United States General Accounting Office GAO Report to the Ranking Minority Member, Subcommittee on Readiness, Committee on Armed Services, House of Representatives August 2003 DOD PERSONNEL Documentation of the Army’s Civilian Workforce-Planning Model Needed to Enhance Credibility GAO-03-1046 a August 2003 DOD PERSONNEL Documentation of the Army's Civilian Highlights of GAO-03-1046, a report to the Workforce-Planning Model Needed to Ranking Minority Member, Subcommittee on Readiness, Committee on Armed Enhance Credibility Services, House of Representatives Between fiscal years 1989 and 2002, The Army has taken adequate steps to ensure that the historical the Department of Defense (DOD) personnel data used in the model are sufficiently reliable and that the reduced its civilian workforce by information technology structure adequately and appropriately supports about 38 percent, with little attention to shaping or specifically the model. For example, the Army has established adequate control sizing this workforce for the future. measures (e.g., edit checks, expert review, etc.) to ensure that the As a result, the civilian workforce historical data that goes into the model are sufficiently reliable. is imbalanced in terms of the Moreover, it has taken adequate steps to ensure that the information shape, skills, and experience technology support structure (i.e., the software and hardware used to needed by the department. DOD is interface with and house the model) would enable continuity of taking steps to transform its operations, functionality, and system modification and operations. civilian workforce. To assist with this transformation, the department is considering adopting an Army However, the Army has not demonstrated that it has taken adequate workforce-planning model, known steps to ensure that the model’s forecasting capability provides the basis as the Civilian Forecasting System for making accurate forecasts of the Army’s civilian workforce. The (CIVFORS), which the Army uses Army’s original certification of CIVFORS in 1987 was based on a formal to forecast its civilian workforce documented verification and validation of the model structure that has needs. Other federal agencies are not been formally updated since that time even though the Army has also considering adopting this undertaken several model improvements. According to the Army’s model. GAO was asked to review the adequacy of the steps the Army CIVFORS program manager, the Army has taken several steps, to include has taken to ensure the credibility an independent review, peer reviews, and a comparison of forecasted of the model. data to actual data. However, documentation of these steps is incomplete and, therefore, does not provide adequate evidence to demonstrate the credibility of the forecast results. Without adequate To assure the reliability of Army documentation, the Army cannot show that it has taken sufficient steps civilian workforce projections and to ensure the model’s credibility in terms of its forecasting capability; the appropriateness of the model consequently, there exists a risk that the forecasts it produces may be for use DOD-wide and by other inaccurate or misleading. Furthermore, without documentation of federal agencies, we recommend CIVFORS’s forecasting capability, it may be difficult for DOD and other that the Secretary of Defense direct federal organizations to accurately determine its suitability for their use. the Secretary of the Army to appropriately document the forecasting capability of the model. Although DOD stated, in written comments on a draft of this report, it did not concur with GAO’s recommendation, the Army is taking actions that, in effect, implement it. www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-03-1046. To view the full product, including the scope and methodology, click on the link above. For more information, contact Derek Stewart, 202-512-5559, firstname.lastname@example.org. Contents Letter 1 Results in Brief 2 Background 3 Civilian Workforce-Planning Model’s Data Reliability and Information Technology Structure Are Adequate, but Forecasting Ability Not Fully Established 4 Conclusions 8 Recommendation for Executive Action 8 Agency Comments and Our Evaluation 8 Scope and Methodology 9 Appendix I Comments from the Department of Defense 11 Appendix II GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments 13 Abbreviations CIVFORS Civilian Forecasting System DOD Department of Defense WASS Workforce Analysis Support System This is a work of the U.S. government and is not subject to copyright protection in the United States. It may be reproduced and distributed in its entirety without further permission from GAO. However, because this work may contain copyrighted images or other material, permission from the copyright holder may be necessary if you wish to reproduce this material separately. Page i GAO-03-1046 DOD Personnel United States General Accounting Office Washington, DC 20548 August 22, 2003 The Honorable Solomon P. Ortiz Ranking Minority Member Subcommittee on Readiness Committee on Armed Services House of Representatives Dear Mr. Ortiz: Between fiscal years 1989 and 2002, the Department of Defense (DOD) reduced its civilian workforce from 1,075,437 to 670,166—about a 38 percent reduction—with little attention to shaping or specifically sizing this workforce for the future. As a result, the civilian workforce is imbalanced in terms of the shape, skills, and experience needed by the department. DOD plans to downsize its civilian workforce by an additional 55,000 through fiscal year 2007. In addition, in April 2003, DOD submitted a proposal to Congress that would authorize DOD to establish a National Security Personnel System to transform its current civilian personnel system.1 DOD is also exploring the feasibility of placing hundreds of thousands of civilians into essentially nonmilitary jobs that are currently performed by uniformed personnel. To assist in determining its future workforce, DOD will need reliable workforce planning tools, such as workforce projection models. According to DOD guidance, a model used to provide data for decision making should be accredited--that is, the model should be officially certified as acceptable for use for a specific purpose. In a February 2003 testimony, the Chief of Staff of the Army stated that the Army has begun to transform its civilian personnel system. To assist with this transformation, the Army is using its workforce-planning model, known as the Civilian Forecasting System (CIVFORS), which forecasts future civilian workforce needs.2 The Army is working closely with the 1 The system is proposed in the Transformation for the 21st Century Act of 2003. The act also proposes other wide-ranging changes, affecting civilian personnel pay and performance management, collective bargaining, rightsizing, and other human capital areas. 