oversight

FBI Counterterrorism: Vacancies Have Declined, but FBI Has Not Assessed the Long-Term Sustainability of Its Strategy for Addressing Vacancies

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2012-04-16.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

             United States Government Accountability Office

GAO          Report to Congressional Requesters




April 2012
             FBI COUNTERTERRORISM

             Vacancies Have Declined,
             but FBI Has Not Assessed
             the Long-Term
             Sustainability of Its
             Strategy for Addressing
             Vacancies




GAO-12-533
                                                April 2012

                                                FBI COUNTERTERRORISM
                                                Vacancies Have Declined, but FBI Has Not Assessed
                                                the Long-Term Sustainability of Its Strategy for
                                                Addressing Vacancies
Highlights of GAO-12-533, a report to
congressional requesters




Why GAO Did This Study                          What GAO Found
Following the September 11, 2001,               From fiscal years 2005 through 2011, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI)
terrorist attacks, the FBI established          human capital strategies contributed to reductions in the vacancy rate for all
counterterrorism as its top investigative       positions in the Counterterrorism Division (CTD) from 26 percent to 6 percent
priority. Since 2001, the FBI has hired         (shown in figure below). Most vacancies were caused by transfers to other parts
thousands of additional staff,                  of the FBI. While overall vacancies declined, trends in vacancies varied by
increasing its total onboard workforce          position. For example, vacancies for special agents and professional staff
by 38 percent. In particular, the FBI           generally decreased each year while vacancies for intelligence analysts varied
has increased both the size and the             during the same time period.
role of its headquarters CTD that is
located in Washington, D.C. In 2005,            Vacancy Rate for All CTD Positions from Fiscal Years 2005 through 2011
the FBI reported that nearly 40 percent
of staff positions in certain parts of
CTD were vacant, raising concerns
about the FBI’s ability to fulfill its most
important mission. As requested, GAO
reviewed FBI CTD vacancies.
Specifically, this report discusses
(1) the extent to which counterterrorism
vacancies existed at FBI HQ since
2005 and the reasons for the
vacancies and (2) the impact of the
strategies implemented by the FBI to
address these vacancies. GAO
obtained data on CTD vacancies from
fiscal years 2005 through 2011 as well
as strategies the FBI used to address
vacancies and their associated costs.           The FBI developed the Headquarters Staffing Initiative (HSI) in 2005 to reduce
GAO also interviewed FBI human                  special agent vacancies in CTD and other headquarters (HQ) divisions, and
resources and counterterrorism                  primarily used workforce flexibilities, such as recruitment incentives, and targeted
officials regarding vacancies and the           recruitment to reduce vacancies for intelligence analysts and professional staff.
FBI’s steps to address them. This               Overall, FBI officials reported that these strategies have been effective in
report is an unclassified version of a          reducing vacancies. Specifically, HSI included two primary strategies to reduce
classified report GAO issued in                 vacancies: (1) allowing special agents to come to HQ on 18-month temporary
February 2012.                                  duty assignments instead of permanent transfers and (2) providing relocation
                                                incentives to special agents to permanently transfer to HQ. Since 2006, GAO
What GAO Recommends                             estimates that the FBI has spent $50 million to staff CTD with special agents
GAO recommends the FBI establish                under HSI. According to the FBI, HSI is the primary reason agent vacancies in
criteria, time frames, and other factors        CTD were reduced. In addition, FBI officials said HSI yielded other benefits. For
for its evaluation of the long-term             example, officials from all sections within CTD stated that HSI helped to build a
sustainability and effectiveness of HSI         cadre of experienced counterterrorism agents both within CTD and in field
to determine whether it is the most             offices. HSI has reduced vacancies, but a 2005 FBI working group report noted
effective strategy for reducing                 that while HSI may be effective in the short term, a long-term solution would
vacancies. The FBI concurred with this          require a more thorough analysis. FBI officials reported that they are planning an
recommendation.                                 evaluation of HSI; however, they have not established criteria, time frames, and
                                                other factors of the evaluation. By defining these elements, the FBI could better
                                                ensure that the evaluation of HSI will produce accurate and relevant findings that
View GAO-12-533 or key components.              can inform the long-term staffing strategy for agents in CTD and other HQ
For more information, contact David C. Maurer   programs.
at (202) 512-9627 or maurerd@gao.gov.

                                                                                         United States Government Accountability Office
Contents


Letter                                                                                     1
               Background                                                                  5
               CTD Vacancies Have Declined since 2005, and Most Vacancies
                 Were Caused by Internal Transfers within the FBI                        13
               FBI Staffing Initiatives Have Helped Reduce CTD Vacancies, but
                 the FBI Has Not Assessed the Long-Term Sustainability of Its
                 Strategy for Addressing Vacancies                                       22
               Conclusions                                                               34
               Recommendation for Executive Action                                       35
               Agency Comments and Our Evaluation                                        35

Appendix I     Scope and Methodology                                                     38



Appendix II    Special Agent Headquarters Assignment                                     43



Appendix III   Vacancy Rates for CTD and Other Operational HQ Programs                   44



Appendix IV    Separations from CTD by Type of Separation                                48



Appendix V     Comments from the Federal Bureau of Investigation                         51



Appendix VI    GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments                                     52



Tables
               Table 1: Short-Term Recommendations to Fill Supervisory Special
                        Agent Positions in HQ from Understaffing Working Group           10
               Table 2: Options for Field Agents to Come to HQ under the
                        Headquarters Staffing Initiative                                 11
               Table 3: Other Benefits and Costs of the Headquarters Staffing
                        Initiative                                                       24




               Page i                               GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
          Table 4: Financial Expenses for the FBI Associated with HSI
                   Options                                                           28


