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Highlights

What GAO Found

The Department of Defense (DOD) does not comprehensively or routinely assess the continuing need for its defense agencies and DOD field activities (DAFAs). DOD was statutorily required to review the services and supplies each DAFA provides to ensure there is a continuing need for each and that the provision of services and supplies by each DAFA, rather than by the military departments, is more effective, economical, or efficient. A DOD directive requires the recording of the review. DOD previously issued biennial reports to Congress to record its review. Since 2012, DOD has relied on existing processes to fulfill the requirement; such as the annual budget process and the day-to-day management of the DAFAs. However, DOD did not provide sufficient evidence that these processes satisfy the statute. For example, while DOD reviews the DAFAs during the budget process, it does not specifically review the provision of services by the DAFAs rather than the military departments. Further, DOD does not have internal guidance that provides clear direction for conducting and recording its response to the statutory requirement. Without such guidance, DOD is limited in its ability to clearly define or target the scope of its reviews and any resulting reports. As such, DOD and congressional decision makers may not have reasonable assurance of a continuing need for the DAFAs, or that the provision of services and supplies is effective, economical, and efficient.

There is fragmentation and overlap within the DAFAs that provide human resources services to other defense agencies or organizations within DOD. At least six DOD organizations, including three DAFAs, perform human resources services for other parts of the department. One DAFA receives human resources services from all six organizations. This has resulted in negative effects, such as inconsistent performance information regarding hiring, fragmented information technology systems, and inefficiencies associated with overhead costs. For example, DOD officials stated that there are over 800 fragmented information technology systems used to store and record training records across the department, which are costly to maintain. DOD established a reform team to reduce inefficiencies within this business function. However, the team lacks comprehensive information on overhead costs that could guide reform and does not have time frames or deliverables for completing certain reform initiatives. With consistent human resource performance information, comprehensive information on overhead costs, and clear time frames in place, the team would be better positioned to thoroughly assess the department's system for human resources service delivery and develop and implement long-term solutions for better coordination or consolidation of this function.

DOD has taken some steps to monitor and evaluate the results of key efficiency initiatives that affect the DAFAs. However, DOD has not always established baselines or performed ongoing monitoring of its initiatives. Further, DOD has focused on whether steps have been taken, rather than outcomes achieved. For example, DOD did not evaluate whether a prior efficiency initiative called the Core Business Process Review achieved any of its intended savings or led to expected efficiencies. Without ensuring that efficiency initiatives are fully monitored and evaluated against established baselines over time, DOD lacks a systematic basis for evaluating whether its various initiatives have improved the efficiency or effectiveness of its programs or activities.

Why GAO Did This Study

DOD spends billions of dollars annually to maintain business functions that support the warfighter. Many of these functions are performed by the DAFAs—DOD's 19 defense agencies and 8 field activities intended to provide department-wide consolidated support functions. GAO has previously identified instances of fragmentation, overlap, and duplication among the DAFAs.

Senate Report 115-125, accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, included a provision that GAO review the DAFAs. This report evaluates the extent to which (1) DOD has assessed the continuing need for each DAFA; (2) any overlap or fragmentation among the DAFAs that provide human resources services has affected service delivery; and (3) DOD has monitored and evaluated the results of its efficiency initiatives that affect the DAFAs. GAO reviewed legal requirements, assessed prior DOD reports, and analyzed DOD's human resources activities and documentation tracking past efficiency initiatives.

