Report | Nov. 16, 2021

Audit of the Department of Defense Strategic Planning for Overseas Civilian Positions (DODIG-2022-036)

Audit

Publicly Released: November 18, 2021

 

Objective

The objective of this audit was to determine whether the DoD conducted strategic planning to hire its overseas civilian workforce in support of the DoD’s global mission and ongoing operations.

 

Background

The DoD maintains a significant overseas civilian workforce to support active duty Service members and provide continuity as military units rotate in and out of theaters of operation. Although the DoD has identified the overseas civilian workforce as key to the DoD’s global mission success, the DoD faces additional considerations unique to the overseas hiring process that present challenges to hiring a sufficient and qualified overseas civilian workforce. Such considerations include limits on duration of employment, changes to U.S. tax law, and availability of living quarter allowances.

To effectively hire the overseas civilian workforce, the DoD must follow a number of Office of Personnel Management (OPM) regulations, including the Human Capital Framework (HCF), which are designed to ensure agency human capital programs support the agency mission, goals, and objectives through analysis, planning, investment, and measurement. Within the DoD, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness (OUSD[P&R]) provides overarching leadership and tools that align civilian hiring priorities and efforts across the DoD. In addition, each Military Department and DoD Component has a civilian human resources agency that works with local commands’ human resources officials to hire and retain personnel. Collectively these human resources agencies and officials are referred to as the workforce owners for personnel under their jurisdiction.

To accomplish these tasks, human resources officials from civilian human resources agencies use two systems: a personnel data system that tracks individual civilian employees (referred to as “faces”), including where they are stationed; and a manpower and authorizations data system that tracks authorized end strength, also known as billets (referred to as “spaces”). It is the responsibility of human resources officials within the Military Departments and DoD Components to ensure the information in these systems is correct and up to date.

For this audit, we selected a nonstatistical sample of 14 overseas duty stations across the Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, as well as the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), to review workforce statistics, such as vacancy rates and hiring timeframes as well as hiring policies and procedures.

 

Finding

The DoD’s strategic planning efforts to hire its overseas civilian workforce require improvement to more effectively align the DoD’s human capital programs with the DoD’s global mission and ongoing operations. Specifically:

  • OUSD(P&R) and DoD Component human resources officials could not conduct consistent strategic planning efforts for the overseas civilian workforce, including:
    • identifying vacancies by matching individual personnel to authorized and budgeted positions, or;
    • conducting skills gap analyses based on individual geographic locations to facilitate collaboration across DoD Components in order to achieve mission objectives;
  • For the 14 overseas duty stations we reviewed, we determined that DoD Component workforce owners inconsistently identified and hired the overseas civilian workforce needed to support the DoD’s global mission. Specifically, as of early 2021, we found a wide variation in vacancy rates and hiring timelines for civilian personnel. Additionally, we observed numerous vacant authorized positions that were not being actively recruited.

These conditions occurred because the:

  • information within DoD personnel and manpower data systems were updated and maintained separately within each DoD Component and did not provide human resources officials with easily reconcilable data on current personnel compared to authorized and budgeted positions; and
  • OUSD(P&R) did not provide workforce owners with guidance to effectively hire an overseas civilian workforce. Specifically, the OUSD(P&R) did not:
    • provide DoD Components with benchmarks by identifying and integrating measureable and observable hiring and vacancy goals for the overseas civilian workforce into the DoD’s human capital performance metrics, or
    • capture and disseminate best practices on overseas hiring timelines and methods to minimize vacancy durations across all DoD workforce owners.

Because DoD data systems, performance metrics, and guidance did not provide human resources officials with clear direction or readily accessible tools for hiring civilian personnel overseas, the DoD human capital programs were not fully aligned to the DoD’s mission, goals, or objectives in accordance with the principles of OPM’s Human Capital Framework. Although the responsibility for planning for and managing the civilian workforce rests with the workforce owners, the lack of a unified DoD personnel and manpower data system, performance metrics, and best practices guidance meant Military Departments and DoD Components had no benchmarks to produce policies and procedures for their local commands.

As a result, each of the 14 overseas duty stations we reviewed lacked detailed written procedures related to hiring of their overseas civilian personnel and faced persistent challenges to overseas civilian personnel management, including additional time required to onboard personnel, vacancy rates of up to 39 percent, and gaps between outgoing and incoming personnel. Therefore, the DoD did not have reasonable assurance that it was hiring an overseas civilian workforce adequate to support the DoD’s readiness, global mission, and ongoing operations.

 

Recommendations

We recommend that the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness (USD[P&R]) ensure the Defense Civilian Human Resources Management System provides human resources officials within the Department the capability to match individual civilian personnel to specific authorized and budgeted positions across all DoD Components in order to assist in identification and closing of skill gaps.

We also recommend that the USD(P&R) identify relevant performance metrics related to hiring and retaining a sufficient and well‑qualified DoD overseas civilian workforce (such as vacancy, hire, and fill rates) that account for unique overseas conditions, incorporate the metrics in relevant human capital planning documents or systems, and use the metrics to monitor improvement in the hiring of the overseas civilian workforce. Finally, we recommend that the USD(P&R), in coordination with the civilian human resources agencies of the Military Departments and DoD Components, identify, capture, and disseminate standardized guidance for hiring overseas civilians that identifies best practices for workforce owners.

 

Management Comments and Our Response

The USD(P&R) agreed with our recommendation to ensure the Defense Civilian Human Resources Management System provides human resources officials within the Department the capability to match individual civilian personnel to specific authorized and budgeted positions. The USD(P&R) stated that the OUSD(P&R) is striving to ensure that DCHRMS includes the capability to match individual civilian personnel to specific authorized and budgeted positions. Comments from the Under Secretary addressed the specifics of our recommendation; therefore, the recommendation is resolved but remains open.

The USD(P&R) disagreed with our recommendation to identify performance metrics related to hiring a sufficient and well qualified overseas civilian workforce, incorporate those metrics into relevant human capital planning documents or systems, and use the metrics to monitor improvement in the hiring of the overseas civilian workforce. The USD(P&R) stated that establishing a single goal or metric for all overseas locations may not be feasible or desirable because there may be unique aspects per country that make a one‑size‑fits‑all approach impossible or undesirable. Comments from the USD(P&R) did not address the specifics of our recommendation; therefore, the recommendation is unresolved. In response, we revised the recommendation to clarify we are not recommending a one‑size‑fits‑all approach, and that the OUSD(P&R) should coordinate with the Military Departments and DoD Components to identify performance metrics most relevant to each specific Department or Component or standards for common elements of the process that are not affected by location‑specific constraints.

The USD(P&R) disagreed with our recommendation to coordinate with the civilian human resources agencies of the Military Departments and the DoD Components to capture and disseminate overseas hiring guidance that identifies best practices. The USD(P&R) stated that the responsibilities identified in this recommendation are the responsibilities of individual workforce owners, not the OUSD(P&R). Comments from the Under Secretary did not address the specifics of our recommendation; therefore, the recommendation is unresolved. In response, we revised the recommendation to state that the OUSD(P&R) serves as a resource to workforce owners by collecting and disseminating best practices that will allow workforce owners to implement policies and guidance consistent with their needs and capabilities.

 

This report is the result of Proj. No. D2020-D000RM-0177.000.