Lack of cost, workforce training data harms DHS’ management decisions

The Department of Homeland Security protects the nation’s borders, the President and the American people, but a new Office of Inspector General report claims that what the agency cannot do is keep track of its workforce training.

In a Jan. 20 report, auditors determined that not only has the agency failed to address nearly 30 recommendations — some made as far back as 2004 — to improve training efficiencies, the report stated that “DHS lacks reliable training cost information and data needed to make effective and efficient management decisions.”

According to the report, since its formation in 2002, DHS has continually faced challenges resulting from the merging of 22 federal agencies. In fact, the Government Accountability Office labeled “the integration of DHS and Human Capital Management as a high-risk area” in 2003. While the department has made steps to address this, including the integration and consolidation of training infrastructure, the report stated, there is more work to be done.

The audit was conducted between March and September 2015. The OIG made three recommendations:

  • Develop and implement a process to accurately capture and report training information across DHS.
  • Establish an effective governance structure at DHS and component levels with clear guidance and authority for training and development.
  • Evaluate past working group recommendations and create an implementation plan for recommendations that will improve the management of DHS training.

DHS concurred with all three recommendations and in its Dec. 2 response to auditors, the agency reiterated its commitment to “consistent oversight and transparency in order to ensure unity of effort, and encourage efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability.”

Jeff Neal, senior vice president for ICF International and former DHS chief human capital officer, said while he wasn’t surprised by the findings, DHS’ response shows “that DHS ‘gets it’ and is working to address the issues.”

“Because of its law enforcement mission and the need to train new hires in mission-specific subjects, DHS is a far more training-intensive agency than most of the rest of the government. In that respect it is closer to the armed services than to other civilian agencies,” Neal said. “The split of training responsibilities between the CHCO [Chief Human Capital Officer] and the components contributes to the problem, but there is no easy way to fix that. The reality is that the CHCO’s office does not have the resources or the expertise to oversee training with the scope and high degree of specific mission requirements that DHS requires. They need a different way of counting training dollars.”

Among the problems auditors found was that DHS does not have reliable training cost data.

When auditors requested information from the DHS Office of the Chief Financial Officer regarding training costs, not only did it not have the information readily available, but it instead needed data calls to obtain the information wanted by the OIG.

Even then, those data calls as well as budget requests and financial reports made to the Office of Personnel Management differed from each other.

“For instance in FY 2014, Congress provided more than $1.4 billion for DHS training, but DHS only reported $1.9 million in training costs to OPM; and as of August 2015 the OCFO could only account for $267.6 million in training expenditures for FY 2014,” auditors stated.

And while agencies are required to keep training records and cost data, auditors found that DHS is using at least three contractors to collect and keep that data.

The OIG determined that the training data being sent to OPM — which requires the bookkeeping — was inaccurate, and according to  DHS OCHCO personnel, “DHS does not have access to components’ financial data and relies solely on contractors to meet its reporting requirements.”

“Having reliable data is essential to DHS to fully meet its reporting requirements and effectively oversee its training funding,” auditors stated.

Another issue raised by the OIG was that DHS lacks a governance structure for training oversight.

Auditors found that while a draft directive to improve on this was updated in August 2015, the draft has been in the approval process since 2010.

“In the meantime, DHS and its components must continue to rely on inadequate and conflicting management directive and delegation of authority documents,” the report stated. “The lack of effective governance structure further hinders DHS’ ability to adequately oversee its workforce training, which decreases opportunities for efficiencies.”

Auditors also pointed out that the department had not addressed nearly 30 recommendations from past reviews and working groups.

“DHS continues to initiate working groups to improve training management without taking action on prior recommendations,” the report stated. “DHS has overlooked opportunities for known efficiencies and continues to create working groups. This lack of action hinders DHS’ ability to improve oversight of its workforce training and ensure the most cost-efficient use of resources.”

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