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Recommendations

GAO is making five recommendations, including for DOD to develop internal guidance to conduct and record its reviews of DAFAs; collect consistent performance information and comprehensive overhead cost information; establish time frames and deliverables for key reform efforts; and ensure routine and comprehensive monitoring and evaluation of ongoing efficiency initiatives. DOD concurred with GAO's recommendations.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense 1. The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the Chief Management Officer (CMO) develops internal guidance that defines the requirements and provides clear direction for conducting and recording reviews of the Defense Agencies and DOD Field Activities in response to 10 U.S.C. § 192(c). This guidance, which could be similar to the guidance that exists for assessments of the combat support agencies, should reflect the key elements of quality evaluations. (Recommendation 1)
Closed - Implemented
DOD concurred with this recommendation and noted planned actions. In its written comments, DOD stated that the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 gives the CMO additional specific authorities and substantially rewrites the requirements of section 192(c). In April 2019, DOD submitted to Congress its initial plan for business operations reform, which provided an initial plan, schedule, and cost estimate for conducting reforms within the enterprise business operations across all organizations and elements of the department. The plan describes in detail the Office of the CMO's responsibilities for conducting efficiency and effectiveness reviews of the Defense Agencies and DOD Field Activities in order to identify duplicative activities. Further, in August 2019, in response to this recommendation, DOD issued guidance for reviews of the DAFAs. The guidance reflects key elements of quality evaluations including: (1) requiring frequent data-driven reviews that would support high quality, sufficient, and appropriate data for their evaluations; (2) establishing a clear criteria for selecting DAFAs to review, and (3) ensuring results of the review are relevant to leadership stakeholders. DOD's actions meet the intent of this recommendation and it is considered closed as implemented.
Department of Defense 2. The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the CMO, with input from the human resources management team, requires that all DOD human resources providers adopt consistent time-to-hire measures, as one process for assessing performance. (Recommendation 2)
Open
DOD concurred with this recommendation and noted planned actions. DOD's Human Resources Reform Team has 3 objectives as part of its reform agenda, including civilian hiring improvements. DOD issued its initial plan for business operations reform in April 2019, which includes detailed information and timelines for actions carried out and planned for this reform team. It stated that the team would conduct an annual review of components' time-to-hire plans and work towards establishment of common DOD process and metrics for civilian hiring and establishing baselines and goals for quality metrics through the end of fiscal year 2019. Further, quarterly assessment of survey data using baseline quality metrics is planned to begin in early fiscal year 2020. DOD officials stated that a departmentwide Time-to-Hire Workgroup was established in March 2019 and conducted six workshops to develop a reengineered process map for civilian hiring and an associated implementation plan. Implementation is to occur along with a new IT system for civilian human resources that is expected to be deployed in fiscal year 2021, but we have not received documentation of the specific requirements for implementation.
Department of Defense 3. The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the CMO, through the human resources management reform team, identifies time frames and deliverables for identifying and adopting optimal IT solutions for human resources and fully assessing, identifying, and implementing the most effective and efficient means of human resources service delivery. (Recommendation 3)
Open
DOD concurred with this recommendation and noted planned actions. In its written comments, DOD stated the department is on track to achieve substantial savings through its reform team efforts and CMO emphasis on strong management practices, integrated processes, and best value business investments. DOD issued its initial plan for business operations reform in April 2019, which included detailed information regarding the department's plans for reforming its human resources service delivery. Subsequently, DOD identified 3 human resources management IT system reform projects aimed as identifying and adopting optimal IT systems for its overall civilian human resource management, the defense travel program, and overall training and learning. The reform management group has overseen these reform projects. DOD officials stated that it expects these optimal IT systems to be fully operational later in fiscal year 2020 and 2021. Further, DOD has identified timeframes throughout fiscal year 2023 for identifying and implementing an effective and efficient shared service delivery model for human resources. DOD has made considerable progress in identifying optimal IT systems and service delivery model for its human resources services, and we will continue to monitor the assessment and implementation of these systems and delivery models.
Department of Defense 4. The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the CMO, through the human resources management reform team, collects information on the overhead costs charged by all DOD human resources service providers to assist in determining the most effective, economical, and efficient model of human resources service delivery within the department. (Recommendation 4)
Open
DOD concurred with this recommendation and noted planned actions. In its written comments, DOD stated the department is on track to achieve substantial savings through its reform team efforts and CMO emphasis on strong management practices, integrated processes, and best value business investments. DOD issued its initial plan for business operations reform in April 2019, which included detailed information regarding the department's plans for reforming its human resources service delivery. As part of this effort, DOD officials stated that the department has collected data and information on services, performance, and pricing to provide basis for common definitions and standards as they determine the most effective, economical, and efficient model of human resources service delivery. Further, efforts are continuing to develop a standardized costing model for human resources service delivery, which officials estimate will be approved for use by early fiscal year 2021.
Department of Defense
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
5. The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the CMO routinely and comprehensively monitors and evaluates ongoing efficiency initiatives within the department, including those related to the reform teams. This monitoring should include establishing baselines from which to measure progress, periodically reviewing progress made, and evaluating results. (Recommendation 5)
Open
DOD concurred with this recommendation. In April 2019, DOD submitted to Congress its initial plan for business operations reform. It included an initial plan, schedule, and cost estimate for conducting these reforms. The plan states that a reform initiative framework was implemented to track and report progress of initiatives, and that financial savings will be monitored by a validation process. In December 2019, DOD issued a follow-up report providing additional baseline estimates related to the four areas. DOD officials stated that a reform initiative framework has been implemented to track and report progress of initiatives and that financial savings will be monitored by a validation process. The charter for the Reform Management Group, issued February 2019, directs the governance body to reform and align business functions of the department as well as tracking the progress of those reform efforts. Further, DOD reported on baselines in its January 2020 report to Congress to fulfill the requirements of Section 921 from the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). As of June 2020, DOD provided a corrective action plan that details plans to further evaluate results and financial savings associated with its efficiency initiatives. This corrective action plan was based on oversight and review to be provided through the Chief Management Officer (CMO) as part of its Reform Management Group. However, in January 2021 the CMO was disestablished as a result of the Fiscal Year 2021 NDAA. Also in January 2021, as part of its realignment of the functions of the CMO, DOD disestablished the Reform Management Group and assigned the group's responsibilities to the Defense Business Council. As of February 2021 we will continue to review DOD's efforts to ensure this monitoring and evaluation is occurring under the new realignment of responsibilities.

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