DOJ Workforce Planning:

Grant-Making Components Should Enhance the Utility of Their Staffing Models

GAO-13-92: Published: Dec 14, 2012. Publicly Released: Dec 14, 2012.

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What GAO Found

The Department of Justice's (DOJ) three grant-making components--the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), and the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW)--have partially met five of six leading practices, and fully met another, to ensure that the staffing models the contractor prepared for each of them to assess their workloads and workforce capacities are sound and reliable. These six leading practices are broad areas that represent a summary of the activities that should take place during the three stages of model design, development, and deployment. For example, the components partially met the leading practice for ensuring the credibility of data used in the models. This practice includes both verifying with staff that the models accurately depict the component's operations--an activity in which they fully engaged--and testing the models for logic and accuracy--an activity in which they partially engaged. Specifically, the components did not comprehensively check all of the models' formulas, and GAO found errors with all three components' models' retirement calculations. When left uncorrected, such errors have implications for workforce-related decisions and, ultimately, can affect the efficiency and effectiveness of component operations. In contrast, the components fully met one leading practice and its associated activities for leveraging stakeholders. For example, all three components engaged grant managers and senior program officials when working with the contractor to apply their knowledge and experience to design and develop the models. Moving forward, fully incorporating leading practices when updating the models for future use will better position the grant-making components to capitalize on the models' capacity and facilitate effective workforce planning and budgeting.

Due to the deficiencies GAO identified in the design, development, and deployment of the staffing models, grant-making components have not used the models to identify workforce gaps or to inform the preparation of annual budget requests. In particular, the three grant-making components have not used the models to determine critical skills and competencies of staff and identify related gaps. Further, officials from all three components stated that they would like to, or plan to, use the models to inform the upcoming fiscal year 2015 budget requests, but they do not yet have a strategy for doing so. For example, officials from all three grant-making components recognize that their human capital staff will need to share and interpret the data in the models with their budget staff, but as of late September 2012, no time frames, coordination principles, or guidance were in place to ensure this exchange of information. Standard practices for project management, including budget development, involve the establishment of timelines, coordination principles, and guidance. Developing, documenting, and implementing a strategy that includes these elements could help the grantmaking components better use the models to inform budget development. In particular, such a strategy should account for the full incorporation of leading practices to ensure the models are sound and reliable and that the quantifiable data from the models provide the proper context and justification to the Congress for the funding levels the components request.

Why GAO Did This Study

DOJ annually awards billions of dollars to thousands of grant recipients, which presents administrative and workload challenges for DOJ's workforce. In May 2011, DOJ's grant-making components began deploying new staffing models to analyze their workloads and better ensure that staffing levels and personnel assignments reflect their responsibilities. In November 2011, the conference report accompanying DOJ's FY 2012 appropriation directed GAO to evaluate each component's staffing model. In response, this report addresses (1) the extent to which the grant-making components incorporated leading practices to ensure that their staffing models are sound and reliable and (2) the components' use of the models to inform their workforce planning efforts, and the extent to which they used the models for budget development. GAO reviewed the staffing models the components procured under contract in 2011, and the updated, 2012 versions; identified six leading practices based on our prior work for ensuring the models' soundness and reliability; and assessed the components' actions for meeting each practice. GAO also interviewed component officials about their use of the models.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that DOJ components fully incorporate leading practices to help ensure their staffing models' soundness and reliability, and develop and implement a strategy for using the models to inform workforce planning and budget development. DOJ agreed with these recommendations and reported it would take actions to address them.

