DOD dropped the ball on workforce reviews, GAO says

Through an insufficient analysis, officials might have lost out on an opportunity to plan for the future.

The Defense Department failed to give Congress a complete picture of its civilian workforce and what those employees need to meet demands in years ahead, the Government Accountability Office reported.

DOD officials didn’t meet half the requirements that Congress gave them last year to strategically assess their overall civilian workforce. In particular, they didn’t give lawmakers evaluations of the senior managers or the acquisition workforce, as the fiscal 2010 National Defense Authorization Act requires, according to a letter sent Sept. 27 from GAO to several congressional committees.

“Effective human capital planning can enable DOD to have the right people, with the right skills, doing the right jobs, in the right places, at the right time,” GAO wrote.

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By using an inadequate analysis, officials might have lost an opportunity to more carefully plan for foreseeable challenges. “DOD may not be able to determine whether its investment in strategies to improve the civilian workforce is effective and efficient,” GAO wrote.

GAO officials said a complete analysis of the workforce will become more important as DOD launches its programs to reduce duplication, cut overhead cost and curtail excesses from its agencies.

In the authorization law, Congress directed DOD officials to look ahead seven years and figure out the critical skills and knowledge the civilian workforce will need. Lawmakers asked for the same information for the acquisition workforce, in addition to trends they anticipate based on the expected losses of employees, especially because of retirement. Finally, Congress wanted to know how to fix the workforce’s existing problems so they have the appropriate skills to meet the department’s future demands.

DOD has said roughly 30 percent of its 718,000 civilian employees will be eligible to retire by March 31, 2015. Officials’ concerns are compounded by efforts to reduce DOD's reliance on contractors and boost its workforce, GAO wrote.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.


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