Can the Intelligence Community (IC) workforce survive sequestration, furloughs, security clearance reform and the defense drawdown? It can if it implements strategic planning such as the Foundational Workforce/Total Workforce model, argues the Intelligence and National Security Alliance.
Released this week, Smart Change II: Preparing the Intelligence Community Workforce for an Evolving Threat and Fiscal Environment examines the “challenges and opportunities” associated with restructuring.
“There is no doubt the IC will have to adapt as a result of the fiscal downturn, but the IC can use this opportunity to transform its manpower planning from a transactional entity to a strategic enterprise,” the report notes in its conclusion.
The report offers recommendations in three key areas – strategic workforce planning, public private partnerships, and integration.
“It’s easy to say strategic, it’s difficult to do,” said Marshall Keith, INSA Smart Change Task Force, speaking on an INSA and Nextgov panel to discuss the paper’s findings. “We want to avoid salami-sized cuts to personnel just to meet financial constraints.”
Foundational Workforce: The Foundational Workforce consists of “enduring, long-term human capital requirements” and should be structured with bi-partisan support across the legislative and executive branches of government. While the total workforce can shrink, the foundational workforce should remain a constant over time, based on national security needs and objectives.
While sequestration pushes for across-the-board cuts, that approach does not fit the unique mission of the IC.
“We have 17 different intelligence agencies. Every intelligence agency function being unique, a one-size-to-fit-all approach doesn’t fit,” said Deborah Kircher, Chief Human Capital Officer, Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). “We need flexibility and an agile workforce.”
The INSA whitepaper points to industry as a critical model for maintaining the agility necessary, as well as talent pipelining to ensure future workforce needs can be addressed quickly. Industry representatives emphasized that the best way for them to support the government in this is through insight. Government leaders should share with industry where their capability gaps and needs are headed, including mission and skills gaps.
“The contractor element is a critical portion of the foundational workforce,” said Keith. Industry is able to more quickly on-board junior talent, and will need to keep hiring even as budgets decline.
Panelists admitted that the challenges to the IC workforce are many, and there is particular concern with on-boarding new talent even as cut-backs require layoffs. While retaining and promoting the best employees is key, on/off ramps allowing workers to enter and exit the federal workforce are also critical, the paper notes. The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) is currently exploring ways for employees to maintain their security clearances if they leave the agency to do industry work, and then wish to return.
The IC currently faces challenges on several fronts – declining budgets, a shifting workforce, and emerging challenges such as threat finance, big data and cybersecurity. The IC must embrace a strategic approach to workforce planning that matches the manpower with the mission.