Figures
          Figure 1: Vacancy Rate for All CTD Positions from Fiscal Years
                   2005 through 2011                                                 13
          Figure 2: Vacancy Rates and Separation Rates for Agents in CTD,
                   Fiscal Years 2005 through 2011                                    17
          Figure 3: Vacancy Rates and Separation Rates for Intelligence
                   Analysts in CTD, Fiscal Years 2005 through 2011                   19
          Figure 4: Vacancy Rates and Separation Rates for Professional
                   Support Staff in CTD, Fiscal Years 2005 through 2011              21
          Figure 5: Agents on 18-Month TDY as Percentage of Total Agents in
                   CTD, Fiscal Years 2006 through 2011                               23
          Figure 6: Percentage of Agents Completing 18-Month TDY
                   Assignment in CTD Who Converted to Permanent
                   Positions, Fiscal Years 2008 through 2011                         25
          Figure 7: Annual Financial Expenses for 18-Month TDYs in CTD,
                   Fiscal Years 2006 through 2011                                    27
          Figure 8: Vacancy Rates for All Staff in CTD and Other Operational
                   HQ Programs, Fiscal Years 2005 through 2011                       44
          Figure 9: Vacancy Rates for Agents in CTD and Other Operational
                   HQ Programs, Fiscal Years 2005 through 2011                       45
          Figure 10: Vacancy Rates for Intelligence Analysts in CTD and
                   Other Operational HQ Programs, Fiscal Years 2005
                   through 2011                                                      46
          Figure 11: Vacancy Rates for Professional Support Staff in CTD and
                   Other Operational HQ Programs, Fiscal Years 2005
                   through 2011                                                      47
          Figure 12: Separation Rates for Agents in CTD, by Type of
                   Separation, for Fiscal Years 2005 through 2011                    48
          Figure 13: Separation Rates for Intelligence Analysts in CTD, by
                   Type of Separation, for Fiscal Years 2005 through 2011            49
          Figure 14: Separation Rates for Professional Support Staff in CTD,
                   by Type of Separation, for Fiscal Years 2005 through 2011         50




          Page ii                               GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
Abbreviations

CTD               Counterterrorism Division
DI                Directorate of Intelligence
DOJ               Department of Justice
FBI               Federal Bureau of Investigation
GS                General Schedule
HQ                headquarters
HRD               Human Resources Division
HIS               Headquarters Staffing Initiative
IC                Intelligence Community
IG                Inspector General
IRS               Internal Revenue Service
NAPA              National Academy of Public Administration
OPM               Office of Personnel Management
SAHA              Special Agent HQ Assignment
SET               Strategic Execution Team
TDY               temporary duty



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Page iii                                       GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
United States Government Accountability Office
Washington, DC 20548




                                   April 16, 2012



                                   Following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Federal Bureau
                                   of Investigation (FBI) established counterterrorism as its top investigative
                                   priority and shifted resources to this area from its more traditional law
                                   enforcement activities, such as drug, white-collar, and violent crime. In
                                   addition to transferring hundreds of agents and support staff from criminal
                                   areas to counterterrorism, the FBI also subsequently hired thousands of
                                   additional agents, intelligence analysts, and other professional support
                                   staff to fulfill its mission. The FBI has increased in size from
                                   approximately 26,000 positions in fiscal year 2003 to almost 36,000
                                   positions in fiscal year 2012, an increase of about 38 percent. The FBI
                                   also increased the role that its headquarters (HQ) Counterterrorism
                                   Division (CTD), located in Washington, D.C., plays in managing and
                                   overseeing counterterrorism cases and significantly increased the number
                                   of staff in CTD. For example, from fiscal years 2002 through 2011 the
                                   number of special agents assigned to CTD increased by nearly 160
                                   percent.

                                   In 2005, the FBI found that CTD was experiencing vacancies of nearly 40
                                   percent, raising concerns about the FBI’s ability to fulfill one of its most
                                   important missions. A subsequent congressional hearing on this matter
                                   further highlighted concerns about these vacancies and the extent to
                                   which the FBI had adequate numbers of staff with the right skills and
                                   abilities to effectively fulfill its counterterrorism mission. 1 To address this
                                   problem, the FBI formed the Understaffing Working Group in 2005 to
                                   identify potential solutions to the staffing challenges at FBI HQ, including
                                   vacancies in CTD.




                                   1
                                     FBI Whistleblowers: Hearing before the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and
                                   Homeland Security of the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, 110th
                                   Congress (May 21, 2008).




                                   Page 1                                       GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
Previous work by the Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General
(IG) 2 and the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA), 3 as well
as our own work, 4 has highlighted the challenges the FBI has faced in
staffing counterterrorism positions in HQ. This work identified three broad
challenges: (1) fully staffing CTD positions, (2) effectively utilizing and
retaining intelligence analysts, and (3) effectively incorporating strategic
human capital planning to ensure that its staffing is adequate to meet its
mission. Specifically, the DOJ IG found that the FBI faced significant
challenges in hiring and effectively utilizing intelligence analysts and
made recommendations focusing on, among other things, developing
hiring goals and improving intelligence training. The FBI concurred with all
of the IG’s recommendations and subsequently took actions to address
them. 5 In 2005, NAPA reported that the FBI faced challenges retaining
intelligence analysts and that CTD was significantly understaffed,
subsequently recommending that the FBI fully staff CTD and that CTD
reduce its reliance on temporary duty assignments from field offices to
keep positions filled. Though our prior work did not provide
recommendations to the FBI, we reported in June 2003 that the FBI
initially did not have a strategic human capital plan, 6 its performance
management system was inadequate to discern meaningful distinctions in




2
  Department of Justice Office of Inspector General, Follow-Up Audit of the Federal
Bureau of Investigation’s Efforts to Hire, Train, and Retain Intelligence Analysts, DOJ IG
07-30 (Washington, D.C.: April 2007); The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Efforts to
Hire, Train, and Retain Intelligence Analysts, DOJ IG 05-20 (Washington, D.C.: May
2005); and A Review of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Counterterrorism Program:
Threat Assessment, Strategic Planning, and Resource Management, DOJ IG 02-38
(Washington, D.C.: September 2002).
3
 National Academy of Public Administration, Transforming the FBI: Progress and
Challenges (Washington, D.C.: January 2005).
4
 GAO, Intelligence Reform: Human Capital Considerations Critical to 9/11 Commission’s
Proposed Reforms, GAO-04-1084T (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 14, 2004); FBI
Transformation: Human Capital Strategies May Assist the FBI in Its Commitment to
Address Its Top Priorities, GAO-04-817T (Washington, D.C.: June 3, 2004); FBI
Transformation: FBI Continues to Make Progress in Its Efforts to Transform and Address
Priorities, GAO-04-578T (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 23, 2004); FBI Reorganization: Progress
Made in Efforts to Transform, but Major Challenges Continue, GAO-03-759T (Washington,
D.C.: June 18, 2003); and FBI Reorganization: Initial Steps Encouraging but Broad
Transformation Needed, GAO-02-865T (Washington, D.C.: June 21, 2002).
5
    The FBI informed us that the DOJ IG closed out all recommendations as of 2009.
6
    In March 2004, we reported that the FBI issued its strategic human capital plan.




