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
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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  • Established one cross-functional team to address the backlog on security clearances and developed draft guidance for cross-functional teams that addresses six of seven required statutory elements and incorporates five of eight leading practices that GAO has identified for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GAO Assessment of the Extent to Which DOD's Draft Guidance Addresses Leading Practices for Effective Cross-Functional Teams

GAO Assessment of the Extent to Which DOD's Draft Guidance Addresses Leading Practices for Effective Cross-Functional Teams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

    Priority recommendation

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation. The organizational strategy was approved by the Secretary of Defense in October 2019 and issued department-wide in December 2019. As we reported in January 2020, consistent with our recommendation, the organizational strategy includes a list of our leading practices and states that DOD is committed to further incorporating and institutionalizing these practices at every opportunity. Further, in DOD's comments on our January 2020 report, DOD also stated that detailed implementing guidance on cross-functional teams, which is to be issued by the Chief Management Officer, would incorporate policies based on best practices for cultivating a collaborative organizational climate. These actions are responsive to our recommendation, which has been closed as implemented.

    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: Closed - Implemented

    Priority recommendation

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation. In July 2019, the Deputy Chief Management Officer (CMO), who was performing the duties of CMO, formally issued a memorandum requesting coordination of the organizational strategy in order to get input from key stakeholders across the department. The organizational strategy was widely coordinated, including with the Secretaries of the Military Departments, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Chief Information Officer. The organizational strategy was subsequently approved by the Secretary of Defense in October 2019 and issued department-wide in December 2019. By obtaining key stakeholder input, DOD was able to issue an organizational strategy that reflects the Secretary of Defense's objectives and improves collaboration across the department. These actions are responsive to our recommendation, which has been closed as implemented.

    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. In December 2019, the Secretary of Defense approved DOD's guidance on cross-functional teams. We found that this two-page guidance addresses most, but not all, of the 911 requirements and leading practices for cross-functional teams. Specifically, it addresses in whole or in part six of the seven section 911 requirements and six of the eight leading practices. The Secretary-approved guidance also directs the Chief Management Officer (CMO) to develop more detailed implementing guidance. According to an Office of the CMO (OCMO) official, OCMO plans to use previously drafted terms of reference as the basis for the CMO's more detailed implementing guidance. Based on our review, when the Secretary of Defense approved guidance is considered along with the draft terms of reference expected to serve as detailed implementing guidance, both documents will fully address all section 911 requirements and leading practices for effective cross-functional teams. To fully implement this recommendation, the CMO will need to develop and issue this detailed implementing guidance to fully address section 911 requirements and our leading practices for effective cross-functional teams. According to an OCMO official, as of April 2020, OCMO was still in the process of developing the detailed implementing guidance.

    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. According to an OCMO official, as of April 2020, the curriculum had been approved and the training had been provided, but as of July 2020, the department had not provided documentation of the updated curriculum or of the training being provided. 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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