DOD Personnel:

DOD Comments on GAO's Report on DOD's Civilian Human Capital Strategic Planning

GAO-03-690R: Published: Apr 18, 2003. Publicly Released: Apr 18, 2003.

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Derek B. Stewart
(202) 512-5559


Office of Public Affairs
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In response to a Congressional request, we issued a report in March 2003 on the Department of Defense's (DOD) strategic planning efforts for civilian personnel at DOD and selected defense components, including the four military services and two defense agencies. In that report we made recommendations to the Secretary of Defense to strengthen civilian human capital planning, including integration with military personnel and sourcing initiatives. DOD's response to our March 2003 report and recommendations were received too late to be included in that report. To provide our perspective on DOD's comments, we briefly summarize our March 2003 report's objectives, results, and recommendations and DOD's comments, along with our evaluation of the comments. DOD's civilian employees play key roles in such areas as defense policy, intelligence, finance, acquisitions, and weapon systems maintenance. Although downsized 38 percent between fiscal years 1989 and 2002, this workforce has taken on greater roles as a result of DOD's restructuring and transformation. Responding to congressional concerns about the quality and quantity of, and the strategic planning for, the civilian workforce, we determined the following for DOD, the military services, and selected defense agencies (the Defense Contract Management Agency and the Defense Finance and Accounting Service): (1) the extent of top-level leadership involvement in civilian strategic planning; (2) whether elements in civilian strategic plans are aligned to the overall mission, focused on results, and based on current and future civilian workforce data; and (3) whether civilian and military personnel strategic plans or sourcing initiatives were integrated.

We found that generally civilian personnel issues appear to be an emerging priority among top leaders in DOD and the defense components. Although DOD began downsizing its civilian workforce more than a decade ago, it did not take action to strategically address challenges affecting the civilian workforce until it issued its civilian human capital strategic plan in April 2002. Top-level leaders in the Air Force, the Marine Corps, the Defense Contract Management Agency, and the Defense Finance and Accounting Service have initiated planning efforts and are working in partnership with their civilian human capital professionals to develop and implement civilian strategic plans; such leadership, however, was increasing in the Army and not as evident in the Navy. High-level leadership is critical to directing reforms and obtaining resources for successful implementation. Moreover, DOD has not provided guidance on how to align the components' plans with the department-level plan. Without this alignment, DOD's and its components' planning may lack the focus and coordination needed (1) to carry out the Secretary of Defense's transformation initiatives in an effective manner and (2) to mitigate risks of not having human capital ready to respond to national security events at home and abroad. We also found that the human capital strategic plans we reviewed for the most part lacked key elements found in fully developed plans. Most of the civilian human capital goals, objectives, and initiatives were not explicitly aligned with the overarching missions of the organizations. Consequently, DOD and the components cannot be sure that strategic goals are properly focused on mission achievement. Also, none of the plans contained results-oriented performance measures to assess the impact of their civilian human capital initiatives (i.e., programs, policies, and processes). Thus, DOD and the components cannot gauge the extent to which their human capital initiatives contribute to achieving their organizations' mission. Finally, the plans did not contain data on the skills and competencies needed to successfully accomplish future missions; therefore, DOD and the components risk not being able to put the right people, in the right place, and at the right time, which can result in diminished accomplishment of the overall defense mission. Moreover, the civilian strategic plans did not address how the civilian workforce will be integrated with their military counterparts or sourcing initiatives. DOD's three human capital strategic plans--two military and one civilian--were prepared separately and were not integrated to form a seamless and comprehensive strategy and did not address how DOD plans to link its human capital initiatives with its sourcing plans, such as efforts to outsource non-core responsibilities. The components' civilian plans acknowledge a need to integrate planning for civilian and military personnel--taking into consideration contractors--but have not yet done so. Without an integrated strategy, DOD may not effectively and efficiently allocate its scarce resources for optimal readiness.

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