Page 2                                           GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
performance, and the FBI needed to evaluate the effectiveness of its
workforce flexibilities in fully staffing counterterrorism positions.

To assist with its oversight responsibilities, you requested that we conduct
a review of vacancies within CTD. Specifically, this report addresses the
following two questions:

1. What is the extent of counterterrorism vacancies at FBI HQ since
   2005 and what are the reasons for these vacancies?
2. What has been the impact of the strategies implemented by the FBI to
   address these vacancies?

In February 2012 we reported to you on the results of our work in a
classified report. This is an unclassified version of that report. The FBI
deemed some of the information in the prior report classified information,
which must be protected from public disclosure. Therefore, this report
omits classified information about staffing levels in CTD. Although the
information provided in this report is more limited in scope, it addresses
the same questions as the classified report. Also, the overall methodology
used for both reports is the same.

To address these objectives, we obtained and analyzed data from the FBI
on staffing levels and vacancies in CTD HQ from fiscal years 2005
through 2011 for agents, intelligence analysts, and all other professional
staff. We assessed the reliability of FBI vacancy data through electronic
testing, internal consistency checks, and interviews with knowledgeable
officials, and concluded that the data were sufficiently reliable for the
purposes of this report. We compared fiscal year 2011 CTD vacancy
rates with historic rates in CTD as well as with rates in other FBI HQ
programs to understand whether they differed substantially. We
interviewed officials from CTD, the Human Resources Division (HRD),
and other relevant FBI offices to obtain their perspectives on the reasons
for vacancies and the strategies that have been used to fill them. We also
reviewed the 2005 FBI HQ Understaffing Report as well as other official
FBI documents.

In addition, we obtained data on the financial costs of FBI strategies from
fiscal years 2005 through 2011 to determine their total and average costs
to the FBI since 2005. We also interviewed section chiefs and assistant
section chiefs from each section within CTD to better understand their
operations and mission and obtain their perspectives on the benefits,
costs, and effectiveness of the strategies the FBI has used to fill these
vacancies. We reviewed the FBI’s use of human capital flexibilities and


Page 3                                 GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
strategies and applicable federal statutes, regulations, and policies on the
use of such strategies from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM),
DOJ, and the FBI. We also compared the FBI’s efforts to assess these
strategies against criteria for effective human capital planning established
by us 7 and OPM, 8 and criteria for conducting evaluations we identified
from social science and evaluation literature as well as our own
guidance. 9 In addition, we interviewed officials from other federal law
enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Marshals Service; Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Drug Enforcement
Administration; Secret Service; and Immigration and Customs
Enforcement, to discuss the strategies they use to fill HQ vacancies. After
conducting these interviews, we determined that these agencies’ efforts
and missions where not directly comparable to those of the FBI. More
details on our scope and methodology can be found in appendix I.

We conducted this performance audit from May 2009 through April 2012
in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.
Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain
sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our
findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that
the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and
conclusions based on our audit objectives.

Shortly after we began the review in May 2009, DOJ and the FBI raised
questions about GAO’s access authority to obtain certain information from
the Intelligence Community (IC) about FBI counterterrorism positions,
which resulted in the FBI temporarily not providing certain information. 10



7
 GAO, Human Capital: Key Principles for Effective Strategic Workforce Planning,
GAO-04-39 (Washington, D.C.: Dec. 11, 2003).
8
  Office of Personnel Management, Human Capital Assessment and Accountability
Framework (HCAAF), 5 C.F.R. Part 250.
9
 Sources for criteria include P. H. Rossi, M. W. Lipsey, and H. E. Freeman, Evaluation: A
Systematic Approach, 7th ed. (Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications, Inc., 2004);
B. R. Worthen., J. R. Sanders, and J. L. Fitzpatrick, Program Evaluation: Alternative
Approaches and Practical Guidelines, 4th ed. (Allyn & Bacon, 2010); and GAO, Designing
Evaluations: 2012 Revision, GAO-12-208G (Washington, D.C.: January 2012); and
Assessing the Reliability of Computer-Processed Data, GAO-09-680G (Washington, D.C.:
July 2009); and Assessing Social Program Impact Evaluations: A Checklist Approach,
PAD-79-2 (Washington, D.C.: October 1978).
10
     CTD is considered part of the IC.




Page 4                                        GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
                           We obtained general information from the FBI on policies, protocols, and
                           strategies related to human capital issues, such as staffing, retention,
                           recruitment, and workforce planning. However, because we were
                           temporarily denied access to the information, we suspended our work. On
                           June 30, 2011, in response to a statutory requirement, 11 the Director of
                           National Intelligence finalized a directive pertaining to the Comptroller
                           General’s access to IC information, which provides, among other things,
                           that elements of the IC shall not categorically deny GAO access to
                           information and shall not withhold information solely because that
                           information relates to a program funded by the National Intelligence
                           Program. As a result, we reinitiated our review in June 2011 and
                           completed our work in April 2012. In February 2012, we reported to you
                           on the results of our work in a classified report. This is an unclassified
                           version of that report.



Background
FBI Counterterrorism and   CTD was established in FBI HQ to coordinate the counterterrorism
Growth after               investigations conducted in FBI HQ and its field offices. CTD is staffed by
                           three broad position types: special agents (agents), intelligence analysts,
September 11, 2001         and other professional support staff. Eighty percent of agents working in
                           CTD are supervisory agents, most employed at the General Schedule
                           (GS) 14 level and above, the majority managing operations in the field or
                           HQ under their areas of responsibility. Intelligence analysts analyze
                           intelligence gathered by field agents or from other sources and
                           disseminate reports throughout the FBI and the broader IC. Other
                           professional support staff provide technical and administrative support to
                           agents and intelligence analysts and include 54 different position types.
                           Examples of professional support staff include accountants, computer
                           scientists, and management and program analysts.

