Fast Facts

The Coast Guard provides maritime safety, security, and environmental protection. Since 9/11, its roles and responsibilities have grown to include national security and disaster response. The Coast Guard recently told Congress that it doesn’t have enough people to meet its mission demands.

However, we found the service doesn’t have a complete picture of the workforce needed for meeting its mission demands. For example, it only has current workforce assessments for 4% of its unit types. We made 6 recommendations, including that the Coast Guard update its workforce assessment plan with timeframes and milestones for completion.

U.S. Coast Guard personnel

U.S. Coast Guard personnel

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Highlights

What GAO Found

The U.S. Coast Guard (Coast Guard) realigned its mission planning and mission support functions through an effort known as “modernization,” but did not consistently apply key practices for agency reorganization in implementing the effort. Of seven key practices, the Coast Guard did not apply two and partially applied three. For example, the Coast Guard did not measure its progress in achieving the goal of modernization, as key practices recommend. Coast Guard documents for organizational change and associated guidance do not require such practices to be followed. By ensuring such practices are implemented, the Coast Guard will be better positioned to determine the extent to which its investments meet modernization's goal of improving effectiveness and efficiency.

Although the Coast Guard has informed Congress that it needs to increase its workforce, it has assessed a small portion of its workforce needs. Its preferred tool for assessing workforce needs is its manpower requirements determination process, which includes manpower requirements analyses (MRA) and is completed with a manpower requirements determination (MRD). Coast Guard guidance states that MRAs are to be updated every 5 years, and according to its April 2018 Manpower Requirements Plan, the Coast Guard's goal is to complete MRDs for all of its 58,000 personnel and 158 unit types. However, the Coast Guard had completed MRAs for 13 percent of its workforce and MRDs for 2 percent over the past 5 calendar years (see figure).

Share of U.S. Coast Guard Workforce Supported by Manpower Requirements Analyses and Manpower Requirements Determinations, Calendar Years 2003 through 2019

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Note: The U.S. Coast Guard (Coast Guard) began implementing the manpower requirements determination process in 2003.

aCoast Guard guidance states that manpower requirements analyses should be updated every 5 years. This shows the share of analyses and associated determinations the Coast Guard completed within the past 5 years, in accordance with its guidance.

The Coast Guard's plan does not include time frames and milestones for how it will achieve its workforce assessment goal, and information on the resources it needs to complete MRDs for all positions and units has not been updated in 10 years. By updating its plan to complete manpower requirements determinations and obtaining information on the resources needed to achieve its workforce assessment goal, the Coast Guard will be better positioned to ensure that it has the right number of people with requisite skills in the right units to meet its mission demands and to inform Congress of its manpower needs.

Why GAO Did This Study

The Coast Guard is a multi-mission maritime military service responsible for maritime safety, security, and environmental protection, among other things. Since 2006 the Coast Guard has implemented organizational changes to improve its effectiveness and efficiency. During this time, the Coast Guard also created a workforce assessments process to determine the number of personnel and skills required to meet mission needs. In April 2018, the Coast Guard reported to Congress that it was operating below the workforce necessary to meet its mission needs.

GAO was asked to review the status of the Coast Guard's modernization and workforce assessment efforts. Among other things, this report examines the extent to which the Coast Guard (1) applied key practices for agency reorganization and (2) has assessed its workforce needs. GAO analyzed Coast Guard documents used to plan and implement its modernization effort against GAO key practices for agency reorganization. GAO also analyzed Coast Guard workforce assessments and data from 2003 through 2019. GAO also reviewed policy and planning documents and interviewed Coast Guard officials.