2 The Civilian Forecasting System was adapted from an Army military forecasting model for civilian use in 1987. Page 1 GAO-03-1046 DOD Personnel Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Office of Personnel Management to demonstrate the applicability of the model for use DOD- wide and in other federal agencies. According to Army guidance (Army Regulation 5-11 and Department of the Army Pamphlet 5-11), verification is one of the steps needed to ensure a model’s suitability to perform its intended purpose. The verification process evaluates the extent to which a model has been developed using sound and established software engineering techniques, and it establishes whether the computer code correctly performs the intended functions. Army guidance also states that assessment of the correctness and forecasting capability is required. In this report, we reviewed the adequacy of the steps the Army has taken to ensure the credibility of the model. In March 2003, we briefed your staff on our preliminary findings. To determine the Army’s efforts to ensure the credibility of its model, we interviewed and obtained pertinent documentation from the Army’s CIVFORS program manager. We also reviewed DOD and Army guidance relevant to the management of Army models and interviewed DOD officials to discuss their plans to adopt CIVFORS. We conducted our review from September 2002 to June 2003. More detailed information on our scope and methodology appears at the end of this report. The Army’s steps were adequate to ensure that the historical personnel Results in Brief data used in the model are sufficiently reliable and that the information technology support structure3 adequately and appropriately supports the model, but the Army has not documented its steps to ensure the credibility of the model’s forecasting capability. The Army has established adequate control measures (e.g., edit checks, expert review, etc.) to ensure that the historical data that goes into the model are sufficiently reliable. Moreover, it has taken adequate steps to ensure that the information technology support structure would enable continuity of operations, functionality, and system modification and operations. However, the Army has not documented that it has taken adequate steps to ensure that the model’s structure (including its forecasting capability and the appropriateness of its assumptions) provides the basis for making accurate forecasts of the Army’s civilian workforce. The Army’s original certification of CIVFORS in 1987 was based on a formal documented verification and validation of the model structure that has not been formally updated since that time, even 3 The software and hardware used to interface with and house the model. Page 2 GAO-03-1046 DOD Personnel though the Army has undertaken several model improvements. According to the Army’s CIVFORS program manager, the Army has taken several steps, to include an independent review, peer reviews, and a comparison of forecasted data to actual data. However, documentation of these steps is incomplete and, therefore, does not provide adequate evidence to demonstrate the credibility of the forecast results. Without adequate documentation, the Army cannot show that it has taken sufficient steps to ensure the credibility of the model’s forecasting capability; consequently, there exists a risk that the forecasts it produces may be inaccurate or misleading. Furthermore, without documentation of CIVFORS’s forecasting capability, it may be difficult for DOD and other federal organizations to accurately determine its suitability for their use. We are recommending that the Secretary of Defense direct the Secretary of the Army to appropriately document the Army’s forecasting capability of the civilian workforce-planning model. Although DOD stated, in written comments on a draft of this report, it did not concur with our recommendation, the Army is taking actions that, in effect, implement it. According to an Army Human Resource official, the Army uses the Background workforce-planning model—CIVFORS—for human resources management. CIVFORS is a collection of software programs that anticipate future impacts on the workforce so that management can plan for changes instead of reacting to them. The model is used to evaluate a number of critical areas in civilian workforce planning, including projected recruitment of personnel, impact of organizational realignments, and changes in workforce trends (such as aging, retention, and projected personnel shortfalls). It is a life-cycle modeling and projection tool that models the most significant events that describe the life-cycle path of personnel, which includes accessions, promotions, reassignments, retirements, and voluntary and involuntary separations over a 7-year period. Verification and validation of models are important steps to building credible models because they provide the foundation for the accreditation process to ensure the suitability of the models for their intended purposes, as stated in Army guidance, Management of Army Models and Page 3 GAO-03-1046 DOD Personnel Simulations.4 The verification process evaluates the extent to which a model has been developed using sound