                           Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the FBI has
                           substantially increased its counterterrorism resources and capabilities,



                           11
                              In general, section 348 of the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 (Pub.
                           L. No. 111-259, 124 Stat. 2654, 2700 (2010)) required the Director of National
                           Intelligence, in consultation with the Comptroller General of the United States, to issue a
                           written directive governing the access of the Comptroller General to information in the
                           possession of an element of the IC.




                           Page 5                                          GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
                    making counterterrorism its number one priority. Specifically, from fiscal
                    years 2002 through 2004, the FBI permanently realigned 674 agent
                    positions to counterterrorism and counterintelligence from other areas,
                    such as drug and white-collar crime. Further, from fiscal years 2006
                    through 2010, congressional appropriations for counterterrorism as
                    reported in DOJ budget justifications increased from $1.34 billion to
                    $1.96 billion, a 46 percent increase, and the number of full-time
                    equivalent positions allocated increased 31 percent.

                    In addition to changes in resource allocations, the FBI has also worked to
                    transform its operations to better meet its counterterrorism mission. This
                    transformation has been described by FBI officials as a shift from a
                    reactive law enforcement agency to one that is forward thinking and
                    focused on intelligence gathering and terrorism prevention. According to
                    the FBI, part of this transformation included shifting the program
                    management of counterterrorism cases from field offices to CTD at FBI
                    HQ and significantly increasing the number of staff working in CTD. CTD
                    is organized into separate branches, each headed by a deputy assistant
                    director, and is broken out into sections with varying counterterrorism
                    responsibilities. As part of adapting to changing priorities and threats,
                    CTD has undergone various reorganizations since September 11, 2001.
                    These reorganizations had implications for CTD’s human capital
                    management as well as the operations under its purview. For example, in
                    2007, the Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate was created out of
                    functions that were formerly part of other divisions, including CTD, which
                    resulted in the transfer of positions from CTD.


FBI Human Capital   Federal agencies, including the FBI, have certain human capital
Flexibilities       flexibilities at their disposal to help ensure that they can meet their staffing
                    needs, including filling vacant positions. The FBI has primarily used 3R
                    incentives (financial incentives for recruitment, relocation, and retention of
                    staff) and temporary duties (TDY) to fill positions in CTD. Aside from 3R
                    incentives, the FBI can bring staff from field offices or other HQ programs
                    to CTD on TDY to fill positions in CTD. Employees on TDY in the FBI are
                    provided additional compensation intended to cover the expenses of
                    being away from home, which include lodging, meals, and incidental
                    expenses.




                    Page 6                                   GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
In general, with OPM authorization, federal agencies have statutory
authority, as amended by the Federal Workforce Flexibility Act of 2004, 12
to provide 3R incentives under the following circumstances:

•     A recruitment incentive could be given to a new employee if the
      agency has determined that the position is likely to be difficult to fill in
      the absence of such an incentive. In general, the recruitment incentive
      may not exceed 25 percent of the employee’s annual rate of basic
      pay.
•     A relocation incentive could be given to a current employee who must
      relocate to accept a position in a different geographic area that the
      agency determines is likely to be difficult to fill in the absence of such
      an incentive. In general, the relocation incentive may not exceed 25
      percent of the employee’s annual rate of basic pay.
•     A retention incentive could be given to a current employee if the
      unusually high or unique qualifications of the employee or a special
      need of the agency for the employee’s services makes retaining that
      employee essential and the agency determines that the employee
      would be likely to leave federal service in the absence of the
      incentive. In general, the retention incentive may not exceed 25
      percent of the employee’s annual rate of basic pay.
With additional approval from OPM, based on critical agency need, each
incentive may be increased up to 50 percent, as long as the total
incentive does not exceed 100 percent of the annual rate of basic pay.
Any employee receiving these incentives generally must sign a service
agreement with the agency, stating that the employee will remain in the
position associated with the incentive for a predetermined amount of time.
For such recruitment and relocation incentives, a service agreement may
not exceed 4 years.

In addition to the above authority granted to federal agencies, the FBI
was provided special statutory authority to provide relocation and




12
     Pub. L. No. 108-411, 118 Stat. 2305 (2004) (codified at 5 U.S.C. §§ 5753, 5754).




Page 7                                           GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
                            retention incentives in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005. 13 In
                            general, this authority allows the FBI, after consultation with OPM, to pay
                            the following on a case-by-case basis:

                            •    A retention incentive to an employee if (1) the unusually high or
                                 unique qualifications of the employee or a special need of the FBI for
                                 the employee’s services makes it essential to retain the employee and
                                 (2) the FBI determines that in the absence of the incentive, the
                                 employee would be likely to leave either the federal service or leave
                                 the FBI for a different position in the federal service.
                            •    A relocation incentive to an employee subject to a mobility agreement
                                 who is transferred to a position in a different geographic area in which
                                 there is a shortage of critical skills, as determined by the FBI.
                            Retention and relocation incentives under the special FBI authority may
                            not exceed 50 percent of the employee’s annual rate of basic pay. In
                            addition, unlike the 4-year service agreement limitation for the general
                            recruitment and relocation incentive authority, service agreements under
                            the special FBI retention and relocation incentive authority are not subject
                            to a 4-year limitation.


Challenges in Staffing      According to FBI policy, agents wanting to become supervisors at the GS-
Agent Positions in FBI HQ   14 level and above or wanting to be promoted to management positions
                            in the field, such as special agents in charge, are required to accept an
                            assignment in FBI HQ for a set period of time, generally for 2 years.
                            According to FBI officials, historically, to be promoted agents were
                            required to permanently transfer to a HQ division, and as soon as the
                            assignment was complete, most would apply for a promotion in a field
                            office. Despite this requirement as part of the agent career path, the FBI
                            has historically faced challenges in filling agent positions in HQ. For
                            example, a 1998 FBI survey identified that a very small percentage of
                            agents surveyed indicated an interest in promotion if it required a transfer



                            13
                               Pub. L. No. 108-447, 118 Stat. 2809, 2868-69 (2004) (codified, as amended, at 5
                            U.S.C. § 5759). The conference report accompanying this legislation provided, in part, that
                            “the conferees understand that the FBI is having difficulty retaining certain staff in critical
                            senior management positions and other specialized positions. For example, since
                            September 2001, the attrition rate for intelligence analysts has exceeded 10 percent. The
                            conferees understand that other agencies in the Intelligence Community have more
                            flexible pay and benefits authorities than the FBI and consequently are able to recruit
                            talented staff from the FBI.”




