Posthearing Questions Related to Agencies' Implementation of the Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCO) Act

GAO-04-897R: Published: Jun 18, 2004. Publicly Released: Jun 18, 2004.

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J. Christopher Mihm
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This letter responds to the request by the Chairwoman, Subcommittee on Civil Service and Agency Organization, House Committee on Government Reform that GAO provide answers to follow-up questions from recent hearing entitled "First Year on the Job: Chief Human Capital Officers."

GAO has not identified any barriers or obstacles that would prevent the Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCO) Council from completing its strategic plan, which is in draft, in a timely manner, although the Council has not established a target date for completion. Developing a strategic plan can help the Council clarify organizational priorities and unify the Council's members in the pursuit of shared goals. The nation's large and growing long-term fiscal imbalance and a range of other 21st century challenges are driving a fundamental transformation of the federal government. This transformation requires a comprehensive reexamination of what the government does, how it does business, and in some cases, who does its business. Ultimately, to successfully transform, the federal government must change its culture to become more results-oriented, customer-focused, and collaborative. The Council can play a key role in helping agencies implement human capital policies and facilitating the oversight responsibilities of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). OPM and agencies need to continue to work together to improve the hiring process, and the CHCO Council should be a key vehicle for this needed collaboration. The successful integration of CHCOs into the leadership teams of the agencies is best evidenced and evaluated by how well they help the agency achieve strategic results and pursue its mission. Because the CHCOs have only been in place a little over a year, it is too early to assess results. However, agency CHCOs told us that the CHCO Act has lent support to their efforts by establishing a single point within the agencies with the perspective, responsibility, and authority to ensure the successful implementation of strategic human capital initiatives. In addition, the CHCOs identified different strategies the agencies employed to integrate the CHCO position into their leadership teams, underscoring that there is no single best model for all agencies and all circumstances. As time passes and agency CHCOs become more established in their roles and responsibilities, it will become exceedingly difficult for CHCOs to devote the necessary time and attention to the CHCO role if CHCOs are "dual-headed" with other key functions. GAO has testified that the challenges facing most agencies in financial and information management required full-time leadership by separate individuals with appropriate talent, skills, and experience in these two areas. There is not necessarily any one model that is either the most appropriate for or that will guarantee success at every federal department and agency. The mission, size, and culture unique to each federal agency make it unwise to prescribe any single approach. GAO anticipates that the CHCO Council will play a key role in leading the federal government's human capital reform efforts. Our experience with the CFO Act shows the importance of having a central advisory group to help promote the implementation of financial management reform. The Council has successfully set an agenda by creating five subcommittees to address and recommend change for five key areas identified by the Council's leadership as critical to the success of the strategic management of the human capital initiative outlined in the President's Management Agenda. Several of the issues coincide with the four key areas (leadership; strategic human capital planning; acquiring, developing, and retaining talent; and results-oriented organizational cultures), which GAO identified in its high-risk series on strategic human capital management. The urgency of addressing the key human capital challenges the government f aces will require the CHCO Council to become very active in providing input to OPM on the results of its activities and OPM to effectively use the Council to enhance the ability of agencies to strategically manage their human capital to accomplish transformational change.

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