Written bySamantha Ehlinger
Several agencies are not taking the all the steps necessary to developing a strong IT workforce, according to a new watchdog report.
The Government Accountability Office report evaluated five agencies’ IT workforce planning efforts and found mixed results. In its report published last week the GAO found each agency had demonstrated “important progress in either partially or fully implementing key IT workforce planning activities” — the Defense Department being the furthest along — but no agency had fully implemented all relevant steps.
“Until the departments fully implement key workforce planning steps and activities, they risk not adequately assessing and addressing gaps in knowledge and skills that are critical to the success of major acquisitions,” the report reads.
The IT skills gap has been a sore point for government as of late, but the majority of the community’s focus has been relegated specifically to information-security skills. For example, former National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander said just this week that low morale at the NSA is causing some of the agency’s most talented people to leave in favor of private sector jobs. NSA was not one of the agencies evaluated in the GAO report.
The GAO created a framework of eight activities agencies should be doing to aid in workforce planning. In particular, the auditors write that of the five agencies, “only Defense demonstrated that it had implemented a workforce planning process.”
The Pentagon had fully implemented “a strategic workforce planning process for its IT functional community that includes steps for setting direction, analyzing the workforce, implementing strategies and monitoring progress,” according to the GAO. The department had partially implemented the other seven steps.
The congressional watchdog also found that “none of the departments identified IT competency gaps for their entire workforce, and only three were performing some level of monitoring towards the closure of identified skill gaps.”
The Commerce Department was the furthest behind according to the report’s metrics — it had only partially implemented three of the eight activities, and it had not established a workforce planning process. The auditors note that even though the department identified in December 2015 it was not complying with the Office of Management and Budget’s requirement to implement one, the department still hasn’t “identified planned actions or milestones to do so.”
Commerce also does not regularly assess competency and staffing needs, and hasn’t developed “strategies and plans to address gaps in competencies and staffing,” the GAO said.
“Department officials stated that they are currently developing strategies to address staffing level gaps within the IT workforce but did not provide details on the strategies being developed or time frames for completion,” according to the report.
Commerce concurred with the report’s recommendation, and in written comments an official said the department is “committed to addressing the shortfalls in IT workforce planning as outlined in the report.” CIO Steve Cooper recently said that recruiting and retaining security talent in particular is at the forefront of his mind.
“[Office of Personnel Management] is doing some good things to assist with recruiting specialized talent, in this case cyber. We do have some ability to pay bonuses, hiring bonuses, retention bonuses,” he said. “We’re still having a very, very challenging time competing with the private sector.”
The Defense Department partially agreed with the report’s recommendations, and the rest of the departments surveyed by GAO — Health and Human Services, Transportation, and Treasury — agreed with the recommendations.
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