                            Page 8                                           GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
to FBI HQ. 14 In addition, of the field supervisory agents surveyed, most
said they would step down rather than accept an assignment at FBI HQ.
The FBI attributes the cost of living in the Washington, D.C., area and
disruptions in one’s personal or family life caused by a relocation as the
two primary disincentives historically deterring agents from accepting an
HQ assignment.

In response to the difficulties in filling HQ agent positions, the FBI formed
the internal HQ Understaffing Working Group in 2005 to propose short-
term solutions to the continual inability to attract agents to serve an FBI
HQ assignment, particularly in the FBI’s most critical HQ divisions. 15 The
working group found, among other things, that the six priority FBI HQ
divisions were collectively understaffed by 39 percent of the total funded
positions. 16 According to the working group, this was largely a result of a
lack of candidates applying for positions. For example, the working group
reported that almost half of FBI HQ agent position postings in 2004 were
canceled because of a lack of a qualified candidate pool. This shortage
also came at a time of unprecedented expansion at FBI HQ to meet the
priority objectives, including counterterrorism. FBI officials also stated that
in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001,
there were limited numbers of supervisory agents with experience in
counterterrorism cases, which further contributed to challenges in filling
agent positions in CTD. Officials also noted that the pace and pressure of
work in CTD was extremely high. For example, some agents were
expected to participate in multiple briefings each day with the FBI Director
and were expected to follow up on each lead with no margin for error.
Officials said that these working conditions may not have been attractive
to many qualified agents in the field.

The working group placed a priority on determining an effective stopgap
measure to quickly mitigate the staffing shortage and presented five


14
     We did not assess the reliability and validity of this survey.
15
   The FBI HQ Understaffing Working Group was formed and completed its work in 2005.
It was led by members of the Executive Development and Selection Program Section, and
in addition consisted of members of CTD, the Criminal Division, the Cyber Division, the
Security Division, and the Counterintelligence Division, and personnel from Directorate of
Intelligence (DI), the Office of General Counsel, the Personnel Policy Unit, the Finance
Division, the Administrative Services Division, and the Budget Unit.
16
  The six priority FBI HQ components are CTD, the Counterintelligence Division, the
Cyber Division, the Security Division, the Criminal Investigative Division, and DI.




Page 9                                              GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
short-term alternatives to address vacancies among supervisory agents,
which are listed in table 1.

Table 1: Short-Term Recommendations to Fill Supervisory Special Agent Positions
in HQ from Understaffing Working Group

 Recommendation                        Description
 Competitive long-term TDY             Field agents would relocate to HQ on a temporary basis
 assignments                           and receive per diem payments for lodging, meals, and
                                       incidental expenses. Upon completion of the
                                       assignment, agents would return to their field offices of
                                       origin.
 Volunteer nonsupervisory              Field agents would volunteer to serve a 12-month TDY
 TDYs to HQ                            assignment in HQ. Positions would be noncompetitive
                                       and would not require selection through a career board.
 Volunteer permanent transfers Field agents would volunteer to transfer permanently to
 to Washington, D.C. and       the Washington, D.C. or Baltimore Field Offices and be
 Baltimore Field Offices       required to serve a TDY assignment in HQ for a
                               minimum of 12 months.
 Internal transfers of agents          Agents serving in an HQ division designated as low
 within HQ                             priority would be assigned to a HQ division designated
                                       as high priority.
 Involuntary draft of field agents Field agents would be required to transfer to a HQ
 to HQ                             division, allowable under the FBI’s transfer policy all
                                   agents sign when joining the agency.
Source: FBI HQ Understaffing Report.



In assessing these short-term solutions, the working group conducted
analysis and consulted internal stakeholders to determine the feasibility of
each. The working group noted that long-term solutions would also need
to be developed to ensure sustainability, and that what may be best for
the FBI in the short term may not be sufficient over the long term.
Although the working group suggested three potential long-term solutions,
it noted that providing long-term recommendations would require a more
detailed study. The long-term solutions it suggested included
(1) relocation incentives to attract field agents to HQ, (2) expansion of the
Washington, D.C. Field Office to provide support to HQ divisions, or
(3) the creation of a “57th Field Office” to provide support for HQ
divisions. The 57th Field Office would be located outside of the
Washington, D.C., metropolitan area to avoid the area’s high cost of living




Page 10                                              GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
                         and staffed principally by nonsupervisory agents. 17 These agents would
                         provide support to CTD and other HQ divisions.


FBI Actions to Address   Using the results of the working group’s analysis, the FBI implemented
Agent Vacancies          the Headquarters Staffing Initiative (HSI), which used a combination of
                         18-month TDYs and financial incentives to attract agents from the field to
                         HQ. In July 2005, the FBI began piloting HSI with the objective to fill
                         supervisory agent positions in critical HQ divisions, including CTD. After
                         the FBI deemed the pilot successful, it was established as a Director’s
                         initiative in December 2006. The FBI also implemented another
                         recommendation from the working group, called the 57th Field Office, but
                         ultimately discontinued the program in 2011 because it was not meeting
                         its objective. 18

                         Since its implementation, all agents transferring to HQ to fill supervisory
                         agent positions at the GS-14 and GS-15 levels are part of HSI. HSI offers
                         field agents one of two options to come to FBI HQ, as outlined in table 2.

                         Table 2: Options for Field Agents to Come to HQ under the Headquarters Staffing
                         Initiative

                          Permanent transfer              Eighteen-month TDY
                          •     Agent receives            •   Agent comes to HQ on an 18-month TDY assignment.
                                relocation incentive of   •   While agent is on TDY, his or her position in field is
                                at least $25,000.             back-filled.
                          •     Agent agrees to           •   Upon completion of 18-month TDY assignment, agent
                                service agreement of 1        returns to his or her field office to fill former position.
                                year.
                                                          •   The FBI pays a per diem (including lodging and meals
                          •     The FBI pays for              and incidental expenses) reduced by a minimum of 25
                                relocation expenses.          percent the normal rate and one trip home per month.
                         Source: FBI.



