Defense falls behind on workforce planning efforts

Department hasn’t met legislative requirements to develop a comprehensive human capital strategic plan, audit finds.

The Defense Department is lagging in the human capital planning process, leaving its leaders without the information necessary to develop its civilian workforce, according to a new report.

A Government Accountability Office audit released on Monday found the department has only partially met requirements laid out in the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act to draft and submit a strategic plan for improving its civilian, leadership and acquisition workforces. Defense's 2009 plan addresses only one-third of those mandates, the report found.

Key requirements such as identifying funding for training civilian employees, analyzing specific workforce skill gaps, and assessing progress and results have not been fully addressed, according to GAO. The plan also does not specify the appropriate acquisition workforce makeup, and Defense hasn't developed guidance to help program offices meet workforce planning objectives, the audit found.

According to the report, human capital management is important to recruit and retain talent and to use resources properly to develop a balanced workforce. Defense employs 718,000 full-time civilians and estimates 30 percent of its workforce will be eligible to retire by 2015. The department already is making changes that could affect planning efforts, the audit found. For example, Defense Secretary Robert Gates in August announced plans to cut 150 senior executive and 50 flag officer positions and reduce the department's reliance on contractors.

"Without addressing all legislative requirements…decision-makers will continue to rely on incomplete information concerning the size, composition and needs of its civilian workforce," GAO wrote. "In particular, [Defense] may not be able to determine whether its investment in strategies to improve the civilian workforce is effective and efficient."

GAO said Defense officials declined to provide comments on draft findings.