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Recommendations

GAO is making six recommendations, including that the Coast Guard measure progress in achieving the goal of modernization, update a plan with time frames and milestones for completing its workforce assessment goal, and obtain information on the resources needed to meet its goal. DHS concurred with our recommendations.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
United States Coast Guard 1. The Commandant of the Coast Guard should establish a systematic mechanism to track implementation and measure the Coast Guard's progress in achieving organizational change goals. (Recommendation 1)
Open
The Coast Guard concurred with this recommendation and said it would establish a policy requiring that requests to change organizational structure include a plan, and establish a mechanism to track implementation and measure progress in achieving organizational change goals. In February 2021, the Coast Guard stated that the rewrite of the Coast Guard's Organizational Manual is ongoing and will be ready for concurrent clearance in the next 45 days. It estimated completing the effort by September 30, 2021.
United States Coast Guard 2. The Commandant of the Coast Guard should establish a mechanism to periodically seek and monitor employee satisfaction with organizational change efforts. (Recommendation 2)
Open
The Coast Guard concurred with this recommendation and agreed that mechanisms to periodically seek and monitor employee satisfaction with organizational change efforts are valuable. However, they stated that their current feedback mechanisms capture this information therefore they requested we close the recommendation. The Coast Guard also stated its preference to add questions to existing surveys rather than create new survey instruments. However, we found that the Coast Guard's current surveys do not capture employee's perspectives as organizational changes are implemented. This recommendation remains open pending Coast Guard providing evidence of its actions to modify existing surveys with added questions that monitor employee satisfaction with organizational changes. In February 2021 the Coast Guard stated that they are updating questions for a summer 2021 survey which will include questions regarding employee satisfaction with organizational change. It estimated completing the effort by December 31, 2021.
United States Coast Guard 3. The Commandant of the Coast Guard should update its Manpower Requirements Manual with guidance for how to execute its manpower requirements determination process, and take steps to ensure the process is implemented. (Recommendation 3)
Open
The Coast Guard concurred with this recommendation and said it would develop a Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTP) document to provide guidance for executing the manpower requirements determination process. This would provide additional guidance on the overall manpower requirements determination process, including explicit directions for the collection and analysis of manpower data, and the establishment of enterprise standards for key factors and allowances used when conducting analysis. In February 2021, the Coast Guard stated that previously in November 2020, they published updated guidance on the MRD process including specific standards and some procedural guidance in the update to the Manpower Requirements Manual. The Coast Guard is developing a TTP document in order to emphasize changes to policy and procedures. It estimated completing the effort by June 30, 2021.
United States Coast Guard 4. The Commandant of the Coast Guard should track and document the extent to which it has completed manpower requirements analyses and determinations for each unit type. (Recommendation 4)
Open
The Coast Guard concurred with this recommendation and said it would initiate the process to document and track Manpower Requirements in the Coast Guard's human resources system. In February 2021, the Coast Guard stated it had completed modifications to the human resources system of record (Direct Access) to include the capability to document and track manpower requirements. Tracking of MRA and MRD completion dates will continue to be completed manually while a system to report by unit type is being created. It estimated completing the effort by June 30, 2021
United States Coast Guard 5. The Commandant of the Coast Guard should update its April 2018 Manpower Requirements Plan to include time frames and milestones for completing manpower requirements analyses and determinations for all positions and units. (Recommendation 5)
Open
The Coast Guard concurred with this recommendation and said it would update its Manpower Requirements Plan during the next required periodic report submitted to Congress, in fiscal year 2022. The Coast Guard stated that this would be completed by March 31, 2022.
United States Coast Guard 6. The Commandant of the Coast Guard should determine the resources its manpower requirements determination program needs, both staff and funding, to achieve its goal of completing manpower requirements determinations for all positions and units. (Recommendation 6)
Open
The Coast Guard concurred with this recommendation and said it would review its 2010 manpower requirements analysis that determined the resources the Coast Guard required for its manpower requirements determination program. Its Office of Human Resources Strategy and Capability will then re-validate the inputs and update the findings for the manpower requirements analysis to reflect the currents needs of the manpower requirements determination program. The Coast Guard confirmed that the review and validation of the Manpower Requirements Determination Program MRA was completed on August 27, 2020. They stated that this updated manpower requirement was used to support a FY23 Resource proposal however the final MRD has not been approved. The Coast Guard estimated completing the effort by April 30, 2021.

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