Defense Management:

DOD Needs to Take Additional Actions to Promote Department-Wide Collaboration

GAO-18-194: Published: Feb 28, 2018. Publicly Released: Feb 28, 2018.

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Elizabeth Field
(202) 512-2775
FieldE1@gao.gov

 

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What GAO Found

The Department of Defense (DOD) has implemented some of the statutory requirements outlined in section 911 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017 to address organizational challenges, but could do more to promote department-wide collaboration, as required under the NDAA. Specifically, DOD:

  • Drafted an organizational strategy that includes the two required statutory elements, but does not outline how DOD will advance a more collaborative culture, as required by statute. Incorporating GAO's leading practices on mergers and organizational transformations, such as setting goals, would help DOD better advance a collaborative culture.
  • Plans to coordinate review of the organizational strategy with some DOD offices, but has not followed GAO's leading practices for collaboration—to coordinate with key stakeholders, such as the Secretary of Defense and the military departments—in drafting the strategy. Without obtaining key stakeholder input, DOD may not be well positioned to improve collaboration across the department.
  • Established one cross-functional team to address the backlog on security clearances and developed draft guidance for cross-functional teams that addresses six of seven required statutory elements and incorporates five of eight leading practices that GAO has identified for effective cross-functional teams (see figure). Fully incorporating all statutory elements and leading practices will help the teams consistently and effectively address DOD's strategic objectives.

GAO Assessment of the Extent to Which DOD's Draft Guidance Addresses Leading Practices for Effective Cross-Functional Teams

GAO Assessment of the Extent to Which DOD's Draft Guidance Addresses Leading Practices for Effective Cross-Functional Teams

  • Developed a draft training curriculum for Presidential appointees in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. However, the curriculum addresses only one of four required statutory elements, and has not been provided to appointees. In addition, although the statute allows a waiver for this training, DOD has not developed criteria for such a waiver. Providing training for these officials or ensuring that appropriate criteria are used to waive training will improve DOD's ability to implement its new organizational strategy.

Why GAO Did This Study

DOD continues to confront organizational challenges that hinder collaboration. To address these challenges, section 911 of the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2017 directed the Secretary of Defense to issue an organizational strategy that identifies critical objectives which span multiple functional boundaries and that would benefit from the use of cross-functional teams. Additionally, DOD is to establish cross-functional teams to support this strategy.

The NDAA also included a provision for GAO to assess DOD's actions in response to section 911. This report evaluates the extent to which DOD, in accordance with statutory requirements and leading practices, has (1) developed and issued an organizational strategy, (2) established Secretary of Defense-empowered cross-functional teams, and (3) provided associated training for Office of the Secretary of Defense leaders. GAO analyzed DOD's draft organizational strategy, draft guidance on establishing cross-functional teams, and draft training curriculum. GAO also interviewed DOD officials and subject-matter experts and identified leading practices for effective cross-functional teams.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making four recommendations to DOD, including revising its organizational strategy, collaborating with key stakeholders on the development of its organizational strategy, revising cross-functional team guidance, and providing training. DOD concurred with GAO's recommendations.

For more information, contact Elizabeth Field at (202) 512-2775 or FieldE1@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Priority recommendation

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation. Based on our review of an October 2018 version of the draft organizational strategy, officials from the Office of the Chief Management Officer (OCMO) revised the strategy to identify potential action steps for the department that align with each of the nine leading practices for mergers and organizational transformations that we have identified in our prior work. For example, consistent with the leading practice for establishing a coherent mission and integrated strategic goals to guide the transformation, OCMO officials revised the draft strategy to propose that the CMO, in coordination with stakeholders, could develop an implementation plan with detailed initiatives for increasing collaboration and information sharing across the department. According to the draft strategy, this plan could include goals and milestones for these initiatives, and the CMO could report periodically on the achievement of the goals. Further, consistent with the leading practice to involve employees to obtain their ideas and gain their ownership for the transformation, OCMO officials proposed that a representative from OCMO could chair an action officer-level governance body to plan and share performance information related to this effort. According to the draft strategy, this governance body would solicit feedback about the related changes, propose changes to new policies and procedures based on the feedback, and manage the implementation and tracking of the established goals. OCMO's revisions appear to meet the intent of our recommendation; however, DOD had not issued the final organizational strategy as of December 2018. To fully implement this recommendation, DOD needs to issue the final organizational strategy with these revisions.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the Chief Management Officer (CMO), in its revisions to the draft organizational strategy, address how the department will promote and achieve a collaborative culture, as required under section 911 of the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2017. The CMO could accomplish this by incorporating our leading practices on mergers and organizational transformations. (Recommendation 1)

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Open

    Priority recommendation

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation. Officials from the Office of the Chief Management Officer (OCMO) stated that the CMO plans to coordinate the review and approval of the draft organizational strategy across components within the department, but as of December 2018 had not done so. To fully implement this recommendation, DOD needs to demonstrate that the department sought and incorporated input, as appropriate, from stakeholders across the department, including the Secretary of Defense, military departments, combatant commands, and defense agencies, prior to the issuance of the final organizational strategy.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the CMO obtain stakeholder input on the development of the organizational strategy from key stakeholders, including the Secretary of Defense, the military departments, the combatant commands, and defense agencies. (Recommendation 2)

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation. Based on a March 2018 version of the draft cross-functional team guidance we reviewed, the Office of the Chief Management Officer (OCMO) has taken steps to address our recommendation. For example, consistent with the practice for open and regular communication, OCMO revised the guidance to state that the cross-functional team leaders and OCMO will encourage and facilitate continuous communication and information sharing. According to the revised guidance, the team leaders and OCMO will accomplish this through co-location of team members, management practices by cross-functional team leaders that promote a unified team culture and trust, and use of collaborative information technology tools maintained by OCMO. OCMO's revisions appear to meet the intent of our recommendation; however, DOD had not issued the final guidance as of December 2018. To fully implement this recommendation, DOD needs to issue the final guidance with these revisions.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the CMO fully address all requirements in section 911 of the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2017 and incorporate leading practices for effective cross-functional teams in guidance on Secretary of Defense-empowered cross-functional teams. (Recommendation 3)

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation. In October 2018, an official from the Office of the Chief Management Officer (OCMO) stated that OCMO had revised the draft training curriculum for individuals filling presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed positions in the Office of the Secretary of Defense to include all of the required elements in section 911. However, as of December 2018, OCMO had not provided the required training to the presidential appointees. To fully implement this recommendation, we will need to review the revised training curriculum to determine if it contains all of the required elements in section 911 and obtain documentation that presidential appointees in the Office of the Secretary of Defense have received the training or were granted training waivers.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the CMO either: (a) provide training for presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed individuals in the Office of the Secretary of Defense that includes the required elements--leadership, modern organizational practice, and collaboration--in section 911 of the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2017, or (b) develop criteria for obtaining a waiver and have the Secretary of Defense request such a waiver from the President for these required elements if the individual possesses--through training and experience--the skill and knowledge otherwise to be provided through a course of instruction. (Recommendation 4)

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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