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-17-568: Published: Jun 22, 2017. Publicly Released: Jun 22, 2017.
The Army spends over $20 billion annually developing and procuring weapons—such as tanks and helicopters. Prior to procurement, the Army establishes "requirements" for these weapons—key characteristics—to help guide the process. In the past, the Army cancelled systems because these requirements would not be met. Although we found that the Army has taken steps to improve how it develops requ...
GAO-17-569: Published: Jun 20, 2017. Publicly Released: Jul 20, 2017.
The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) has conducted key efforts to establish the network, namely releasing the request for proposal (RFP) for the network and awarding the network contract to AT&T. As the contractor, AT&T will be responsible for the overall design, development, production, operation, and evolution of the network. Additionally, FirstNet consulted with state and local, fed...
GAO-17-541R: Published: May 31, 2017. Publicly Released: May 31, 2017.
GAO found that all 12 air carriers selected for review have training programs that address disability-related training requirements, with some variations in the specific content and format. Each air carrier demonstrated that it has in place initial and recurrent training for its employees, including its contractors, who interface with passengers with disabilities. All 12 air carriers also demonstr...
GAO-17-468: Published: May 23, 2017. Publicly Released: May 23, 2017.
The Department of Defense (DOD) and the military services have made recent efforts to review and validate common military training requirements. DOD established the Common Military Training Working Group in February 2015 to, among other things, review and validate common military training requirements. In December 2016 the Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness signed the Co...
GAO-17-627T: Published: May 18, 2017. Publicly Released: May 18, 2017.
As shown below, many federal employees are eligible to retire. As they do, agencies need to hire people with the right skills—not just replace those who leave. To recruit and retain a skilled workforce, the federal pay system may need to be reexamined. In this testimony, we discussed strategies high-performing organizations use to design pay systems, such as ensuring pay decisions are transpare...
GAO-17-233: Published: Apr 27, 2017. Publicly Released: Apr 27, 2017.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has reduced its staff since 2011after expected growth in the nuclear industry did not occur. However, we found that the agency hasn't used certain key practices that could improve how effectively it manages its workforce. Without using these practices, the NRC may not know what the appropriate size and composition of its workforce should be, now or in the future. ...
GAO-17-533T: Published: Apr 4, 2017. Publicly Released: Apr 4, 2017.
GAO and others have identified a number of key challenges facing federal agencies in ensuring that they have an effective cybersecurity workforce:Identifying skills gaps: As GAO reported in 2011, 2015, and 2016, federal agencies have faced challenges in effectively implementing workforce planning processes for information technology (IT) and defining cybersecurity staffing needs. GAO also reporte...
GAO-17-332: Published: Mar 28, 2017. Publicly Released: Mar 28, 2017.
Since 2008, DOD has obligated over $3.5 billion through a dedicated fund to help recruit and train its acquisition workforce—the people responsible for buying $250 billion in goods and services each year. We previously reported that delays in using this fund have led to large amounts of money being carried over from year to year. We found that DOD, with some help from Congress, improved the tim...
GAO-17-40: Published: Jan 31, 2017. Publicly Released: Jan 31, 2017.
Most training providers (80 percent) who responded to GAO's survey reported that they were satisfied with guidance the U.S. Coast Guard (Coast Guard) provided to assist them in implementing the revised International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) requirements. However, 58 percent of respondents, including state maritime academies, private f...
GAO-17-53: Published: Jan 31, 2017. Publicly Released: Jan 31, 2017.
The Air Force and the Army have not fully applied four of the five key principles for effective strategic human capital planning for managing pilots of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) that are important for resolving the Air Force's pilot shortages and the Army's training shortfalls (see table below). Consistent with the first principle, the Air Force involved top senior leaders, UAS pilots, and sta...