Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act:

Federal Agencies' Collaboration Generally Reflected Leading Practices, but Could Be Enhanced

GAO-18-171: Published: Feb 8, 2018. Publicly Released: Feb 8, 2018.

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What GAO Found

Federal agencies' efforts to implement Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) requirements related to regulations, program performance, and state planning aligned with most of the leading collaboration practices that GAO identified in its prior work, but could be enhanced in two areas. Officials from the Departments of Labor (DOL), Education (Education), and Health and Human Services (HHS) reported having taken actions consistent with five of seven leading collaboration practices (see table).

Table: Examples of Federal Agencies' Actions That Were Consistent with GAO's Identified Leading Collaboration Practices

Leading Collaboration Practices

Examples of Actions Taken by the Departments of Labor (DOL), Education (Education), and Health and Human Services (HHS) to Implement the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)

Defining Outcomes and Accountability

Implemented outcomes and time frames required by WIOA by establishing interim outcomes and deadlines. The agencies also identified additional outcomes and tracked their progress, for example, by developing work plans with deadlines for specific tasks.

Bridging Organizational Cultures

Shared information about differences across agencies in programs and processes. For example, identified each agency's existing process for reviewing and approving state plans before developing a joint process.

Establishing and Sustaining Leadership

Shared leadership of the collaboration by identifying a senior leader from each agency and workgroup co-chairs from each agency. These workgroup leadership roles are generally a core job responsibility.

Clarifying Roles and Responsibilities

Developed a collaboration structure, including roles and responsibilities of interagency workgroups, and a joint decision-making process involving senior leaders from each agency.

Including Relevant Participants

Involved relevant participants from DOL, Education, HHS, and other agencies as needed. Participants committed staff resources to help carry out interagency workgroup activities.

Source: GAO and analysis of information from DOL, Education, and HHS officials. | GAO-18-171

However, GAO noted that the agencies' efforts could be enhanced in two areas:

Resources. The agencies have leveraged various resources, but have not fully identified the resources needed to address technology challenges. Online collaboration tools could help address these challenges, and officials said they have used them to a limited extent based on their business needs. DOL and Education officials said the agencies are exploring options for using online tools to a greater extent, but have not fully identified their technology needs or which tools would best meet these needs. Without doing so, the agencies may be missing opportunities to collaborate more efficiently and effectively.

Written agreements. The agencies have not formally documented their agreements about how they are collaborating or sharing resources. Officials said they have not formally documented their agreements because they believed it was not necessary, and they faced time constraints. However, the agencies have experienced turnover among senior officials, and without documentation of how they are collaborating, it may take longer for newly appointed officials to become familiar with and implement collaboration efforts. In addition, without documenting decisions about how they share resources, the agencies may be missing opportunities to assess whether their approach could be enhanced.

Why GAO Did This Study

WIOA was enacted in 2014 and requires DOL, Education, and HHS to collaborate on an ongoing basis to implement the law. WIOA requirements involving interagency collaboration include issuing regulations, developing a common performance system, and overseeing state planning. In prior work, GAO identified leading practices that can enhance and sustain federal collaborative efforts. Given the ongoing collaboration required by WIOA, GAO was asked to review the collaborative approaches the agencies have used to implement the law.

This report examines the extent to which federal agencies' efforts to implement certain WIOA requirements have aligned with leading collaboration practices.

GAO reviewed relevant federal laws, regulations, and guidance. GAO also interviewed officials from DOL, Education, and HHS who led the overall collaboration effort, gathered information from interagency workgroups, and reviewed relevant documentation. In addition, GAO interviewed Office of Management and Budget staff regarding their role in this collaboration. GAO assessed the agencies' efforts against leading collaboration practices and federal internal control standards.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making 6 recommendations to DOL, Education, and HHS to better address their resource needs and document their agreements. HHS agreed with GAO's recommendations. DOL and Education neither agreed nor disagreed but planned to take actions to address the recommendations.

For more information, contact Cindy Brown Barnes, at (202) 512-7215 or brownbarnesc@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In May 2019, DOL officials reported that DOL, Education, and HHS were using SharePoint, an online collaboration tool, to jointly develop and review documents in real time. Officials said the agencies worked collaboratively to ensure that the use of SharePoint was compatible across multiple agency information technology requirements. According to officials, in 2018, DOL and Education used SharePoint to review and approve required modifications to WIOA state plans. The interagency workgroup on Shared Monitoring has also used SharePoint to compare information across agencies on monitoring plans and findings. In addition, the WIOA Interagency Coordinating Committee has used SharePoint to develop materials for the WIOA Principals, including briefing documents and agendas.

