Human Capital:

DOD Needs Complete Assessments to Improve Future Civilian Strategic Workforce Plans

GAO-12-1014: Published: Sep 27, 2012. Publicly Released: Sep 27, 2012.

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What GAO Found

Over the last decade, Congress has passed legislation requiring the Department of Defense (DOD) to conduct human capital planning efforts for the department's civilian workforce. Specifically, section 115b of Title 10 of the United States Code, enacted in October 2009, requires DOD to develop and submit to congressional defense committees a strategic workforce plan to shape and improve the department's civilian workforce. Among other things, the law requires DOD to report on the mission-critical skills, competencies, and gaps in its existing and future civilian workforces; the appropriate mix of military, civilian, and contractor personnel capabilities; and the department's progress in implementing its strategic workforce plan using results-oriented performance measures. While DOD has addressed some of its reporting requirements to some extent, it has not addressed others.

  • DOD, to varying degrees, assessed the existing and future critical skills and competencies for 21 of the 22 occupations that it has identified as mission critical, but conducted competency gap assessments only for 8 of these 22 occupations. In some but not all cases, DOD provided details about skills and competencies. However, it did not report the results of any of its gap analyses for its mission-critical occupations.
  • DOD did not assess the appropriate mix of military, civilian, and contractor workforces or provide an assessment of the capabilities of each of these workforces. Only two of the civilian community managers who provided input presented data on all three workforces. The remaining nine community managers provided data only on military and civilian personnel. DOD guidance requires, among other things, that DOD missions be accomplished with the least costly mix of military, civilian, and contractor personnel, consistent with military requirements and other needs of the department.
  • DOD assessed progress in implementing its strategic workforce plan by using newly developed measures that contain characteristics of valid results-oriented performance measures, but these measures are not aligned with DOD's statutory reporting requirements. For example, although DOD is required to conduct gap analyses and assess its workforce mix, it is unclear how the measures that DOD developed will help to address these requirements.

The input to DOD's strategic workforce plan on critical skills and competencies varied, in part, because the reporting template that DOD sent to its civilian personnel community managers did not contain sufficient detail and clear definitions. Also, the template did not provide departmental expectations for conducting gap analyses or communicate clear guidance for reporting on workforce mix assessments. Without sufficiently detailed guidance to help ensure complete reporting, input into future plans will continue to vary and the plan's usefulness as a workforce planning document will be diminished. Further, in those cases where DOD's performance measures are not aligned with its congressionally mandated reporting requirements, it is difficult for DOD to demonstrate progress against those requirements.

Why GAO Did This Study

As of June 2012, DOD reported a full-time civilian workforce of about 780,000 personnel. According to DOD, about 30 percent of its civilian workforce and 60 percent of its civilian senior leaders will be eligible to retire by March 31, 2015. Such potential loss may result in significant skill gaps. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 requires GAO to submit a report on DOD's 2010-2018 strategic civilian workforce plan. In response, GAO determined the extent to which DOD identified critical skills, competencies, and gaps; assessed its workforce mix; and measured progress in implementing its strategic workforce plan. GAO analyzed DOD's strategic workforce plan and supporting documents, and met with managers of four functional communities within the civilian personnel community (information technology, financial management, logistics, and law enforcement), because they represent the three largest and the one smallest of the functional communities, to determine how they conducted their strategic workforce planning.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommendations include that DOD issue clearer guidance for assessing its skills and competencies, conduct and report on gap analysis of mission-critical occupations, clarify its guidance for assessing workforce mix issues, and enhance its performance measures to align with congressionally mandated reporting requirements. DOD concurred or partially concurred with GAO's recommendations. While DOD raised some issues about the need for further actions, GAO continues to believe that DOD's workforce planning could be enhanced.

For more information, contact Brenda S. Farrell at (202) 512-3604 or farrellb@gao.gov

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In September 2019, officials with DOD's Strategic Human Capital Planning Division stated that a revised strategic workforce plan is in development to address new executive branch workforce planning requirements issued in CFR 250 by the Office of Personnel and Management. The officials stated that the new workforce plan will be completed and issued in fiscal year 2020 and will address this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To meet the congressional requirement to conduct assessments of critical skills, competencies, and gaps for both existing and future civilian workforces, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to include in the guidance that it disseminates for developing future strategic workforce plans clearly defined terms and processes for conducting these assessments.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with this recommendation. DOD used the Defense Competency Assessment Tool (DCAT), which is central to DOD's competency management approach for assessing competency gaps and identifying workforce competencies and strategies for closing skill gaps, to develop competency models for all of its mission critical occupations that do not already have separate certification requirements. As of 2019, DOD used DCAT to create competency models and conduct assessments of gaps for each of its mission-critical occupations. The competency and gap analyses resulting from DCAT will help ensure that functional community managers provide consistent and reliable information about DOD's civilian workforce mission critical occupation to decision makers in DOD and Congress. The reporting requirement for the results of these analyses under section 115b of Title 10 of the United States Code was repealed in December 2016.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that Congress has the necessary information to provide effective oversight over DOD's civilian workforce, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to conduct competency gap analyses for DOD's mission-critical occupations and report the results. When managers cannot conduct such analyses, DOD should report a timeline in the strategic workforce plan for providing these assessments.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In September 2020, officials with DOD's Strategic Human Capital Planning Division stated that the 2007 statutory requirements for DOD to conduct human capital planning, which were the basis for the recommendation, had been rescinded. According to the officials, the department is now focused on addressing newly issued OPM human capital planning requirements.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that the data presented in DOD's strategic workforce plans are current and timely, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to establish and adhere to timelines that will ensure issuance of future strategic workforce plans in accordance with statutory timeframes.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In September 2020, officials with DOD's Strategic Human Capital Planning Division stated that the 2007 statutory requirements for DOD to conduct human capital planning, which were the basis for the recommendation, had been rescinded. According to the officials, the department is now focused on addressing newly issued OPM human capital planning requirements.

    Recommendation: To enhance the information that DOD provides Congress in its strategic workforce plan, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to provide guidance for developing future strategic workforce plans that clearly directs the functional communities to collect information that identifies not only the number or percentage of personnel in its military, civilian, and contractor workforces but also the capabilities of the appropriate mix of those three workforces.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with our recommendation and noted that it did not believe any additional direction from the Secretary of Defense was needed. However, DOD stated that the measures in the fiscal year 2010-2018 strategic workforce plan do assess progress both in implementing the strategic workforce plan and in meeting the legislative requirements of section 115b of Title 10 of the United States Code. In an attachment to its comments, DOD provided a matrix that demonstrated some alignment between the performance measures and the statutory criteria. In June 2014, DOD issued its 2014-2019 strategic workforce plan that included an updated self-assessment to measure its efforts in meeting the statutory requirements and more clearly aligned the performance measures with requirements.

    Recommendation: To better develop and submit future DOD strategic workforce plans, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to enhance the department's results-oriented performance measures by revising existing measures or developing additional measures that will more clearly align with DOD's efforts to monitor progress in meeting the strategic workforce planning requirements in section 115b of Title 10 of the United States Code.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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