Transportation's acquisition workforce at risk

diagram of work team

Lapses in planning and documentation put Transportation's acquisition workforce at risk, GAO finds. (Stock image)

The Transportation Department’s acquisition workforce risks being unable to perform its job unless agency leadership improves its ability to address staff needs, the Government Accountability Office found. In a report released Jan. 23, GAO found DOT does not have enough reliable data to fully identify its acquisition workforce needs and assess progress in addressing challenges.

Under federal policy, agencies must conduct strategic planning to pinpoint short- and long-term requirements and create plans to address them.

The Office of the Senior Procurement Executive depends on the department’s component agencies to carry out that planning. There has not been enough reliable data from the office to map out DOT’s workforce needs or to identify progress in addressing personnel gaps, according to GAO.

GAO also found that components did not consistently document attrition estimates. Lack of reliable data could result in an under- or overstatement in the number of employees needed to achieve staffing targets. For example, in 2011 the Federal Highway Administration lost seven contract specialists -- or 13 percent -- but estimated future attrition at 5 percent annually. Similarly, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported fiscal year 2011 attrition rates of 36, but anticipated no attrition for the following two fiscal years.

The report noted that attrition numbers could be understated because some of the agencies constrained or revised their workforce estimates to reflect the current budget environment, without considering the people needed to do the work. For example, the Maritime Administration had first projected it needed to increase the number of program managers from six in fiscal year 2011 to 36 by the end of fiscal year 2013. But due to budget cutbacks, the administration modified its estimate to 12.

To help improve DOT address its workforce needs, the report lays out policy recommendations, including defining data the department needs to meet workforce planning and oversight requirements. DOT is also asked to provide standards for internal controls or other guidance to ensure collection and reporting of data for workforce planning, as well as evaluate whether the Office of the Senior Procurement Executive has enough resources to effectively oversee the acquisition workforce.

About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Shutterstock image: looking for code.

    How DOD embraced bug bounties -- and how your agency can, too

    Hack the Pentagon proved to Defense Department officials that outside hackers can be assets, not adversaries.

  • Shutterstock image: cyber defense.

    Why PPD-41 is evolutionary, not revolutionary

    Government cybersecurity officials say the presidential policy directive codifies cyber incident response protocols but doesn't radically change what's been in practice in recent years.

  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group