                         Under either option, agents receive full credit for a tour in HQ for
                         purposes of career development and may subsequently be promoted to a
                         supervisory position in a field office. Upon completion of the assignment,
                         agents selecting the 18-month TDY option are given the choice to either


                         17
                              The FBI has 56 field offices.
                         18
                            Details of this program, known as the Special Agent Headquarters Assignment, can be
                         found in app. II.




                         Page 11                                           GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
return to their prior position in the field or convert the TDY to a permanent
position in CTD.

In designing the 18-month TDY option of HSI, the FBI considered both
the staffing needs of HQ as well as the tax implications of TDY expenses.
In general, per diem and other travel expense payments to most
employees are not taxable income if the employee is temporarily away
from home within a certain time period. 19 Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
guidance to DOJ indicated that among other things, for such certified
employees, the determination of whether a job location is temporary
depends upon the facts and circumstances of each particular case and
that courts have typically examined a variety of factors to make such a
determination. IRS additionally noted that when examining whether a job
location is temporary, courts have historically viewed assignments lasting
longer than 2 years as not being temporary, resulting in a shift in the
taxpayer’s tax home. 20 Given these tax implications, while the FBI has
historically required agents to have at least 2 years of HQ experience to
apply for a supervisory position in a field office, to minimize the likelihood
that agents would be required to pay taxes on TDY payments, the FBI
chose to set the TDY term at 18 months with the expectation that many
agents may have their assignments extended any number of months
because of operational circumstances. Agents on TDY completing 18
months under HSI are deemed to have met their requirement for HQ
experience to apply for a supervisory position in a field office.




19
   In general, under Internal Revenue Code provision 26 U.S.C. § 162(a), tax deductions
are allowed for ordinary and necessary expenses in carrying on any trade or business,
including traveling expenses such as meals and lodging while away from home in pursuit
of a trade or business. With respect to traveling expenses, however, this Internal Revenue
Code provision further provides that a taxpayer shall not be treated as being temporarily
away from home during any period of employment in excess of 1 year. An exception in 26
U.S.C. § 162(a) provides that the 1-year limit shall not apply to any federal employee
during any period for which such employee is certified by the Attorney General as
traveling on behalf of the United States in TDY status to investigate or prosecute, or
provide support services for the investigation or prosecution of, a federal crime. According
to FBI officials, a blanket exemption has been granted that covers employees assigned to
operational divisions under HSI. This exemption, according to the officials, was granted by
the Assistant Attorney General pursuant to authority delegated from the Attorney General.
20
  See, for example, Hummel v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo 1977-135; Jones v.
                                                    th
Commissioner, 54 T.C. 734 (1970) and 444 F.2d 508 (5 Cir 1971); Michaels v.
Commissioner, 53 T.C. 269, 275 (1969); and Norwood v. Commissioner, 66 T.C. 467
(1976).




Page 12                                         GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
                       From fiscal years 2005 through 2011, the vacancy rate for all positions in
CTD Vacancies Have     CTD declined by 20 percentage points from 26 percent at the end of fiscal
Declined since 2005,   year 2005 to 6 percent at the end of fiscal year 2011. 21 The vacancy rate
and Most Vacancies     decreased in each year except fiscal year 2008, when it rose from 12
                       percent to 18 percent, and 2011, when it rose from 4 percent to 6 percent.
Were Caused by         In addition, most of the vacancies that occurred in CTD from fiscal years
Internal Transfers     2005 through 2011 were caused by internal staff transfers to other parts
                       of the FBI. Specifically, 77 percent of all separations from CTD from fiscal
within the FBI         years 2005 through 2011 were due to internal transfers. (See app. IV for
                       more details on separations.) Figure 1 provides vacancy rates at the end
                       of each fiscal year from 2005 through 2011 for all CTD positions.

                       Figure 1: Vacancy Rate for All CTD Positions from Fiscal Years 2005 through 2011




                       21
                          The vacancy data we received were as of the last day of each fiscal year
                       (September 30), and therefore our analysis provides a snapshot of the vacancies in CTD
                       at one point in time. Vacancies and vacancy rates can fluctuate throughout the fiscal year
                       for a variety of reasons, for example, changes in allocations of funded positions,
                       separations, and hiring of new staff members. Our analysis does not capture the
                       continuous vacancy rates over the fiscal year.




                       Page 13                                        GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
CTD’s Overall Vacancy       While the overall vacancy rate in CTD declined from fiscal years 2005
Rate Decreased and Varied   through 2011, vacancy trends varied by position type. From fiscal years
by Position Type            2005 through 2011, agent vacancies decreased by 31 percentage points,
                            intelligence analyst vacancies showed no steady trend, and professional
                            support vacancies decreased 22 percentage points. Furthermore,
                            vacancies for agents and professional support staff decreased
                            consistently each year but one, while vacancies for intelligence analysts
                            exhibited more variation during the period.

                            Regarding individual CTD sections and units, there was some variation in
                            vacancies. FBI officials told us they have the flexibility to move staff
                            between sections and units depending on organizational priorities. For
                            example, in April 2011, the Strategic Operational Section was formed in
                            CTD and staffed entirely with onboard employees from other parts of
                            CTD. To the extent that certain skills are transferable between sections,
                            this type of flexibility assists the FBI in ensuring that no CTD section or
                            unit has a substantially higher number of vacancies than another section
                            or unit. At the end of fiscal year 2011, the majority of sections had
                            vacancy rates under the CTD-wide rate of 6 percent, and only a few
                            sections had vacancy rates over 10 percent.

                            While the FBI has no targets for vacancy rates, and there is no general
                            governmentwide guideline for what an acceptable vacancy rate is for an
                            agency, an agency’s ability to perform its mission can be negatively
                            affected if high vacancy rates are affecting agency operations. According
                            to the 2005 Understaffing Working Group, an internal FBI document, and
                            some CTD officials we spoke with, CTD’s vacancy rate for agents in 2005
                            (41 percent) was too high and negatively affected operations. In addition,
                            in fiscal years 2005 through 2007, CTD’s agent vacancy rates were
                            higher than those for other HQ operational programs by 9 percentage
                            points or more. 22 However, after fiscal year 2007 agent vacancy rates in
                            CTD were either less than those of other HQ programs or greater by only
                            1 percentage point. In addition, from fiscal years 2005 through 2011
                            overall vacancy rates for CTD and other operational HQ programs did not
                            differ by more than 7 percentage points. (See app. III for a comparison of
                            annual vacancy rates for CTD and other operational HQ programs.) This


                            22
                               Operational HQ programs include the Counterintelligence Division, CTD, the Criminal
                            Investigation Division, the Critical Incident Response Group, the Cyber Division, DI, the
                            International Operations Division, the Office of Victim Assistance, the Terrorist Screening
                            Center, and the Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate.




