DOD Civilian Personnel:

Comprehensive Strategic Workforce Plans Needed

GAO-04-753: Published: Jun 30, 2004. Publicly Released: Jun 30, 2004.

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During its downsizing in the early 1990s, the Department of Defense (DOD) did not focus on strategically reshaping its civilian workforce. GAO was asked to address DOD's efforts to strategically plan for its future civilian workforce at the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), the military services' headquarters, and the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). Specifically, GAO determined: (1) the extent to which civilian strategic workforce plans have been developed and implemented to address future civilian workforce requirements, and (2) the major challenges affecting the development and implementation of these plans.

OSD, the service headquarters, and DLA have recently taken steps to develop and implement civilian strategic workforce plans to address future civilian workforce needs, but these plans generally lack some key elements essential to successful workforce planning. As a result, OSD, the military services' headquarters, and DLA--herein referred to as DOD and the components--do not have comprehensive strategic workforce plans to guide their human capital efforts. None of the plans included analyses of the gaps between critical skills and competencies (a set of behaviors that are critical to work accomplishment) currently needed by the workforce and those that will be needed in the future. Without including gap analyses, DOD and the components may not be able to effectively design strategies to hire, develop, and retain the best possible workforce. Furthermore, none of the plans contained results-oriented performance measures that could provide the data necessary to assess the outcomes of civilian human capital initiatives. The major challenge that DOD and most of the components face in their efforts to develop and implement strategic workforce plans is their need for information on current competencies and those that will likely be needed in the future. This problem results from DOD's and the components' not having developed tools to collect and/or store, and manage data on workforce competencies. Without this information, it not clear whether they are designing and funding workforce strategies that will effectively shape their civilian workforces with the appropriate competencies needed to accomplish future DOD missions. Senior department and component officials all acknowledged this shortfall and told us that they are taking steps to address this challenge. Though these are steps in the right direction, the lack of information on current competencies and future needs is a continuing problem that several organizations, including GAO, have previously identified.

Status Legend:

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  • 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 improve the comprehensiveness of strategic workforce planning for the DOD civilian workforce, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the military service headquarters, and the Defense Logistics Agency to build upon their strategic workforce planning efforts by analyzing and documenting the gaps between current critical skills and competencies and those needed for the future workforce.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with GAO's recommendation that the department analyze and document critical skills and competency gaps between its current and future workforces. The department stated that in the first quarter of fiscal year 2004, in accordance with the DOD Human Resources Strategic Plan, the department began gap analyses of 13 core mission occupations ("skills") and 23 critical support occupations ("skills") that are generally essential throughout the department, and that they are expected to remain core and critical support requirements in the future. According to DOD, the department continues to monitor these occupations quarterly and supplement the analyses, as necessary, to meet emerging technologies and missions. DOD closed this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To improve the comprehensiveness of strategic workforce planning for the DOD civilian workforce, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the military service headquarters, and the Defense Logistics Agency to build upon their strategic workforce planning efforts by developing workforce strategies to fill the identified skills and competency gaps.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with GAO's recommendation that the department develop workforce strategies to fill identified workforce gaps in skills and competencies. The department stated that it is actively engaged in developing strategies to fill identified skills gaps and noted that its new human capital management system, the National Security Personnel System, will provide for increased personnel flexibilities designed to address workforce challenges by streamlining hiring procedures, allowing for flexible classification approaches and using a pay for performance system designed to meet organizational mission and strategic goals. DOD closed this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To improve the comprehensiveness of strategic workforce planning for the DOD civilian workforce, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the military service headquarters, and the Defense Logistics Agency to build upon their strategic workforce planning efforts by establishing results-oriented performance measures to use in evaluating workforce planning efforts.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Regarding GAO's recommendation that the department establish results-oriented performance measures to use in evaluating its workforce planning efforts, the department concurred, noting that it is committed to focusing on results and using data in evaluating workforce planning. According to the department, it currently requires results-oriented performance measures in the DOD Human Resources Strategic Plan and in all components' HR Strategic Plans. During FY 2003, 21 standard HR metrics modeled on Fortune 500 companies' key HR metrics were developed to evaluate the effectiveness of DOD HR operations. As of June 2004, per DOD, 16 of these measures had been implemented. In January 2007, DOD said that the metrics were replaced with elements of the Office of Personnel Management, Human Capital Assessment and Accountability Framework's recommended metrics and the revised Monitoring the Status of Forces metrics approved by the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense, Personnel and Readiness (DUSD P&R).

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