Federal Training Investments
Constrained budgets and the need to address gaps in critical federal skills and competencies make it essential that agencies identify the appropriate level of investment and establish priorities for employee training and development.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and agency Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCOs) play an important role in ensuring that federal training dollars are invested effectively. For example, as shown in Table 1, many CHCOs reported implementing such leading training investment practices as determining the best mix of decentralized and centralized training.
Table 1: CHCOs Reported Implementing Leading Training Investment Practices
Leading Training Investment Practices
Number of Agencies With the Response
Identify the most appropriate mix of centralized and decentralized approaches for its training and development programs
Consider governmentwide reforms and other targeted efforts when planning its training and development programs
Have criteria for determining whether to design training and development programs in-house or obtain these services from a contractor or other external source
Track the cost and delivery of its training and development programs agencywide
Evaluate the benefits achieved through training and development programs, including improvements in individual and agency performance
(a) Has a formal process for evaluating employee satisfaction with training
(b) Has a formal process for evaluating improvement in employee performance after training
Compare training investments, methods, or outcomes with those of other organizations to identify innovative approaches or lessons learned.
Source: GAO analysis of CHCO responses to a GAO questionnaire.
At the same time, agencies can do more to ensure cost-effective training investment decisions. For example, as shown in table 2, many of the 27 CHCOs we surveyed reported they are not implementing such leading practices as prioritizing training and evaluating its benefits. In addition, many CHCOs do not have information from component or sub-agency leaders regarding their level of investments and priorities. Consequently, some agencies are duplicating internal training investments and missing opportunities to leverage economies of scale across their agencies. Federal agencies also need reliable information on how much they spend on training and for what purposes.
Table 2: Leading Training Investment Practices that Many CHCOs Reported Not Implementing Routinely
Number of CHCOs With the Response
Identify the appropriate level of investment to provide for training and development efforts
Prioritize funding so that the most important training needs are addressed first
Compare the merits of different training delivery mechanisms and determine what mix to use to ensure efficient and cost-effective delivery
Have a formal process for evaluating the impact of training on the agencys performance goals and missiona
Source: GAO analysis of CHCO responses to a GAO questionnaire.
aOne agency that reported I dont know was included in the category No.
OPMs guidance and assistance to agencies on federal training investments are in line with a number of the leading practices, but improvements are needed in other areas some of which are problematic to agencies such as identifying the appropriate level of investment in training and development and prioritizing training activities. In addition, agencies and OPM reported that there are opportunities for OPM to help reduce duplicative investments government-wide by identifying existing training that can be provided centrally to all agencies.
To help address these issues, we recommend that OPM, among other actions, improve guidance and assistance to agencies in
- establishing a process for setting and prioritizing training investments
- improving the reliability of agency training investment information
- identifying the best existing courses that fulfill government wide training requirements, and offering them to all agencies through appropriate platforms.
In responding to our recommendations, OPM said it plans to work with the CHCO and Chief Learning Officer Councils to prioritize training, revitalize training assessment guidance, determine appropriate data elements to facilitate agency decision making, regularly provide training investment data to agencies and develop resources to assist agencies in building a ready workforce. OPM said it will also share with agencies information on the best government wide mandatory and critical occupations training.
GAO-12-878: Published: Sep 17, 2012. Publicly Released: Sep 17, 2012.
Many Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCOs) reported that they are implementing several leading practices important to making strategic decisions about training delivery, such as determining the best mix of decentralized and centralized training and considering government-wide reform when planning training. However, many CHCOs reported they are not implementing some practices that support making mor...
GAO-12-487: Published: Apr 26, 2012. Publicly Released: Apr 26, 2012.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is taking steps to integrate its workforce planning and training efforts across the agency consistent with critical success factors for strategic human capital management such as initiating working groups to coordinate related activities, but its efforts are in the early stages. Until recently FEMAs efforts related to workforce planning have been in...
GAO-11-91: Published: Oct 22, 2010. Publicly Released: Oct 22, 2010.
Since 2006, air traffic control (ATC) equipment outages and failures at Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) facilities have caused hundreds of flight delays and raised questions about FAA's maintenance capabilities. About 6,100 technicians maintain FAA's current (legacy) facilities and equipment and will be responsible for the Next Generation (NextGen) technologies planned for the next 15 years...
GAO-04-546G: Published: Mar 1, 2004. Publicly Released: Mar 1, 2004.
