GAO puts workforce issues on 'high-risk' list

The General Accounting Office Wednesday released its biennial report on the federal government's biggest management challenges, naming workforce management as a "high-risk" area for the first time. GAO's Performance and Accountability Series and High Risk Update identifies government agencies and programs at high risk of fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement. The first report in the series, issued in 1999, assessed major governmentwide challenges. GAO has reported on high-risk federal programs and agencies since 1990. The addition of "strategic human capital management" to the high-risk list came as no surprise. More than one-third of the employees in the federal workforce will be eligible for retirement in the next five years, and Comptroller General David Walker has been publicizing problems with workforce planning at government agencies on Capitol Hill and in GAO reports for years. "We need to start strategic workforce planning, we need to have better labor-management agreements. We need to do a whole host of things to bring 'people management' into the 21st century," Walker said. Most of what needs to be done can be accomplished by using and enforcing existing laws, he said. The Office of Management and Budget, the Office of Personnel Management and Congress have all brought attention to the pending federal workforce shortage in the past few years, but "much more needs to be done," Walker said.

The human capital issue was the only one added to GAO's high-risk list this year. Five major issues--the year 2000 computer challenge, the 2000 Census, the Superfund Program, farm loan programs and the National Weather Service's modernization plan--were removed from the list. The Department of Housing and Urban Development's Community Development Program was also removed from the list, though the department as a whole remains designated as high-risk. GAO also modified two functions of the Internal Revenue Service, reducing its Earned Income Credit compliance and expanding its unpaid tax collection programs, but the agency's tax systems modernization has been on the list since 1995.

Still, the list has grown from eight programs to 22 in the past 10 years, demonstrating that agencies "have made little progress in resolving the core management challenges that continue to plague the federal government," said Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.