                            Page 14                                         GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
                  suggests that during the first 4 years following the FBI’s prioritization of
                  counterterrorism after September 11, 2001, CTD struggled more than
                  other HQ programs to fill positions, but that more recently those
                  challenges have lessened and are more consistent with those of other
                  HQ divisions. All section chiefs as well as one deputy assistant director in
                  CTD told us that current vacancy rates in CTD have no negative impact
                  on their operations. In addition, officials from HRD who oversee staffing in
                  all of HQ told us that the staffing challenges CTD currently faces, as well
                  as the strategies to address those challenges, are no different than those
                  of any other HQ division.

                  According to FBI officials we spoke with, the current vacancy rate of 6
                  percent is relatively low and reaching a 0 percent rate is virtually
                  impossible because of the steps associated with filling a position, many of
                  which are in place to ensure that the FBI has qualified staff filling
                  positions. For example, agents in a field office applying to positions in HQ
                  must be approved by a career board, made up of officials who review
                  each candidate’s application and qualifications. These career boards take
                  place on monthly cycles, thus depending on when the vacancy arises
                  there may be a gap in when the position is filled. For intelligence analysts
                  and professional support staff, new hires may come from outside the
                  agency and must therefore be vetted through a lengthy security clearance
                  process before they can be brought on board. According to the FBI,
                  depending on how much lead time the FBI has to prepare for a vacancy,
                  there can be a lengthy period before the position is filled. Because the
                  FBI does not maintain data on the number of vacancies caused by these
                  delays, we were unable to estimate the number of vacancies that resulted
                  from these delays.

Agent Vacancies   Agent vacancies decreased by 31 percentage points from fiscal years
                  2005 to 2011. As shown in figure 2, the agent vacancy rate decreased
                  consistently at an average of 5 percentage points per year, from a peak of
                  41 percent at the end of 2005 to a low of 10 percent at the end of fiscal
                  year 2011. Our analysis of FBI data suggested that this decrease was a
                  result of a combination of factors, including the decrease and subsequent
                  stabilization of annual funded agent positions combined with a decrease
                  in agents separating from CTD. FBI officials also told us that the decrease
                  was also partially a result of increases in the number of agents applying
                  for positions in CTD. Specifically, as shown in figure 2, overall funded
                  positions for agents in CTD decreased from fiscal years 2005 through
                  2007 and marginally increased from 2007 through 2011, meaning that
                  CTD did not have large numbers of new positions to fill each year. In
                  addition, the percentage of agents separating from CTD decreased from


                  Page 15                                GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
fiscal years 2006 through 2011. Although the separation rate increased
from fiscal years 2005 to 2006, it did not lead to an increase in vacancies
because the FBI began implementing HSI, which increased the number of
onboard agents in CTD (we discuss this in more detail later in this
report). 23 Figure 2 shows the year-end vacancy rates and number of
funded positions and staff onboard as well as the yearly separation rates
for agents from fiscal years 2005 through 2011.




23
   In addition, the restructuring of FBI HQ was responsible for 7 percent of all agent
separations in 2007 and 2008. In 2006, the Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate was
created out of functions that were formerly part of other divisions, including CTD.
According to the FBI, staffing data reflected this change starting in 2007, and several staff
members, including some agents, left CTD for the Weapons of Mass Destruction
Directorate that year. In 2008, the Terrorist Screening Center was moved out of CTD to
become its own stand-alone program, and staff, including agents, left CTD for the Terrorist
Screening Center that year.




Page 16                                         GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
Figure 2: Vacancy Rates and Separation Rates for Agents in CTD, Fiscal Years 2005
through 2011




Notes: Onboard counts include employees on TDY assignments of over 180 days. Vacancy rates and
the number of funded positions and staff on board are as of the last day of each fiscal year.
Separation rates are the percentage of staff separating over the course of the fiscal year. Employees
on TDY assignments are not included in the calculation of separation rates.
a
 The exact total number of funded agent positions in CTD was deemed sensitive by FBI. As a result,
that information has been redacted from this report.




Page 17                                             GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
                                 b
                                  Separation data for 2005 through 2007 do not include the Terrorist Screening Center, which was a
                                 part of CTD for these years, and accounted for 2 percent of total onboard agents at the end of each
                                 these fiscal years.


Intelligence Analyst Vacancies   While the vacancy rate for intelligence analysts fluctuated from fiscal
                                 years 2005 through 2011, these fluctuations showed no consistent trends.
                                 Specifically, the vacancy rate for intelligence analysts was relatively
                                 stable from fiscal years 2005 through 2009, fluctuating close to the
                                 average of 11 percent for that time period. At the end of fiscal year 2010,
                                 the vacancy rate decreased to 0 percent, and then rose to 4 percent at
                                 the end of fiscal year 2011. According to our analysis of FBI data,
                                 fluctuations in vacancy rates for intelligence analysts were in large part a
                                 result of restructuring in FBI HQ, which changed the number of funded
                                 positions and staff separating from CTD to other divisions. As shown in
                                 figure 3, the decrease in vacancies for intelligence analysts from fiscal
                                 years 2005 through 2007 was due in part to a relatively small increase in
                                 funded positions from fiscal years 2005 through 2006, and a subsequent
                                 decrease from fiscal years 2006 through 2007, a result of the
                                 restructuring of FBI HQ that shifted intelligence analyst funded positions
                                 out of CTD. The higher vacancy rates in fiscal years 2008 and 2009 were
                                 related to continued increases in separation rates for those years,
                                 according to FBI officials, as a result of the implementation of the
                                 Strategic Execution Team (SET). 24 In an initiative designed to help the
                                 FBI become more intelligence driven, one aspect of SET moved
                                 intelligence analysts to field offices to increase FBI field awareness of
                                 intelligence work. From fiscal years 2009 through 2010, intelligence
                                 analyst funded positions were stable and in fiscal years 2010 and 2011
                                 separation rates decreased, corresponding to the lowest vacancy rates
                                 from fiscal years 2005 through 2011. CTD’s ability to hire new intelligence
                                 analysts to fill vacancies contributed to the generally lower level of
                                 vacancies for intelligence analysts relative to agents. Our analysis of FBI
                                 data showed that for every fiscal year from 2005 through 2011, on
                                 average more qualified candidates applied to job announcements for
                                 intelligence analysts than there were vacant positions associated with
                                 those announcements. Figure 3 shows the year-end vacancy rates and
                                 number of funded positions and staff on board, as well as the yearly




                                 24
                                   The formation of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate in 2007 and the
                                 Terrorist Screening Center in 2008 led to the transfer of intelligence analysts out of CTD,
                                 representing 19 percent of all intelligence analyst separations over the 2 years.




