Coast Guard:

Actions Needed to Improve Strategic Allocation of Assets and Determine Workforce Requirements

GAO-16-379: Published: May 24, 2016. Publicly Released: Jun 14, 2016.

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What GAO Found

The Coast Guard developed and uses the Standard Operational Planning Process to annually allocate asset (aircraft and vessels) resource hours to field units for meeting missions, but the headquarters' Strategic Planning Directions used in this process do not provide field units with strategic, realistic goals. Rather, headquarters' Strategic Planning Directions allocate maximum resource hour capacities for each asset—such as 700 hours per Jayhawk helicopter per year. As shown below, these asset allocations have consistently exceeded actual asset resource hours used by field units. By better incorporating data on assets' actual use that field units provide to Coast Guard headquarters—such as Operational Performance Assessment Reports —to inform asset allocation goals in its Strategic Planning Directions, the Coast Guard would better ensure that it effectively communicates strategic intent to its field units and makes more informed asset allocation decisions that are aligned with its strategic goals.

Comparison of Total Asset Resource Hours Allocated in Strategic Planning Directions to the Actual Asset Resource Hours Used, Fiscal Years 2010 – 2015

Comparison of Total Asset Resource Hours Allocated in i Strategic Planning Directions

Note: In fiscal year 2014, lower resource hour use was planned because of anticipated budget reductions as a result of sequestration. Hours for assets used exclusively for training were excluded.

The Coast Guard has developed management tools, such as manpower requirements analyses, to help it determine workforce requirements and help align its personnel with its missions. However, a Coast Guard official responsible for these analyses stated that the Coast Guard cannot meet the demand for these analyses because it does not have sufficient staff and a system to help analyze and prioritize the manpower requirements analyses that need to be completed. Without a systematic process for prioritizing the most important manpower requirements analyses to complete, consistent with leading program management practices, the Coast Guard does not have reasonable assurance that the highest priority missions are fully supported with the appropriate number of staff possessing the requisite mix of skills and abilities.

Why GAO Did This Study

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Coast Guard has been charged with expanded missions. Further, constrained budgets in recent years have underscored the importance of strategically allocating its assets and personnel to meet these missions.

GAO was asked to review the Coast Guard's resource allocation process. This report addresses the extent to which the Coast Guard: (1) employs an effective process to strategically allocate assets to meet its missions, and (2) has determined workforce requirements and addressed identified personnel needs.

GAO reviewed Coast Guard planning and workforce requirements documents and asset performance data for fiscal years 2010 through 2015. GAO also discussed the planning process and personnel needs with Coast Guard officials at headquarters; as well as at the two Area and nine District Commands.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making three recommendations to the Coast Guard, including to incorporate field unit input to inform its allocation decisions and to develop a systematic process that prioritizes the most critical manpower requirements analyses to complete. DHS concurred with the recommendations and stated it is taking actions, such as including field unit input into its planning process and prioritizing manpower requirements analyses of unstudied units, as resources permit.

For more information, contact Jennifer A. Grover at (202) 512-7141 or groverj@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: On December 14, 2016, the Coast Guard noted that the FY 2017 Strategic Planning Direction (SPD) was issued, which addresses GAO's recommendation and requested closure of this recommendation. However, in reviewing the SPD, it was not clear how asset allocations were changed to reflect actual asset performance by the field units. GAO asked for further details. In February 2018, the Coast Guard liaison stated that Coast Guard management made a decision to not to address this recommendation within the annual Strategic Planning Direction (SPD) or Operational Planning Direction (OPD) products as previously planned, but rather within the Standard Operational Planning Process/Global Force Management Process Guide. The liaison further stated that both of these documents are currently under revision and expected to be completed by March 31, 2018, and that copies of the documents will be provided to GAO once completed.

    Recommendation: To improve transparency in allocating its limited resources, and to help ensure that its resource allocation decisions are the most effective ones for fulfilling its missions given existing risks, the Commandant of the Coast Guard should document how the risk assessments conducted were used to inform and support its annual asset allocation decisions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: United States Coast Guard

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: On December 14, 2016, the Coast Guard noted that it submitted two FY 2019 Resource Proposals to staff and equip the Manpower Requirements Determination Division to conduct the analysis as described in the recommendation. In April, 2016, the Coast Guard liaison stated that, resources permitting, the Coast Guard is to address the following steps: (1) Validate the "unit-type" list so that it encompasses the vast majority of active duty and civilian billets in a logical framework that can be readily analyzed, review/update the list as changes (e.g., asset mix, organizations) occur. (2) Develop the requirements for the envisioned Manpower Analysis & Simulation Tool (MAST). (3) Prioritize unit list according to strategic alignment and risk assessments. (4)Conduct the manpower requirements analyses (MRA) in accordance with established priorities. In February 2018, the Coast Guard provided a status update for each of the four actions steps, as follows: (1) The update to the "unit-type" list has been completed. (2) An FY 2020 Resource Proposal was submitted, but did not score high enough to be included in the budget submission. The Coast Guard is exploring resource neutral options. (3) The updated prioritization process is to be included in the next update to the Staffing Logic and Manpower Requirements Manual, estimated in the 3rd quarter of 2018. (4) Development of the MRAs is ongoing.

    Recommendation: To ensure that high priority mission activities are fully supported with the appropriate number of staff possessing the requisite mix of skills and abilities, the Commandant of the Coast Guard should develop a systematic process that prioritizes manpower requirements analyses for units that are the most critical for achieving mission needs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: United States Coast Guard

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: On December 14, 2016, the Coast Guard noted that the Atlantic Area and Pacific Area Commands' Operational Planning Directions (OPDs) were approved and provided to their field units and that the OPDs took into account the actual performance of the assets in the allocation of asset hours to field units in line with GAO's recommendation. However, in reviewing the planning documents, it was not clear how asset allocations were changed to reflect actual asset performance by the field units. GAO asked for further details. In February 2018, the Coast Guard liaison stated that Coast Guard management made a decision to not to address this recommendation within the annual Strategic Planning Direction (SPD) or Operational Planning Direction (OPD) products as previously planned, but rather within the Standard Operational Planning Process/Global Force Management Process Guide. The liaison further stated that both of these documents are currently under revision and expected to be completed by March 31, 2018, and that copies of the documents will be provided to GAO once completed.

    Recommendation: To improve the strategic allocation of assets, the Commandant of the Coast Guard should incorporate field unit input, such as information on assets' actual performance from Operational Performance Assessment Reports and Planning Assessments, to inform more realistic asset allocation decisions--in addition to asset performance capacities currently used--in the annual Strategic Planning Directions to more effectively communicate strategic intent to field units.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: United States Coast Guard

 

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