Fast Facts

Identifying skill gaps and staffing needs is key to addressing the federal government’s IT workforce challenges.

We evaluated how major executive agencies implemented the 8 IT workforce planning practices in our framework, like recognizing key skills employees will need and planning for them.

Agencies made the most progress with 3 practices, including assessing gaps in skills and staffing.

We recommended that three-quarters of the agencies fully implement the practices to anticipate and respond to changing staffing needs and to control risks with critical IT systems. We made the same recommendation to the remaining agencies in 2016 and 2018.

Federal agencies need to identify skill gaps within their workforce to anticipate and respond to changing needs and critical risks.

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Highlights

What GAO Found

Federal agencies varied widely in their efforts to implement key information technology (IT) workforce planning activities that are critical to ensuring that agencies have the staff they need to support their missions. Specifically, at least 23 of the 24 agencies GAO reviewed partially implemented, substantially implemented, or fully implemented three activities, including assessing gaps in competencies and staffing. However, most agencies minimally implemented or did not implement five other workforce planning activities (see figure).

Agencies’ Overall Implementation of the Key Information Technology (IT) Workforce Planning Activities

Agencies provided various reasons for their limited progress in implementing workforce planning activities, including competing priorities (six agencies), and limited resources (three agencies). Until agencies make it a priority to fully implement all key IT workforce planning activities, they will likely have difficulty anticipating and responding to changing staffing needs and controlling human capital risks when developing, implementing, and operating critical IT systems.

Why GAO Did This Study

The federal government annually spends over $90 billion on IT. Despite this large investment, projects too frequently fail or incur cost overruns and schedule slippages while contributing little to mission-related outcomes. Effectively implementing workforce planning activities can facilitate the success of major acquisitions.

GAO was asked to conduct a government-wide review of IT workforce planning. The objective was to determine the extent to which federal agencies effectively implemented IT workforce planning practices. To do so, GAO compared IT workforce policies and related documentation from each of the 24 Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990 agencies to activities from an IT workforce planning framework GAO issued. GAO rated each agency as having fully, substantially, partially, minimally, or not implemented for each activity. GAO supplemented its reviews of agency documentation by interviewing agency officials.

