People management starts at top

The solution to the government's growing workforce problems begins at the top, government officials said Thursday.

"Human capital management remains the missing link in the federal management framework," said David Walker, comptroller general of the General Accounting Office, speaking at a Senate Governmental Affairs subcommittee hearing Thursday.

The hearing came in the wake of the Jan. 17 GAO report placing strategic human capital management — or people management — on GAO's high-risk list for programs that are of serious concern governmentwide and need immediate attention.

To effect a "meaningful and lasting change" in workforce management, key players must share responsibility, Walker said:

* The president must set the tone.

* The Office of Management and Budget must link strategic human capital management planning to overall planning.

* The Office of Personnel Management must review existing regulations.

* Agency heads must focus on the issue and be held accountable.

* Congress must raise the issue with key appointees and consider new legislation.

* Industry must partner with agencies.

But without the necessary money, agencies' strategic plans and performance measures will not mean much, said Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii). Federal agencies need "adequate budgets to utilize programs that will help attract, retain and train employees," he said in his statement at the hearing. "Tools and personnel flexibilities allowed under current law are underutilized because agencies lack the money to carry them out."

The fact that more and more employees are preparing to retire — more than half the federal workforce will be eligible for retirement in four years — underscores the seriousness of the issue, said Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio).

"The potential for such a mass exodus of federal employees...threatens to leave the government without the experience or know-how necessary to meet the expectations of the American taxpayer," Voinovich said.

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