The Defense Department isn’t doing enough to ensure critical skills and competency assessments are used to determine civilian workforce numbers, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

In 2010, then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates ordered numerous initiatives designed to reduce overhead costs, including freezing civilian workforce numbers.  However, in the face of these caps, the GAO questioned if the DoD adequately ensured key skills were still maintained.

“DoD’s decisions about which skills and competencies to maintain were not informed by competency gap assessments because DoD has not completed most of those assessments,” the GAO reported.

Congress mandated in 2006 that the Defense Department should conduct competency gap assessments for its strategic workforce planning.  Yet by 2012, the DoD only completed planning for 8 of 22 mission critical occupations, the GAO said.

The DoD responded to the report by saying it would deliver a comprehensive Strategic Workforce Plan that addresses competency gaps and critical skill shortfalls in its civilian personnel.  The department is scheduled to complete the gap assessments by 2015, yet it hasn’t documented any other ways it will maintain core competencies.

“We continue to believe that the department is not in a position to fully justify the size of its workforce until it has fully addressed its mandate to identify areas of critical skill and competency gaps within the civilian workforce,” wrote the GAO.

The GAO recommended that the Secretary of Defense should:

  • involve functional community managers and, to the extent possible, use information from gap assessments of its critical skills and competencies as they are completed to make informed decisions for possible future reductions or to justify the size of the force that it has; and
  • document its efforts to strategically manage its civilian workforce and maintain critical skills and competencies for future reductions.

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Chandler Harris is a freelance business and technology writer located in Silicon Valley. He has written for numerous publications including Entrepreneur, InformationWeek, San Jose Magazine, Government Technology, Public CIO,, U.S. Banker, Digital Communities Magazine, Converge Magazine, Surfer's Journal, Adventure Sports Magazine,, and the San Jose Business Journal. Chandler is also engaged in helping companies further their content marketing needs through content strategy, optimization and creation, as well as blogging and social media platforms. When he's not writing, Chandler enjoys his beach haunt of Santa Cruz where he rides roller coasters with his son, surfs and bikes across mountain ranges.