and established software engineering techniques, and it establishes whether the model’s computer code correctly performs the intended functions. Model verification includes data verification, model documentation, and testing of the information technology structure that supports the model; model verification is contained in such documents as the programmer’s manual, installation’s manual, user’s guide, analyst’s manual, and trainer’s manual. According to Army guidance, assessment of the correctness and forecasting capability of the model is also required, and it should be performed by a subject matter expert independent from the model developer; however, the developer is expected to conduct in-house verification and testing to assist in the overall model development process. Validation is the process of determining the extent to which the model adequately represents the real world. The Army has taken steps to ensure the reliability of the historical Civilian Workforce- personnel data used by the model and the adequacy of its information Planning Model’s Data technology structure used to support the model, but it has not provided documentation that it has sufficiently tested and reviewed the most critical Reliability and aspect of the model—its forecasting capability and the appropriateness of Information its assumptions. As a result, the forecasting credibility of the current version of the model is not sufficiently validated or documented. Without Technology Structure proper documentation of the abilities of the model, there is a risk that the Are Adequate, but forecasts it produces may be inaccurate or misleading and the suitability Forecasting Ability for use by other organizations may be difficult to determine. Not Fully Established Historical Personnel Data The Army’s review of the historical personnel data used to provide Reliability Is Adequate information for workforce planning was adequate to show that the data are sufficiently reliable for use in the workforce model. Data regarding personnel (such as date hired, education, age, grade level, and occupational series) are taken from the Army’s Workforce Analysis 4 Headquarters, Department of the Army, Management of Army Models and Simulations, Army Regulation 5-11 (Washington, D.C., July 10, 1997). This regulation prescribes policy and guidance and assigns responsibilities for the management of Army models and simulations, including development and maintenance. Page 4 GAO-03-1046 DOD Personnel Support System (WASS).5 CIVFORS uses the most recent 5 years of historical data to forecast the civilian workforce planning needs during the next 7 years. According to Army guidance, to ensure that data are sufficiently reliable for use in the Army model, support documents should contain information about the overall characteristics of the database. Furthermore, the documents should show the intended range of appropriate uses for the model as well as constraints on its use. They should also include concise statements of the condition of the database for the purpose of indicating its stability. The Army provided most, but not all, of the documents referred to in Army guidance; we believe that the documents provided are key ones and are adequate to show that WASS data are sufficiently reliable for use in CIVFORS. In addition, the Army program manager for the CIVFORS workforce-planning model stated that the workforce data are checked by reviewing the arithmetic in the numerical algorithms to verify that there is no unexplained change in the size of the civilian personnel workforce contained in the database. Further, edit checks include matching social security numbers for personnel from one time period to another to account for actual personnel and personnel transactions processed. In addition, CIVFORS has automated checks for inappropriate numbers or characters. Such steps help to assure that the data contained in WASS accurately and completely reflect critical personnel aspects and transactions. Information Technology The Army’s procedures for validating the information technology support Structure Is Adequate structure (the software and hardware used to interface with and house the model) were also sufficient. For example, the Army (1) adequately documented the information technology structure to allow for continuity of operations, (2) tested its functionality, and (3) provided expertise for system modification and operation. Procedures used by the Army include documenting the model’s system description and hardware and software requirements, providing system and user manuals, planning for configuration management,6 and conducting functionality tests to help 5 WASS enables analysis of data on Army civilians from 1974 to the present. It has analysis capabilities that range from frequency distribution to trend analysis. 6 Configuration management is the control and documentation of changes made to system hardware, software, and documentation throughout the development and operational life of the system. Page 5 GAO-03-1046 DOD Personnel ensure the system’s usability and operability over time and to demonstrate the adequacy of the information technology structure to support use of the workforce model. Model’s Forecasting Ability The Army’s documentation cannot show that the forecasting ability of Is Not Fully Established CIVFORS has been adequately evaluated and, therefore, we cannot fully assess the credibility of the model. According to Army guidance, validation is the process of determining the extent to which a model adequately represents the real world. According to the Army program manager, over a 7-year period, CIVFORS forecasts the anticipated impacts on the workforce based on the most significant events in the life-cycle path of personnel (to include accessions, promotions, reassignments, retirements, voluntary separations, and involuntary separations). Army guidance states that an independent, peer, and subject matter expert review of the model should be conducted. The Army guidance also suggests generally accepted methods, such