Transportation's acquisition workforce at risk

Poor documentation on attrition and other management lapses strain resources in the Transportation Department's component agencies, audit finds.

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.

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