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Recommendations

GAO is making recommendations to 18 of the 24 federal agencies to fully implement the eight key IT workforce planning activities. Of the 18 agencies, 13 agreed with the recommendations, one partially agreed, three neither agreed nor disagreed, and one disagreed with the findings and provided evidence which led to a modification to its recommendation, as discussed in this report. For all of the remaining recommendations, GAO continues to believe that they are all warranted.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Agriculture 1. The Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that the agency fully implements each of the eight key IT workforce planning activities it did not fully implement. (Recommendation 1)
Open
As of February 2021, we were waiting for the agency to provide an update on the status of its efforts to address the recommendation.
Department of Education 2. The Secretary of Education should ensure that the agency fully implements each of the seven key IT workforce planning activities it did not fully implement. (Recommendation 2)
Open
In August 2020, Education stated that it plans to start developing an IT workforce planning process in fiscal year 2020, and that it plans to reassess its competencies in fiscal year 2022. Further, officials stated that the agency had performed a competency gap assessment of all staff with cybersecurity responsibilities in March 2019, and developed strategies to address both competency and staffing gaps. However, the agency did not provide supporting documentation for these efforts. We will follow-up with the agency to obtain this documentation and continue to monitor the agency's efforts to implement the key IT workforce planning activities.
Department of Energy 3. The Secretary of Energy should ensure that the agency fully implements each of the eight key IT workforce planning activities it did not fully implement. (Recommendation 3)
Open
In December 2020, the Department of Energy reported actions it had taken to fully implement the activities to develop competency and staffing requirements and to report to agency leadership on progress in addressing competency and staffing gaps. However, the agency did not provide supporting documentation. In addition, the agency reported steps it had taken to implement the remaining six activities and expects to finalize their efforts by September 2021. As of February 2021, we were following up with the Department of Energy to obtain supporting documentation for the activities it claimed it had fully implemented. We will continue to monitor the agency's efforts to implement the recommendation.
Department of Homeland Security 4. The Secretary of Homeland Security should ensure that the agency fully implements each of the eight key IT workforce planning activities it did not fully implement. (Recommendation 4)
Open
In April 2020, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reported several actions it had taken to address the recommendation. For example, it reported that it had developed an IT workforce planning strategy and planned to develop an action plan to ensure the strategy addresses all of the key IT workforce planning activities. In addition, the department reported that it had developed competency requirements for all four of the role-based groups of IT staff it had identified, and had assessed the groups for skills gaps. In addition, the department reported that to address gaps, it offered training programs. Further, DHS stated that it had developed an action plan to address identified gaps in work roles of critical need and submitted it to OPM in April 2019. Finally, the department reported that it established an Information Technology Workforce Planning Integrated Project Team that is intended to address the key IT workforce planning activities. However, DHS did not provide supporting documentation of the actions it claimed it had taken. As of February 2021, we were following up with the department to obtain this documentation as well as status updates for the activities.
Department of Housing and Urban Development 5. The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should ensure that the agency fully implements each of the seven key IT workforce planning activities it did not fully implement. (Recommendation 5)
Open
We followed up with the agency to get an update on the status of its efforts to address this recommendation, and, as of February 2021, we were waiting for a response.
Department of the Interior 6. The Secretary of the Interior should ensure that the agency fully implements each of the eight key IT workforce planning activities it did not fully implement. (Recommendation 6)
Open
As of February 2021, we were waiting for the department to provide an update on the status of its efforts to address the recommendation.
Department of Justice 7. The Attorney General should ensure that the agency fully implements each of the eight key IT workforce planning activities it did not fully implement. (Recommendation 7)
Open
In April 2020, the Department of Justice officials stated that the departments plans to develop and document an IT workforce planning process by the end of fiscal year 2020, and will establish and institutionalize the process in fiscal year 2021. In addition, the department indicated plans to develop competency requirements for data literacy and data skills, and to then assess for gaps, develop and implement plans, and report and monitor on the status in addressing the gaps. However, the department did not identify any plans for other IT workforce skills. We will continue to monitor the department's efforts to address the recommendation.
Department of Labor 8. The Secretary of Labor should ensure that the agency fully implements each of the eight key IT workforce planning activities it did not fully implement. (Recommendation 8)
Open
In December 2019, the department of Labor provided evidence that it had developed strategies and plans to address gaps in staffing. In addition, Labor had taken steps to implement the strategies, and had monitored and reported on progress in implementing the strategies. However, the department did not provide evidence that it had monitored and reported on progress in closing the staffing gaps. Further, while Labor identified several competency gaps as part of a May 2018 workforce supply analysis, it did not provide documentation of its competency requirements. We will continue to monitor the department's efforts to address the recommendation.
Department of State 9. The Secretary of State should ensure that the agency fully implements each of the seven key IT workforce planning activities it did not fully implement. (Recommendation 9)
Open
As of February 2021, we were waiting for the department to provide an update on the status of its efforts to address the recommendation.
Department of Veterans Affairs 10. The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should ensure that the agency fully implements each of the five key IT workforce planning activities it did not fully implement. (Recommendation 10)
Open
We reported that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) minimally implemented the IT workforce planning activity to establish and maintain a workforce planning process, as the department's process addressed some but not all key IT workforce planning activities, and the process had not been maintained. In addition, we reported that the department substantially implemented the activities to develop strategies and plans to address gaps in competencies and staffing, and implement activities that address gaps; and minimally implemented the activities to monitor the agency's progress in addressing competency and staffing gaps and to report to agency leadership on the progress. Specifically, we reported that VA had not implemented these activities for its projected IT staffing gaps. In May 2020, the department stated it had developed a new Human Capital Management Strategic Plan for Fiscal Year 2021 to Fiscal Year 2024 that was in the final stages of review. However, as of February 2021, we had not received documentation of the updated plan. With regard to the remaining activities, VA provided documentation showing that it does not have any projected staffing gaps based on the department's budget allocation. Despite having no projected staffing gaps, the department has monitored staffing levels, and progress in developing and implementing its staffing model. For example, VA identified projecting staffing requirements through fiscal year 2026 based on its Office of Information and Technology's future objectives. In addition, the department had reported to its leadership on progress in addressing staffing level issues. We will continue to monitor the department's efforts to establish and maintain an IT workforce planning process.
Environmental Protection Agency 11. The Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency should ensure that the agency fully implements each of the eight key IT workforce planning activities it did not fully implement. (Recommendation 11)