This publication supersedes GAO-03-893G, Human Capital: A Guide for Assessing Strategic Training and Development Efforts in the Federal Government (Exposure Draft), July 2003. As part of our ongoing review of agencies' efforts to address their human capital challenges, we saw the need for a framework to serve as a flexible and useful guide in assessing how agencies plan, design, implement, and eva...
GAO-19-181: Published: Mar 28, 2019. Publicly Released: Apr 29, 2019.
Technology, demographics, and attitudes toward work are evolving in the private and public sectors. But federal government employment policies were designed generations ago. As a result, the government may struggle to compete for talented workers—which is one reason why federal human capital management is an issue on our High Risk list. We reported on talent management strategies, among other t...
GAO-19-343: Published: Mar 27, 2019. Publicly Released: Mar 27, 2019.
The Architect of the Capitol maintains more than 18.4 million square feet of buildings in Washington, D.C., including the U.S. Capitol, House and Senate office buildings, and the Library of Congress. The Architect of the Capitol may use its Construction Division for renovations and repairs. The Division relies primarily on temporary workers, which allows it to quickly adjust its workforce to matc...
GAO-19-290: Published: Mar 14, 2019. Publicly Released: Mar 14, 2019.
The nation's transit agencies are having a hard time finding the qualified workers and managers needed to keep buses, trains, and ferries moving. We examined the outlook for the transit workforce. We found: Current federal projections of future workforce needs either don’t include or aren’t specific to the transit workforce The Federal Transit Administration's strategic planning could be mo...
GAO-19-144: Published: Mar 12, 2019. Publicly Released: Mar 12, 2019.
The federal government needs a qualified, well-trained cybersecurity workforce to protect vital IT systems. Not having enough of these workers is one reason why securing federal systems is on our High Risk list. To help agencies identify their critical workforce needs, they were required to identify and categorize all of their IT and cyber-related positions. However, most of the agencies we revi...
GAO-19-51: Published: Dec 14, 2018. Publicly Released: Dec 14, 2018.
DOD employs about 80,000 civilians at maintenance depots to keep helicopters, ships, and other weapon systems working. This workforce is aging and DOD faces challenges in hiring and retaining workers with key skills. Officials cited examples of maintenance taking months or years longer than expected, in part due to shortages in skilled personnel. Some of the services' plans for dealing with depot...
GAO-19-102: Published: Nov 27, 2018. Publicly Released: Nov 27, 2018.
Over 241,000 people work in DOD's health system, which reaches from the battlefield to large hospitals in the United States. The workforce includes active and reserve military, federal civilian staff, and private sector contractors. Officials we spoke with at 5 of 6 selected military hospitals reported having to send patients outside the system for medical care due to challenges including: civil...
GAO-19-35: Published: Nov 20, 2018. Publicly Released: Nov 20, 2018.
Agencies need effective performance management systems to hold employees accountable for results and achieve their missions. Although the Office of Personnel Management—the government’s central human resources agency—has identified potentially innovative performance management practices, it needs to do a better job of sharing them with agencies. We recommended, among other things, steps OPM...
GAO-19-60: Published: Nov 15, 2018. Publicly Released: Nov 15, 2018.
The U.S. Secret Service (Secret Service) Chief Information Officer (CIO) fully implemented 11 of 14 selected information technology (IT) oversight responsibilities, and partially implemented the remaining 3. The CIO partially implemented the responsibilities to establish a process that ensures the Secret Service reviews IT contracts; ensure that the component's IT policies align with the Departmen...
GAO-18-590: Published: Sep 19, 2018. Publicly Released: Sep 19, 2018.
Twenty-two agencies—several with major management challenges—combined to form the Department of Homeland Security in 2003. Since then, DHS has often struggled to build a cohesive, effective department, and its management has remained on our High Risk list. Its Office of Strategy, Policy, and Plans helps shape DHS by, for example, developing and coordinating departmentwide strategies and polic...
GAO-18-643: Published: Sep 10, 2018. Publicly Released: Sep 10, 2018.
In recent years, Washington, D.C.'s Metro transit system has had serious safety problems and has lost revenue during lengthy maintenance. These conditions put pressure on Metro to effectively manage its most expensive resource—its workforce. We found: Metro's pension costs are increasing faster than other workforce costs, which could make it hard to continue providing employee benefits without...