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Pentagon needs rationale for hiring civilian leaders, GAO says

Consistent documentation of reviews of war zone workforce should be reported to Congress, auditors concluded.

Defense officials generally agreed with GAO's recommendations, though the undersecretary's office, in comments on a draft, said some facts were misstated. Pentagon officials also explained they did not summarize their analysis of one civilian workforce review because it was part of a larger human capital effort and that the review effectively resulted in "a number of key decisions -- for example, a reduction in one agency's senior leader needs."

With budgetary pressures affecting defense for the first time in more than a decade, the Defense Department is inadequately documenting to Congress its need to boost hiring of senior civilian leaders, the Government Accountability Office asserted in a Nov. 4 report.

In reviews of its civilian leadership workforces in such places as the war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, auditors said, the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness should better document its analysis to support the Pentagon's requirements for Senior Executive Service employees, and senior management and technical staff.

The report examined Defense's reviews of how it manages leadership of the 718,000 personnel in its civilian workforce. Requested by three members of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel -- James Webb, D-Va., Lindsey O. Graham, R-S.C., and Ben Nelson, D-Neb. -- the report noted the Pentagon is relying more on civilians for "mission-essential combat support functions such as logistics support and maintenance that have traditionally been performed by the uniformed military."

GAO concluded that while Defense had conducted a baseline review to assess and validate its civilian leadership requirements, it failed to document its analysis or summarize the results, particularly in the Defense intelligence area. As a remedy, GAO recommended:

  • Common criteria for the military service and civilian intelligence agencies to use in their assessments of Defense Intelligence Senior Executive Service requirements.
  • Better communication of key information during the development and presentation of legislative proposals to congressional decision makers.
  • Clearly defined metrics for the Defense Senior Leader Development Program to measure its overall success.