    Recommendation: The Assistant Secretary of DOL's Employment and Training Administration should work with Education and HHS to fully identify and address their technology resource needs by (1) jointly identifying and prioritizing requirements for online collaboration tools, including those related to security, (2) determining which online tools would best meet their needs, and (3) leveraging their resources to support greater use of those tools. (Recommendation 1)

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Education officials acknowledged that more work was needed in this area. The officials noted that, since our review, it has made progress in identifying and prioritizing technology needs and conducting related market research. In May 2018, Education officials reported that the agency issued a Request for Information. Education officials reported that they met with three vendors - with plans to meet a fourth vendor - to determine technology options. In addition, the agencies made progress in identifying tools to share documents. Specifically, as of June 2018, Education officials reported that the agencies were using SharePoint, an online collaboration tool, to review and approve required modifications to WIOA State Plans and to develop materials for the WIOA Principals (e.g., briefing documents, agendas, etc.). Agency officials expect that SharePoint will continue to be widely used by various inter-agency workgroups.

    Recommendation: The Assistant Secretaries of Education's Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education and Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services should work with DOL and HHS to fully identify and address their technology resource needs by (1) jointly identifying and prioritizing requirements for online collaboration tools, including those related to security, (2) determining which online tools would best meet their needs, and (3) leveraging their resources to support greater use of those tools. (Recommendation 2)

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In April 2019, HHS officials reported that HHS, DOL, and Education were using SharePoint, an online collaboration tool, to jointly develop and review documents in real time. Officials said the agencies worked collaboratively to ensure that the use of SharePoint was compatible across multiple agency information technology requirements. According to HHS officials, in 2018, DOL and Education used SharePoint to review and approve required modifications to WIOA state plans. The WIOA Interagency Coordinating Committee has also used SharePoint to develop materials for the WIOA Principals, including briefing documents and agendas. In addition, in May 2019, DOL officials reported that the interagency workgroup on Shared Monitoring has used SharePoint to compare information across agencies on monitoring plans and findings.

    Recommendation: The Director of HHS's Office of Family Assistance should work with DOL and Education to fully identify and address their technology resource needs by (1) jointly identifying and prioritizing requirements for online collaboration tools, including those related to security, (2) determining which online tools would best meet their needs, and (3) leveraging their resources to support greater use of those tools. (Recommendation 3)

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: In May 2019, DOL reported that it executed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Education to help address this recommendation. The MOU, which was signed in September 2018, helps to implement jointly-administered requirements of the WIOA and lays out resource-sharing collaboration between the agencies. It includes definitions, statutory authorities, responsibilities, reports, state plans, duration, point-of-contact information, and funding information. While the MOU documents the broad structural framework for the collaboration, the agencies have not provided documentation of specific interagency procedures and processes for accomplishing the major work of the collaboration, including providing guidance and technical assistance to states, approving state plans, and monitoring state activities. For example, regarding state plans, such documentation could include the roles of staff and managers in each of the three agencies in reviewing state plans, making final decisions about approval, and communicating decisions to states.

    Recommendation: The Assistant Secretary of DOL's Employment and Training Administration should formally document agreements with Education and HHS about how the collaboration operates and how the agencies share resources. (Recommendation 4)

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  5. Status: Open

    Comments: In May 2019, Education reported that it executed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Labor to help address this recommendation. The MOU, which was signed in September 2018, helps to implement jointly-administered requirements of the WIOA and lays out resource-sharing collaboration between the agencies. It includes definitions, statutory authorities, responsibilities, reports, state plans, duration, point-of-contact information, and funding information. While the MOU documents the broad structural framework for the collaboration, the agencies have not provided documentation of specific interagency procedures and processes for accomplishing the major work of the collaboration, including providing guidance and technical assistance to states, approving state plans, and monitoring state activities. For example, regarding state plans, such documentation could include the roles of staff and managers in each of the three agencies in reviewing state plans, making final decisions about approval, and communicating decisions to states.

    Recommendation: The Assistant Secretaries of Education's Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education and Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services should formally document agreements with DOL and HHS about how the collaboration operates and how the agencies share resources. (Recommendation 5)

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

  6. Status: Open

    Comments: In April 2019, HHS reported that the Departments of Labor and Education executed a Memorandum of Understanding to help address this recommendation. According to HHS officials, the three agencies jointly determined that because HHS does not administer the core WIOA programs, HHS would not benefit from signing the MOU. The MOU, which was signed in September 2018, helps to implement jointly-administered requirements of the WIOA and lays out resource-sharing collaboration between the agencies. It includes definitions, statutory authorities, responsibilities, reports, state plans, duration, point-of-contact information, and funding information. While the MOU documents the broad structural framework for the collaboration, the agencies have not provided documentation of specific interagency procedures and processes for accomplishing the major work of the collaboration, including providing guidance and technical assistance to states, approving state plans, and monitoring state activities. For example, regarding state plans, such documentation could include the roles of staff and managers in each of the three agencies in reviewing state plans, making final decisions about approval, and communicating decisions to states.

    Recommendation: The Director of HHS's Office of Family Assistance should formally document agreements with DOL and Education about how the collaboration operates and how the agencies share resources. (Recommendation 6)

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

 

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