Coast Guard lacking in equal employment opportunities, GAO finds

Though the U.S. Coast Guard has made progress in its efforts to remove barriers to equal employment opportunities, more improvements are needed, according to a new report.

The Coast Guard lacks a systemic approach to identifying EEO barriers in the workplace, as the Government Accountability Office reported in December 2011.

All federal agencies are required under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's management directive for reporting standards to identify workplace barriers to equality, make an effort to remove them and report progress annually to EEOC. The directive is commonly referred to as MD-715 and has been in effect since October 2003. GAO's analysis is based on data compiled from the Coast Guard's MD-715 reports from fiscal 2008-2010.

GAO found that though the Coast Guard had established some guidelines for improvement in accordance with MD-715, the agency "has not documented any assumptions or reasoning to support the rationale for its improvement initiatives, and it is not apparent that the initiatives are part of a larger strategy."

The Coast Guard's Civil Rights Directorate had implemented a performance measurement plan in July 2011 in response to a 2010 GAO recommendation. This plan, however, still failed to provide clear performance goal measures, baselines for measuring future goals or credible measuring procedures, according to GAO.

As an example of questionable measuring practices, GAO pointed to the Civil Rights Directorate's decision to cite an employee job satisfaction survey as representative of leadership effectiveness, despite an unclear relationship between the two.

EEOC nevertheless praised the Coast Guard for committing to quickly resolving EEO-related workplace complaints and for educating senior management on diversity issues.

In the report, GAO recommended that the secretary of the Homeland Security Department direct the Coast Guard commandant to take two actions: develop a systematic approach to identifying EEO barriers, and refine the agency's performance measurement plan. Homeland Security concurred with both recommendations.

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