Defense civilian personnel planning efforts found lacking

By David McGlinchey

The Defense Department has not sufficiently planned to handle its future civilian personnel needs, the General Accounting Office concluded in a report issued Wednesday.

Specifically, GAO faulted the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the military services' headquarters, and the Defense Logistics Agency for not analyzing the gaps between the skills their employees have and those they will need in the future. The report (GAO-04-753) also criticized Defense for not adopting goals that could be used to measure the success of personnel management efforts.

"During its downsizing in the early 1990s, DoD did not focus on reshaping the civilian workforce in a strategic manner," GAO auditors said in a letter to Rep. Solomon Ortiz of Texas, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness, who requested the report. "With more than 50 percent of its civilian personnel becoming eligible to retire in the next 5 years, DoD may find it difficult to fill certain mission-critical jobs with qualified personnel."

GAO investigators said Defense has not developed "tools to collect and/or store and manage data on workforce competencies. Senior department and component officials all acknowledged this shortfall and told us that they are taking steps to address this challenge."

GAO called on the Pentagon to identify skill gaps, develop strategies to fill them, and establish benchmarks that would allow officials to measure personnel management efforts.

Pentagon officials told GAO that they already have begun analyzing the gap between present-day skills and those needed in the future.