 512-6806 or sagerm@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: On February 27, 2015, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) published finalized Strategic Workforce Plan and the Human Capital Strategic Plan for fiscal years 2015-2018. On November 7, 2013, Office of the Chief Human Capital Office (OCHCO) at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) submitted an interim draft of the Strategic Workforce Plan and the Human Capital Strategic Plan for fiscal years 2014-2018 to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Additionally, OCHCO said that as of December 2, 2013, the interim plans have been under review to solicit additional feedback from the department's program offices. OCHCO officials said that they plan to incorporate feedback from the program offices and OCHCO stakeholders into the final documents.

    Recommendation: To improve the human capital planning, workforce planning, and resource management processes at HUD, the Secretary of HUD should follow through on developing and maintaining strategic human capital and workforce plans.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: On February 27, 2015, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) published final Strategic Workforce Plan and the Human Capital Strategic Plan for fiscal years 2015-2018. GAO is in the process of reviewing these final plans to determine whether the plans clearly incorporate the key principles of human capital and workforce planning. HUD is in the process of developing the Strategic Workforce Plan and the Human Capital Strategic Plan for fiscal years 2014-2018. Once the plans are finalized, we will determine whether the plans clearly incorporate the key principles of human capital and workforce planning. As of March 21, 2014, HUD projected completion of both plans within next 30-60 days.

    Recommendation: To improve the human capital planning, workforce planning, and resource management processes at HUD, the Secretary of HUD should ensure that human capital and workforce plans clearly incorporate key principles.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: In March 17, 2015 and September 25, 2014 email correspondence, HUD reported taking steps to address this recommendation. In 2014, HUD OCFO repeatedly publicized to all Program Areas the importance that TEAM data plays in the decision-making process for budget formulation and execution. HUD's specific accomplishments include: (1) complete review and update of all HUD Program Areas' Time Estimation and Allocation Mechanism (TEAM) time and workload codes to ensure that data collected and reported reflected workload performed in their respective Program Areas; (2) agency-wide TEAM refresher training for supervisors, TEAM Program Coordinators and TEAM National Program Coordinators. Training focused on purpose, benefits, and uses of TEAM data and reports in supporting FTE allocations and its use in developing and defending annual budget submissions; (3) mid-year budget hearings, chaired by the Acting Deputy Secretary for each of HUD's Program Area, highlighted TEAM data usage comparing the actual FTE usage, by function, with the FTE allocations requested in the FY2014 Budget. Program Areas were asked to explain significant variances and make adjustments as necessary; and (4) all Program Areas developed their FY2016 budget proposals using TEAM workload data reports which provided their actual 12 month FTE usage as a baseline for projecting their FY2016 requirements. In its September 25, 2014 email, HUD reported taking steps to address this recommendation. Specific accomplishments include: (1) FY2014 and FY2015 budget submissions have been met with positive reviews from both OMB and the Hill as to the level of detail provided; (2) in submitting HUD's FY2015 CBJs, HUD utilized OMB's MAX document management system which facilitated quicker delivery and coordination of these documents with OMB; (3) HUD's FY2016 CBJs submission to OMB will be followed up with a request for feedback from OMB on what worked well and where they would like to see further improvement. As of March 24, 2014, we are still awaiting for HUD's response to our recommendation on collecting data that are used for decision-making.

    Recommendation: To improve the human capital planning, workforce planning, and resource management processes at HUD, the Secretary of HUD should collect data that are used for decision-making, thus creating incentives for staff to report accurate data for the resource management system.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: In its March 17, 2015 and September 25, 2014, emails HUD reported taking steps to address recommendations and documents to support their work. Specifically, HUD continues to engage with its OMB and Congressional stakeholders to ensure the data presented in HUD's Congressional Justifications (CJ) provide clear and concise information on HUD resources, and justification for our requests. For example, HUD asked OMB and Congressional staff for specific feedback on CJ materials and what they would like to see in the FY2016 budget. In response to stakeholders' comments, HUD adjusted CJ formulation and guidance process to make them more concise and include more evidence and hard data. To do so, HUD worked with program offices to reduce narrative and eliminate redundancies and reduce the length of CJs, which was positively received by the stakeholders. HUD's program offices also worked with the Office of Policy Development & Research and OCFO Budget, to identify and incorporate the most relevant evidence in support of the request. In its September 25, 2014 email, HUD reported taking steps to address this recommendation. HUD reported continued work with its OMB and Congressional stakeholders to ensure the data presented in our CBJs provide a clear and concise representation of our resource requirements. Specific accomplishments include: (1) FY2014 and FY2015 budget submissions have been met with positive reviews from both OMB and the Hill as to the level of detail provided; (2) in submitting HUD's FY2015 CBJs, HUD utilized OMB's MAX document management system which facilitated quicker delivery and coordination of these documents with OMB; (3) HUD's FY2016 CBJs submission to OMB will be followed up with a request for feedback from OMB on what worked well and where they would like to see further improvement. As of March 24, 2014, we are still awaiting for HUD's response about the department's efforts to consult with the users of the Congressional Budget Justifications.

    Recommendation: To improve the quality of HUD's CBJ, the Secretary of HUD should consult with users of the CBJ, such as congressional decision makers, to determine what additional information about resource decisions should be presented, and how, in its CBJ.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

 

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