Human Capital:

Strategic Approach Should Guide DOD Civilian Workforce Management

T-GGD/NSIAD-00-120: Published: Mar 9, 2000. Publicly Released: Mar 9, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed civilian personnel downsizing in the Department of Defense (DOD) and a framework that could be useful for approaching its human capital management challenges in the future.

GAO noted that: (1) DOD has undergone a very significant downsizing of its civilian workforce; (2) this downsizing is expected to continue through the first half of this decade, resulting in a total reduction in the civilian workforce of about 43 percent from 1989 levels; (3) in part due to staffing reductions already made, imbalances appear to be developing in the age distribution of DOD civilian staff; (4) the average age of this staff has been increasing, while the proportion of younger staff, who are the pipeline of future agency talent and leadership, has been dropping; (5) to cope with downsizing, as well as to become more efficient, DOD also has numerous reform initiatives under way to change the way it does business; (6) these efforts are expected to continue into the forseeable future; (7) changes in business practices can affect the kinds of competencies that staff must have to efficiently and effectively carry out their responsibilities; (8) developments like these call for a strategic approach to human capital planning; (9) in a broader sense, assessing human capital management policies and practices also is consistent with the management framework that Congress has adopted to focus agencies' attention on managing results; (10) to help agencies assess their human capital management policies and practices, GAO developed a five-part self-assessment framework that GAO believes can be useful in aligning human capital management with agencies' missions, goals, and other needs and circumstances; (11) federal agencies--DOD included--can and must define the kind of workforce they will need in the coming years, develop plans for creating that workforce, and follow up with the actions and investments needed so that when the future arrives, the right employees--with the right skills, training, tools, structures, and performance incentives--will be on hand to meet it; and (12) the framework, whose parts, of necessity, are interrelated and overlapping, includes: (a) strategic planning; (b) organizational alignment; (c) leadership; (d) talent; and (e) performance culture.

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