Open
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not provided documentation if its IT workforce planning process. The agency provided two action plans to address cybersecurity work roles of critical need that it had submitted to the Office of Personnel Management, specifically for its Information Systems Security Manager and IT Project Manager roles. While the plans include steps taken to address their critical needs, they do not address the agency's IT workforce planning process for implementing the key activities. Further, EPA reported that it planned to develop competency requirements and assess them for gaps by June 2020. However, as of February 2021, we had not received supporting documentation. We will continue to monitor the agency's efforts to address the recommendation.
General Services Administration 12. The Administrator of the General Services Administration should ensure that the agency fully implements each of the seven key IT workforce planning activities it did not fully implement. (Recommendation 12)
Open
GSA has taken steps to address the recommendation. Specifically, in January 2020, GSA established an IT workforce plan that addressed the key IT workforce planning activities. Further, in November 2020, GSA provided documentation of its updated competency requirements. Moreover, GSA developed strategies and plans to address critical staffing gaps. In addition, in its 2019 report on work roles of critical need, GSA identified skill gaps, and plans to address them. However, GSA did not provide documentation of the competency gap assessment used to identify these gaps. Further, while GSA stated it has an IT acquisition cadre, and had implemented efforts to strengthen program management, the agency did not provide supporting documentation. We will follow up with GSA to obtain documentation of its reported actions, and we will continue to monitor the agency's efforts to address the recommendation.
National Science Foundation 13. The Director of the National Science Foundation should ensure that the agency fully implements each of the eight key IT workforce planning activities it did not fully implement. (Recommendation 13)
Open
The National Science Foundation reported that it had taken steps to implement the key IT workforce planning activities. For example, the agency stated that in July 2019 it issued an IT strategic workforce planning report that identified the agency's planning process, competency and staffing gaps, and strategies to address them. However, the agency did not provide the planning report. Further, the agency stated that as part of its reform plan and Human Capital Operating Plan, the agency will assess competency needs regularly, assess gaps in competencies, develop strategies and plans to address gaps, and monitor and report on progress. The agency stated that it plans to complete its efforts in fiscal year 2021. We will follow up with the agency to obtain documentation of its reported actions, and we will continue to monitor the agency's efforts to address the recommendation.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission 14. The Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission should ensure that the agency fully implements each of the seven key IT workforce planning activities it did not fully implement. (Recommendation 14)
Open
Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials reported that the agency had taken steps to fully implement the key IT workforce planning activities. For example, officials stated that the agency had developed competency requirements for IT staff, and had assessed needs regularly through its strategic workforce planning process. While the agency provided documentation of its workforce action plan that identified several gaps, and strategies and plans to address them, it did not provide documentation of its competency requirements, or the assessment used to identify the gaps. As of February 2021, we were following up with the agency to obtain documentation of its reported actions, and we will continue to monitor the agency's efforts to address the recommendation.
Office of Personnel Management
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
15. The Director of the Office of Personnel Management should ensure that the agency fully implements each of the eight key IT workforce planning activities it did not fully implement. (Recommendation 15)
Open
In December 2019, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) stated that it had partnered with the General Services Administration's IT Modernization Center of Excellence to assess the current state of its IT workforce planning activities. In May 2020, officials stated that the agency was implementing an internal workforce planning process with the help of an Interagency Agreement with the General Services Administration. Further, officials reported that the agency's Chief Information Officer and Human Resources office worked together to develop competency and staffing requirements, and assess work roles of critical need. Moreover, officials reported that the agency is evaluating potential strategic initiatives to address key gaps in competencies, including the use of innovative hiring processes to meet current and future IT workforce needs. However, the agency did not provide documentation of these reported actions. We will follow up with OPM to obtain documentation of its reported actions, and we will continue to monitor the agency's efforts to address the recommendation.
Small Business Administration 16. The Administrator of the Small Business Administration should ensure that the agency fully implements each of the seven key IT workforce planning activities it did not fully implement. (Recommendation 16)
Open
In January 2021, Small Business Administration officials reported that the agency had taken steps to assess its competency needs and requirements, and had developed a career path for program managers. However, the agency did not provide supporting documentation. In addition, the officials reported plans to address the other activities. For example, the officials stated that they plan to finalize the agency's updated IT workforce planning process and its assessment of gaps in competencies by the end of March 2021. As of February 2021, we were following up with the agency to obtain documentation of the reported actions. We will continue to monitor the agency's efforts to address the recommendation.
Social Security Administration 17. The Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should ensure that the agency fully implements each of the five key IT workforce planning activities it did not fully implement. (Recommendation 17)
Open
In November 2019, Social Security Administration officials provided the agency's recently issued IT workforce strategy for fiscal year 2019 to fiscal year 2022, which fully addressed the establish and maintain a workforce planning process activity. Specifically, the strategy addressed the key IT workforce planning activities that were not addressed as a part of the previous process, including how the agency intended to report to agency leadership on progress in addressing gaps, and how the agency would perform the workforce planning activities on an ongoing basis. In addition, SSA described plans and actions to address the other activities. We will continue to monitor the agency's efforts to address the recommendation.
United States Agency for International Development 18. The Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development should ensure that the agency fully implements each of the seven key IT workforce planning activities it did not fully implement. (Recommendation 18)
Open
In April 2020, the U.S. Agency for International Development finalized its IT workforce planning process that addressed how it intends to implement the key IT workforce planning activities on a regular basis. In addition, the agency developed competency requirements, and in April 2020, performed a competency gap assessment for most of its IT staff. Moreover, the agency identified strategies and plans for addressing the gaps, including training recommendations, and the development of individual training plans. Further, the agency took steps to implement these strategies and plans. However, the agency did not provide documentation of developed strategies and plans to address projected staffing gaps. With regard to the activities to monitor and report on progress, in January 2021, officials reported that the agency's workforce planning specialist is developing a monitoring plan to track the agency's progress in addressing gaps in competencies and staffing, and that the Office of the Chief Information Officer and the Office of Human Capital and Talent Management provide regular updates to agency leadership. However, the officials did not provide evidence that the monitoring and reporting included the status in closing competency and staffing gaps. We will continue to monitor the agency's efforts to address the recommendation.

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