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

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: Per DOJ 60-day letter issued 2/20/2013: OVW has created a Desktop Operating Procedures guide, which includes step-by-step instructions on how to update its staffing model. OVW's Human Resources Liaison Specialist will also provide hands-on training to identified users of the model. In December 2012, the COPS Office (COPS) prepared a "Lessons Learned" document outlining a methodology for updating, reviewing, and testing formulas in its staffing model. COPS plans to expand the document into a set of guidelines to include a detailed methodology to test the logic and accuracy of the model, specific steps for checking the accuracy of data, which will include ensuring updated work activities are reviewed and certified by managers. Staff are being trained using the "Lessons Learned" document, and these training procedures will be included in the new guidelines. In February 2014, COPS stated that a staff member hired in 2013 to work on the model had received limited training due to staff departures and other time-sensitive tasks. In December 2012, OJP began to draft a Workforce Planning Order to codify roles and responsibilities of staff involved in reviewing and operating its staffing model, as well as other workforce planning efforts, and expects to publish the order by the end of Fiscal Year 2014. In the Spring of 2013, OJP published a Workforce Planning Policy to provide additional guidance and outline data quality procedures, including a review process for data entered into the model, as well as clear methods for confirming the accuracy of data and verifying model results. In January-February 2013, OJP provided hands-on training to staff responsible for the model operation, with all staff responsible for working with the model scheduled to attend training on/before February 6, 2013. Additionally, OJP has trained budget staff and senior managers on model operations. OJP, the COPS Office, and OVW will continue to conduct internal meetings to collaborate, coordinate, and share best practices regarding updates and changes to the model. Per DOJ follow up in June 2013: OVW provided documentation of two new procedures implemented to support review and approval of the staffing model changes. OVW also provided documentation confirming that it had completed its assignment of staff to operate and review the Model and established the key roles and responsibilities of these staff; and provided documentation that training was delivered to key personnel in March 2013. OVW stated that formal training was scheduled to continue in the coming months. In July 2013, COPS reported developing the Workforce Planning Tool Procedures Manual for use with the Workforce Planning Tool. They provided a summary document of what the procedures manual will include and stated that it expects to complete the final procedures manual by the end of the 2nd quarter of FY2014. In September 2013, OJP stated it was in the process of developing a Workforce Planning Order and a procedures manual. It provided a draft procedures manual and in March 2014, estimated that the Order and manual would be published that spring. OJP stated that it follows the Department's record retention policies and plans to incorporate specific record retention information relative to the staffing model in its policy guidance (manual). In February and March of 2014, OVW, COPS and OJP stated they were delaying updates to their record management policies - per instructions from DOJ's Office of Records Management, which is conducting a DOJ-wide inventory - and will resume when that effort is complete. OVW also stated that by mid-2014 it plans to hire a staff member to oversee model modification, maintenance and training. However, OVW has been delayed in completing its Workforce Planning Guidance due to a shortage of staff, turnover in contractor support and the need to address other departmental priorities. Status current as of 7/23/14.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the leadership of OJP, the COPS Office, and OVW to fully incorporate leading practices to ensure that their respective staffing models are sound and reliable, by: (1) implementing a more rigorous data review process with clear methods for confirming the credibility of data and verifying the results the staffing models generate; (2) reviewing changes to the data in the models to ensure accuracy and documenting and maintaining records of changes to protect model integrity; (3) defining and determining the respective roles and responsibilities of staff involved in reviewing, operating, and assisting with the staffing models; and (4) identifying training needs that address staff needs to fulfill responsibilities associated with the staffing models.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: Office of Justice Programs

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: Per DOJ 60-day letter received 2/20/13, in January 2013, OJP developed a strategy that includes timeframes, outlines coordination efforts, defines metrics and provides guidance for building budget submissions. The strategy is intended to be a roadmap for integrating OJP's workforce planning efforts with budget formulation and strategic planning. The strategy sets out to accomplish three things: 1) Formalize collaboration on operational planning. By institutionalizing policies and procedures, to support change and formalizing roles and responsibilities OJP-wide, OJP can take into account the full incorporation of GAO's leading practices to ensure its staffing model is sound and reliable; 2) Ensure OJP has the right number of employees, in the right positions, with the right skills, at the right time to best serve the criminal, juvenile, and victims' services fields. By operationalizing a transparent, repeatable business planning process linked to budget formulation, OJP can deliver more robust, evidence-based information to internal and external customers, and inform long-term human capital strategies; and 3) Leverage technology and tools. OJP plans to use technology and available tools to enable fact-based resource planning for new and existing programs and activities and to help respond to external inquiries relative to future resources requests. Similar efforts are underway at the COPS Office and OVW. Staff members at the COPS Office responsible for management of the workload tool are working with budget staff in a coordinated effort to build model outputs based on the respective year's budget submission. These efforts will be outlined as procedures in a set of guidelines which will include a strategy to include timelines, coordination efforts and guidance for building budget submissions that will also incorporate the leading practices to ensure that the model is sound and reliable. OVW is similarly working towards incorporating model outputs that inform the respective budget submissions. Per follow up with DOJ in June 2013, OVW stated that to ensure Model soundness, OVW developed an Action Log, which staff assigned to input data into the Model complete with the changes/updates made to the Model. As an added layer of validation, OVW also developed an Approval Log. The current OVW Model causes any staff eligible to retire in the next 12 months to be counted as eligible in the current calendar year, irrespective of the actual year of eligibility. This was the only identified improvement area that OVW was not able to fix directly. As such, OVW has contacted the developer of the Model to assist in correcting the retirement calculation formulas. Also, OVW stated that key components of the strategy are in development. They also stated that, OVW remains under a hiring freeze and therefore resources are currently not available to fully implement this strategy. In September 2013, OJP provided a copy of its Workforce Planning Tool Procedures Manual (Manual). According to the milestone chart in OJP's Workforce Planning Strategy provided to GAO in September 2013, various strategic actions are set to occur over the course of 12 months from the date the document was effective. OJP stated they will review the strategy document each year to evaluate progress and update the document as needed. In July 2013, the COPS Office stated that they did not use the model for their FY2015 budget request based on guidance from OMB. The COPS Office explained that the 2014 projections were completed based on the FY2014 President's Budget Guidance received from OMB and the DOJ Justice Management Division. Status current as of 7/23/14.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the leadership of OJP, the COPS Office, and OVW to develop, document, and implement a strategy that includes timelines, coordination efforts, and guidance for building budget submissions that takes into account the full incorporation of leading practices to ensure the staffing models are sound and reliable.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: Office of Justice Programs

 

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