Civilian Personnel:

Additional Guidance and Consistent Data Reporting Could Help Improve the Marine Corps' Budget Management

GAO-20-148: Published: Oct 16, 2019. Publicly Released: Oct 16, 2019.

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Brenda S. Farrell
(202) 512-3604
farrellb@gao.gov

 

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youngc1@gao.gov

In fiscal year 2019, 4 of 15 Marine Corps commands either over- or underspent by $5 million or more on civilian personnel.

The Marine Corps bases its budget requests on prior fiscal year spending rather than the hours projected for full-time employees to do the work, as recommended by the Office of Management and Budget. Though this approach has benefits, such as flexibility to use employees based on mission priorities, it makes over- or underspending more likely.

We recommended the Marine Corps use OMB’s guidelines to better manage the risk of over- or underspending in future budget requests.

Cover of Defense Budget Overview

Cover of Defense Budget Overview

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Brenda S. Farrell
(202) 512-3604
farrellb@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

What GAO Found

The Marine Corps develops its civilian personnel budget request using prior fiscal year budget execution data with adjustments based on input from sources such as the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense (Comptroller) [OUSD(C)] and the Department of the Navy. As part of the Department of the Navy, the Marine Corps' budget request is added to the Navy's overall budget request, which is incorporated into the Department of Defense's (DOD) overall budget request.

The Marine Corps manages its civilian personnel based on dollar amounts—not full-time equivalent (FTE) workload like the other military services—through an approach called Manage to Payroll. Specifically, while the Marine Corps requests a certain number of FTEs each year as required by policy, the Marine Corps distributes the funds it receives to its commands by dollar amount and not based on the FTEs requested. This approach has benefits, such as providing flexibility to employ civilians based on current mission requirements. However, under this approach, for fiscal year 2019, internal Marine Corps' data show that four of its commands are either exceeding or not reaching their requested dollar amounts. Marine Corps policy does not provide guidance to its commands to manage FTEs to requested amounts. Without such updated guidance the Marine Corps risks overspending or underspending on its personnel requirements. In addition, internal Marine Corps civilian FTE data for fiscal years 2013 through 2018 is not consistent with data that OUSD(C) used to formulate DOD's overall civilian personnel budget request, as shown in the figure below.

Internal Marine Corps' Civilian Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) Data Compared with Department of Defense (DOD) Data Provided in Its Civilian Personnel Budget Request for the Marine Corps, Fiscal Years 2013 through 2018

Execution year

Internal Marine Corps FTE data

DOD FTE data provided in its budget request

Difference between Marine Corps data and DOD budget request data

Percent difference between Marine Corps data and DOD budget request data

2018

15,348

15,527

(179)

1.15%

2017

15,591

17,817

(2,226)

12.49%

2016

15,237

15,471

(234)

1.51%

2015

16,184

16,809

(625)

3.72%

2014

16,912

17,290

(378)

2.18%

2013

16,925

16,616

309

1.86%

Source: GAO analysis of Marine Corps and DOD Budget Request data. I GAO-20-148

Note: Data is rounded to nearest whole FTE. Analysis uses Operations and Maintenance data and assumes Overseas Contingency Operations are not included in execution year data.

The Marine Corps has not identified or reconciled differences between its internal data compared to data submitted in the annual budget request. If information in the Marine Corps' budget request does not reflect internal Marine Corps data, then Congress and DOD leadership may not have sufficient and appropriate information to make informed planning decisions.

Why GAO Did This Study

The Marine Corps requested $1.81 billion to pay for approximately 16,000 civilian employees in its fiscal year 2020 budget request. The Office of Management and Budget directs federal agencies to develop civilian personnel budgets by calculating workload requirements, the time needed to complete the work, and the number of FTEs needed. The Marine Corps uses a unique budget formulation process that relies on prior fiscal year budget data to calculate FTE estimates for future civilian personnel budget requests.

Senate Report 115-290, accompanying a bill for the DOD Appropriations Act, 2019, included a provision for GAO to review how the Marine Corps develops its civilian labor requirements for both FTEs and funding and examine the benefits and shortfalls of the Manage to Payroll process. This report (1) describes how the Marine Corps formulates its civilian personnel budget request and (2) assesses the Marine Corps' management of its civilian personnel budget and FTEs, including the benefits and weaknesses of the process.

GAO reviewed DOD civilian personnel budget policies, analyzed fiscal years 2013 through 2018 Marine Corps budget data that tracks spending and FTE allotment, and compared 2013 through 2018 budget execution data to budget request data.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that the Marine Corps 1) updates its budget policies to include guidance for commands to manage civilian personnel to FTEs and 2) identifies and reconciles differences between its internal data and data OUSD(C) uses to formulate the Marine Corps' annual budget request. DOD concurred with both recommendations.

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

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Navy should ensure that the Commandant of the Marine Corps updates the Marine Corps' civilian personnel budget formulation and execution policies to include guidance for the major subordinate commands to manage civilian personnel to FTEs. (Recommendation 1)

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Navy should ensure that the Commandant of the Marine Corps identifies and reconciles any differences between the Marine Corps' internal civilian personnel data and the civilian personnel data the Department of the Navy uses to support its annual budget request. (Recommendation 2)

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy

 

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