as conducting a careful line-by-line examination of the model design and computer code and algorithms. The Army’s program manager said this had been done for the original certification of CIVFORS in 1987. However, no formal document of the reviews has been prepared in the years since, even though the Army has undertaken several model improvements, such as (1) an expanded scope to include more dimensions in the modeling process; (2) a more integrated, streamlined process that involves fewer steps; and (3) greater flexibility, achieved by generalizing the formulas and parameters. In addition, there is insufficient documentation regarding tests performed, since 1987, in which CIVFORS’s forecasts for prior years are compared against equivalent historical data (called an “out of sample” test) to measure the model’s forecasting capability. Such testing, which is one method to validate a model’s forecasting capability, would involve using the first 5 of the last 7 years of historical data to forecast the 2 subsequent years. The forecasts for the last 2 years could then be compared to the actual historical data. The Army, however, performed tests comparing patterns of forecasts against historical data (called “in sample” tests), showing that forecasts reflect the same patterns as the historical data used to develop them for a sample of three Army major commands. However, the draft document that was provided to us was inadequate to fully assess the sampling used by the Army and the value of the tests. Finally, the Army could not provide adequate documentation of an independent or peer review of the model. The Army’s CIVFORS program manager stated that the major commands served as peer reviewers by Page 6 GAO-03-1046 DOD Personnel conducting a comparison of their workforce data to WASS and CIVFORS workforce data. We believe that such assessments by users provide important information but do not constitute a peer review as defined in Army guidance. Also, the results of these assessments were not available for us to review. The program manager also stated that an independent subject matter expert reviewed the functional design and the code in 1999, but a formal report of the activities performed and the specific changes or modifications implemented during the review were not produced. Documentation has often not been a priority for several reasons. According to the Army’s CIVFORS program manager, lack of documentation is primarily due to limited funding, which was spent on implementing changes to CIVFORS and WASS rather than on the production of formal documents. Further, a shortage of staff (only one staff person—the program manager) and loss of documents during the attack on the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, also affected the amount of documentation the Army could provide us. The program manager also stated that some documentation was not needed because CIVFORS’s design is predicated on proven methods in other Army active-duty, military manpower forecasting models. In addition, the program manager stated that the Army and contractors have primarily been adapting technology (upgrading from mainframe to personal computer to Web-based) to improve model functionality rather than creating new technology. However, without proper documentation of the abilities of the model, there exists a risk that the forecasts it produces may be inaccurate or misleading. Consequently, decisions about future workforce requirements may be questionable, and planning for the size, shape, and experience level of the future workforce may not adequately meet the Army’s needs. These issues may extend beyond the Army. In April 2002, DOD published a strategic plan for civilian personnel, which includes a goal to obtain management systems to support workforce planning. According to a DOD official responsible for civilian workforce planning tools, components within DOD have been requesting a modeling tool to assist them with civilian workforce planning. As a result, DOD has decided to test the Army’s civilian forecasting model. In October 2002, DOD purchased hardware, installed modified software, and provided training to a small number of personnel. Recently, DOD obtained a historical database of civilian personnel data from the Defense Management Data Center and provided the database to the contractor to load into the model. Two agencies have volunteered to test the model: the Defense Logistics Agency and the Washington Headquarters Service. DOD is working to develop a test for these organizations using their own civilian personnel data to test Page 7 GAO-03-1046 DOD Personnel the model. At the end of the testing period, DOD will assess the model to obtain a better understanding of its logic and determine whether or not it should be implemented departmentwide. As DOD continues to transform and downsize its civilian workforce, it is Conclusions imperative that the department properly shape and size the workforce. One tool that could assist in this effort is CIVFORS—the Army’s workforce planning model. However, proper documentation of the verification and validation of CIVFORS is needed before expanding its use. The Army has taken adequate steps to ensure that the historical personnel data used in the model are sufficiently reliable and the information technology structure appropriately supports the model; however, it has not fully documented that it has taken adequate steps to demonstrate the credibility of the model’s forecasting capability. Further, a model should be fully scrutinized before each new application because a change in purpose, passage of time, or input data may invalidate some aspects of the existing model. Without sufficient documentation to demonstrate that adequate steps have been taken to ensure the credibility of the model’s forecasting capabilities, decisions about the Army’s future civilian workforce may be based on questionable data and other potential users cannot determine with certainty the model’s suitability for their use. To assure the reliability of Army