Civilian Intelligence Community:

Additional Actions Needed to Improve Reporting on and Planning for the Use of Contract Personnel

GAO-14-204: Published: Jan 29, 2014. Publicly Released: Feb 13, 2014.

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What GAO Found

Limitations in the intelligence community's (IC) inventory of contract personnel hinder the ability to determine the extent to which the eight civilian IC elements--the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), and six components within the Departments of Energy, Homeland Security, Justice, State, and the Treasury--use these personnel. The IC Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO) conducts an annual inventory of core contract personnel that includes information on the number and costs of these personnel. However, GAO identified a number of limitations in the inventory that collectively limit the comparability, accuracy, and consistency of the information reported by the civilian IC elements as a whole. For example, changes to the definition of core contract personnel and data shortcomings limit the comparability of the information over time. In addition, the civilian IC elements used various methods to calculate the number of contract personnel and did not maintain documentation to validate the number of personnel reported for 37 percent of the 287 records GAO reviewed. Further, IC CHCO did not fully disclose the effects of such limitations when reporting contract personnel and cost information to Congress, which limits its transparency and usefulness.

The civilian IC elements used core contract personnel to perform a broad range of functions, such as information technology and program management, and reported in the core contract personnel inventory on the reasons for using these personnel. However, limitations in the information on the number and cost of core contract personnel preclude the information on contractor functions from being used to determine the number of personnel and their costs associated with each function. Further, civilian IC elements reported in the inventory a number of reasons for using core contract personnel, such as the need for unique expertise, but GAO found that 40 percent of the contract records reviewed did not contain evidence to support the reasons reported.

Collectively, CIA, ODNI, and the departments responsible for developing policies to address risks related to contractors for the other six civilian IC elements have made limited progress in developing those policies, and the civilian IC elements have generally not developed strategic workforce plans that address contractor use. Only the Departments of Homeland Security and State have issued policies that generally address all of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy's requirements related to contracting for services that could affect the government's decision-making authority. In addition, IC CHCO requires the elements to conduct strategic workforce planning but does not require the elements to determine the appropriate mix of government and contract personnel. Further, the elements' ability to use the core contract personnel inventory as a strategic planning tool is hindered because the inventory does not provide insight into the functions performed by contractors, in particular those that could inappropriately influence the government's control over its decisions. Without guidance, strategies, and tools related to these types of functions, the eight civilian IC elements may not be well-positioned to identify and manage related risks.

Why GAO Did This Study

The IC uses core contract personnel to augment its workforce. These contractors typically work alongside government personnel and perform staff-like work. Some core contract personnel require enhanced oversight because they perform services that could inappropriately influence the government's decision making.

This report is an unclassified version of a classified report issued in September 2013. GAO was asked to examine the eight civilian IC elements' use of contractors. This report examines (1) the extent to which the eight civilian IC elements use core contract personnel, (2) the functions performed by these personnel and the reasons for their use, and (3) whether the elements developed policies and strategically planned for their use. GAO reviewed and assessed the reliability of the eight civilian IC elements' core contract personnel inventory data for fiscal years 2010 and 2011, including reviewing a sample of 287 contract records. This sample is nongeneralizable as certain contract records were removed due to sensitivity concerns. GAO also reviewed agency acquisition policies and workforce plans and interviewed agency officials.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is recommending that IC CHCO take several actions to improve the inventory data's reliability and transparency and revise strategic workforce planning guidance, and develop ways to identify contracts for services that could affect the government's decision-making authority. IC CHCO generally agreed with GAO's recommendations.

For more information, contact Timothy J. DiNapoli at (202) 512-4841 or dinapolit@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: In providing comments on this report, the agency concurred with this recommendation but has not yet taken the actions necessary to implement it.

    Recommendation: To improve civilian IC elements' or their respective departments' ability to mitigate risks associated with the use of contractors, the Director of National Intelligence, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Attorney General of the United States, and Secretaries of Energy and the Treasury should direct responsible agency officials to set time frames to develop guidance that fully addresses the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, Policy Letter 11-01's requirements related to closely supporting inherently governmental functions.

    Agency Affected: Office of the Director of National Intelligence

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: In its letter to OMB and the Congress, the agency concurred with this recommendation and indicated it is taking steps to implement the policy.

    Recommendation: To improve civilian IC elements' or their respective departments' ability to mitigate risks associated with the use of contractors, the Director of National Intelligence, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Attorney General of the United States, and Secretaries of Energy and the Treasury should direct responsible agency officials to set time frames to develop guidance that fully addresses the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, Policy Letter 11-01's requirements related to closely supporting inherently governmental functions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: In its letter to OMB and the Congress, the agency concurred with this recommendation but has not yet taken the actions necessary to implement it.

