GAO puts work force woes on high-risk list

GAO puts work force woes on high-risk list

By Tony Lee Orr

GCN Staff

JAN. 18—The General Accounting Office yesterday added strategic human capital management—that is, the work force'to its biannual list of high-risk problems.

As much as one-third of the federal government's current work force is expected to retire within five years, said David M. Walker, comptroller general of the United States. The situation comes at time when agencies are reporting difficulty in hiring high-tech workers.

The shortage is already affecting the ability of some agencies to serve the public, Walker said.

'The fact that the federal government doesn't adequately hire and retain the right people is a root cause of many specific high-risk problems as well as many of the other critical performance problems in many individual agencies,' said Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.). 'These kinds of management challenges prevent the federal government from doing the people's business.'

Walker said the problem is not federal employees, but that for too long the federal work force has been a target for politicians aiming to reduce the size of government.

While Walker challenged federal managers to use hiring tools approved by the Office of Personnel Management, he did not support a loosening of federal government hiring practices, which can extend the application process for months.

Hiring processes might need to be studied'and adjusted where necessary'Walker said, but he maintained that stringent controls should not be removed.

Five high-risk areas were removed from the problem list. The Year 2000 date change, 2000 Census, Superfund program, Farm Loan programs and the National Weather Service modernization all were serious challenges that have been successfully resolved.

Information security, which made the trouble list in 1997, remained on the high-risk roll call, as did the Federal Aviation Administration's air traffic control modernization and systems modernization efforts at the Defense Department and IRS.

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