civilian workforce projections, as well as Recommendation for the appropriateness of the model for use DOD-wide and by other federal Executive Action agencies, we recommend that the Secretary of Defense direct the Secretary of the Army to appropriately document the Army’s forecasting capability of the model. Although DOD stated, in written comments on a draft of this report, that it Agency Comments did not concur with our recommendation, the Army is taking actions that, and Our Evaluation in effect, implement it. DOD’s written comments are contained in appendix I. Regarding our recommendation that the Secretary of Defense direct the Secretary of the Army to appropriately document the Army’s forecasting capability of the model, DOD stated that the Army recognizes the need to fully document its verification and validation efforts. Further, DOD stated the staff of the Assistant Secretary of the Army, Manpower and Reserve Affairs, has begun developing a verification and validation plan to enable outside parties to assess the suitability and adaptability of the model for Page 8 GAO-03-1046 DOD Personnel their organizational use. This verification and validation process is scheduled for completion in September 2003. However, during our review, DOD did not provide information about the full scope of this verification and validation effort. We believe that as the Army undertakes its verification and validation effort, it should clearly document, as we recommended, its assumptions, procedures, and the results so that future users can replicate the tests to appropriately establish the model’s validity for their purposes. DOD also did not concur with our finding that the forecasting ability of the model has not been fully established. DOD stated that the ultimate test of a system is performance and that CIVFORS has been consistently generating Army projections with high standards of accuracy. We did not independently evaluate the model’s accuracy. As our report makes clear, our basic point is that the model’s forecasting ability has not been documented in accordance with Army guidance. We continue to believe that without adequate documentation, the Army cannot show that it has taken sufficient steps to ensure the model’s credibility in terms of its forecasting capability. DOD also provided technical comments, which we incorporated where appropriate. We did not independently evaluate the model or the application of the Scope and steps; rather, we reviewed the adequacy of the steps that the Army Methodology program manager stated were taken to ensure the credibility of the model. To determine the adequacy of the steps the Army has taken to ensure the credibility of its civilian workforce-forecasting model, we discussed CIVFORS with the Army’s CIVFORS program manager in the Army G-1 office, Civilian Personnel Policy Directorate, who has overall responsibility for the workforce analysis and the forecasting system. In addition, Army contractor officials who are responsible for providing technical, analytic, and management support to operate, maintain, and enhance the planning tool and model participated in several of our discussions with the program manager. We reviewed the following CIVFORS’s documents regarding the information technology support structure: the Configuration Management Manual, the System’s Specifications, the Design/Subsystem Documentation, the Operator’s Manual, and the User’s Manual. In addition, we reviewed the 1987 and draft 2002 test analysis report on the Civilian Forecasting System and other documentation provided by the Army to obtain information on how the model operates according to model assumptions. We also reviewed the DOD Defense Modeling and Simulation Office guidance on verification and validation of models, the Army regulation and pamphlet pertaining to the Page 9 GAO-03-1046 DOD Personnel management of Army models and simulations, and other literature regarding model credibility. We also interviewed DOD officials in the Civilian Personnel Management Service responsible for developing plans to adopt the Army’s workforce forecasting model to discuss the status of their efforts. We conducted our review from September 2002 to June 2003 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. We are sending copies of this report to the appropriate congressional committees, the Secretary of Defense, the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, and the Secretary of the Army. We will also make copies available to others upon request. In addition, the report will be available at no charge on the GAO Web site at http://www.gao.gov. If you or your staff have any questions about this report, please contact me at (202) 512-5559. Key contributors to this report are listed in appendix II. Sincerely yours, Derek B. Stewart Director, Defense Capabilities and Management Page 10 GAO-03-1046 DOD Personnel Appendix I: Comments from the Department Appendix I: Comments from the Department of Defense of Defense Page 11 GAO-03-1046 DOD Personnel Appendix I: Comments from the Department of Defense Page 12 GAO-03-1046 DOD Personnel Appendix II: GAO Contact and Staff Appendix II: GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments Acknowledgments Christine Fossett (202) 512-2956 GAO Contact In addition to the name above, David Dornisch, Barbara Johnson, Barbara Acknowledgments Joyce, John Smale, Dale Wineholt, and Susan Woodward made significant contributions to this report. (350385) Page 13 GAO-03-1046 DOD Personnel The General Accounting Office, the audit, evaluation and investigative arm of GAO’s Mission Congress, exists to support Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities and to help improve the performance and accountability of the federal government for the American people. 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DOD Personnel: Documentation of the Army's Civilian Workforce-Planning Model Needed to Enhance Credibility
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2003-08-22.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)