    Recommendation: To improve civilian IC elements' or their respective departments' ability to mitigate risks associated with the use of contractors, the Director of National Intelligence, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Attorney General of the United States, and Secretaries of Energy and the Treasury should direct responsible agency officials to set time frames to develop guidance that fully addresses the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, Policy Letter 11-01's requirements related to closely supporting inherently governmental functions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: In its letter to OMB and the Congress, the agency concurred with this recommendation and indicated it is taking steps to implement the policy.

    Recommendation: To improve civilian IC elements' or their respective departments' ability to mitigate risks associated with the use of contractors, the Director of National Intelligence, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Attorney General of the United States, and Secretaries of Energy and the Treasury should direct responsible agency officials to set time frames to develop guidance that fully addresses the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, Policy Letter 11-01's requirements related to closely supporting inherently governmental functions.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury

  5. Status: Open

    Comments: The agency did not comment on our recommendation. Please contact Timothy DiNapoli at (202) 512-4841 or dinapolit@gao.gov for additional information on the status of this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To improve civilian IC elements' or their respective departments' ability to mitigate risks associated with the use of contractors, the Director of National Intelligence, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Attorney General of the United States, and Secretaries of Energy and the Treasury should direct responsible agency officials to set time frames to develop guidance that fully addresses the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, Policy Letter 11-01's requirements related to closely supporting inherently governmental functions.

    Agency Affected: Central Intelligence Agency

  6. Status: Open

    Comments: In providing comments on this report, the agency concurred with this recommendation and described steps it was taking to implement it. For example, the agency stated it will highlight all adjustments to the data over time and the implications of those adjustments in future briefings to Congress and the Office of Management and Budget.

    Recommendation: To improve congressional oversight and enhance civilian IC elements' insights into their use of core contract personnel, when reporting to congressional committees, the IC CHCO should clearly specify limitations and significant methodological changes and their associated effects.

    Agency Affected: Office of the Director of National Intelligence: IC Chief Human Capital Officer

  7. Status: Open

    Comments: In providing comments on this report, the agency concurred with this recommendation. The agency has taken steps to address the recommendation but has not yet developed a plan to enhance internal controls for compiling the inventory.

    Recommendation: To improve congressional oversight and enhance civilian IC elements' insights into their use of core contract personnel, in coordination with the IC elements, the IC CHCO should develop a plan to enhance internal controls for compiling the annual core contract personnel inventory. Such a plan could include requiring IC elements to document their methodologies for determining the number and costs of core contract personnel and the steps the elements took for ensuring data accuracy and completeness.

    Agency Affected: Office of the Director of National Intelligence: IC Chief Human Capital Officer

  8. Status: Open

    Comments: In providing comments on this report, the agency concurred with this recommendation but has not yet taken the actions necessary to implement it. The agency stated that it plans to revise Intelligence Community Directive 612 and will work to determine the most appropriate mechanism to identify the functions performed within a contract.

    Recommendation: To improve the ability of the civilian IC elements to strategically plan for their contractors and mitigate associated risks, the IC CHCO should revise the Intelligence Community Directive 612's provisions governing strategic workforce planning to require the IC elements to identify their assessment of the appropriate workforce mix on a function-by-function basis.

    Agency Affected: Office of the Director of National Intelligence: IC Chief Human Capital Officer

  9. Status: Open

    Comments: In providing comments on this report, the agency stated it would explore ways to address this recommendation. For example, the agency indicated that it is working with the IC elements to determine the feasibility of capturing this data.

    Recommendation: To improve the ability of the civilian IC elements to strategically plan for their contractors and mitigate associated risks, the IC CHCO should assess options for how the core contract personnel inventory could be modified to provide better insights into the functions performed by contractors when there are multiple services provided under a contract.

    Agency Affected: Office of the Director of National Intelligence: IC Chief Human Capital Officer

  10. Status: Open

    Comments: In providing comments on this report, the agency stated it would explore ways to address this recommendation. For example, the agency indicated that it is working with the IC elements to determine the feasibility of capturing this data.

    Recommendation: To improve the ability of the civilian IC elements to strategically plan for their contractors and mitigate associated risks, the IC CHCO should require the IC elements to identify contracts within the core contract personnel inventory that include services that are critical or closely support inherently governmental functions.

    Agency Affected: Office of the Director of National Intelligence: IC Chief Human Capital Officer

 

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