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Highlights

Since its inception in 2003, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has faced numerous human capital challenges related to recruiting, retaining, and managing its workforce of nearly 171,000 employees. As requested, this report analyzes DHS's attrition, efforts to recruit and retain staff, use of external employees, and compliance with certain provisions of the Vacancies Reform Act, which requires agencies to report to Congress and the Comptroller General vacancies in certain presidentially-appointed positions requiring Senate confirmation. To conduct its work, GAO surveyed human capital personnel from DHS and its component agencies; analyzed federal personnel data files, Office of Personnel Management (OPM) human capital documentation, and relevant legislation; and interviewed key DHS officials.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Homeland Security To help ensure compliance with the requirements of the Vacancies Reform Act, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should instruct the DHS Office of General Counsel to develop written policies and procedures that clearly explain the duties of officials.
Closed - Implemented
We found that DHS had not consistently met the reporting requirements of the Vacancies Reform Act and that it did not have in place one of the five management controls necessary to ensure its compliance with the act. Specifically, DHS did not have the management control of documented policies and procedures; staff attorneys responsible for ensuring compliance did not have formal written guidance describing compliance-related policies and procedures that must be followed to meet the reporting requirements of the act. We concluded that written documentation was important to ensure that staff attorneys and others complied with the tenure and reporting requirements of the act and as a result we recommended the Secretary of DHS instruct the DHS Office of General Counsel to develop written policies and procedures that clearly explained the duties of officials responsible for ensuring compliance and how they were to carry out those duties. In its letter pursuant to 31 U.S.C. section 720, dated September 19, 2007, DHS said that it concurred with the recommendation and that it had developed written documentation that explained the duties of officials responsible for ensuring compliance with the act and how they were to carry out those duties. DHS also indicated that this documentation would ensure that staff attorneys and others with related responsibilities were fully informed about the tenure and reporting requirements of the act. This written documentation is encompassed in a memorandum to the file prepared by DHS' Office of General Counsel. The memorandum establishes formal procedures for compliance, including formalizing responsibility within the Office of General Counsel; specifying sources of information for events that trigger the requirements of the act; and spelling out specific responsibilities for the individual charged with ensuring compliance. This management control will help ensure DHS' compliance with the act.

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