                                 Page 18                                             GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
separation rates for intelligence analysts from fiscal years 2005 through
2011.

Figure 3: Vacancy Rates and Separation Rates for Intelligence Analysts in CTD,
Fiscal Years 2005 through 2011




Page 19                                    GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
                             Notes: Onboard counts include employees on TDY assignments of over 180 days. Vacancy rates and
                             the number of funded positions and staff on board are as of the last day of each fiscal year.
                             Separation rates are the percentage of staff separating over the course of the fiscal year. Employees
                             on TDY assignments are not included in the calculation of separation rates.
                             a
                              In 2010, CTD had an excess of intelligence analysts beyond its number of funded positions. Onboard
                             counts include employees on TDY assignments of over 180 days. Vacancy rates and the number of
                             funded positions and staff on board are as of the last day of each fiscal year. Separation rates are the
                             percentage of staff separating over the course of the fiscal year. Employees on TDY assignments are
                             not included in the calculation of separation rates.
                             b
                              The exact total number of funded intelligence analyst positions in CTD was deemed sensitive by FBI.
                             As a result, that information has been redacted from this report.
                             c
                              Separation data for 2005 through 2007 do not include the Terrorist Screening Center, which was a
                             part of CTD for these years, and accounted for 1 to 2 percent of total onboard intelligence analysts at
                             the end of each of these fiscal years.


Professional Support Staff   From fiscal years 2005 through 2011, the vacancy rate for all CTD
                             professional support staff declined from 28 percent to 6 percent.
                             Vacancies decreased every fiscal year except 2008, when the rate rose
                             from 7 percent the prior year to 25 percent. As shown in figure 4, while
                             the number of funded positions gradually increased, the general decrease
                             in separation rates from fiscal years 2005 through 2011 and a
                             consistently higher number of qualified applicants than job
                             announcements were responsible for the downward trend in vacancies.
                             The peak in vacancies at the end of fiscal year 2008 corresponded to
                             increases in funded positions and a peak in separations. At the end of
                             fiscal year 2008, CTD had a 40 percent increase in professional support
                             funded positions from fiscal year 2007. In addition, separations caused by
                             transfers within the FBI peaked in fiscal year 2008 at 27 percent, in part
                             because of the restructuring of FBI HQ (see app. IV for details). 25 Figure 4
                             shows the year-end vacancy rates and number of funded positions and
                             staff on board, as well as the yearly separation rates for professional
                             support staff from fiscal years 2005 through 2011.




                             25
                               The formation of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate in 2007 and the
                             Terrorist Screening Center in 2008 led to the transfer of professional support staff out of
                             CTD, representing 36 percent of all professional support separations over the 2 years.




                             Page 20                                               GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
Figure 4: Vacancy Rates and Separation Rates for Professional Support Staff in
CTD, Fiscal Years 2005 through 2011




Notes: Onboard counts include employees on TDY assignments of over 180 days. Vacancy rates and
the number of funded positions and staff on board are as of the last day of each fiscal year.
Separation rates are the percentage of staff separating over the course of the fiscal year. Employees
on TDY assignments are not included in the calculation of separation rates.
a
 The exact total number of funded professional staff positions in CTD was deemed sensitive by FBI.
As a result, that information has been redacted from this report.




Page 21                                             GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
                         b
                          Separation data for 2005 through 2007 do not include the Terrorist Screening Center, which was a
                         part of CTD for these years, and accounted for 11 to 13 percent of total onboard professional support
                         staff at the end of each of these fiscal years.


                         While the FBI’s staffing initiatives have helped to reduce vacancies in
FBI Staffing             CTD, the FBI has not yet identified its long-term strategy for addressing
Initiatives Have         vacancies in HQ. All FBI officials we interviewed told us that HSI has
                         been very successful in helping them reduce agent vacancies in CTD
Helped Reduce CTD        since 2005, and that its benefits outweigh its costs. In addition, FBI
Vacancies, but the FBI   officials also told us that their use of 3R incentives and other workforce
Has Not Assessed the     flexibilities has helped to fill intelligence analyst and professional support
                         staff positions. While FBI officials told us that its staffing strategies have
Long-Term                so far been effective, the FBI has not assessed their long-term
Sustainability of Its    sustainability nor identified a long-term strategy for maintaining adequate
                         staffing levels in CTD.
Strategy for
Addressing Vacancies

HSI Has Helped Reduce    According to all FBI officials we interviewed, HSI has been successful in
Agent Vacancies in CTD   helping them reduce agent vacancies in CTD, and its benefits outweigh
                         its costs. Chiefs from all CTD sections we interviewed, as well other CTD
                         and HRD officials, stated that without HSI they would have trouble
                         keeping agent positions filled. Following the implementation of HSI as a
                         full program in 2006, vacancy rates for agents began a decreasing trend
                         until 2011. The 18-month TDY option has been the most commonly
                         selected by agents. Specifically, our analysis of FBI data showed that
                         from 2007 through 2010, 71 percent of all new agents coming to CTD
                         under HSI came as 18-month TDYs, rather than permanent transfers. As
                         shown in figure 5, from fiscal years 2006 through 2011, 18-month TDYs
                         made up from 21 to 33 percent of all agents in CTD, suggesting that the
                         program had a significant impact on vacancies. 26 According to the FBI,
                         because it has been more frequently chosen by agents, the 18-month
                         TDY option has been more effective than the permanent transfer option in
                         filling vacancies.




                         26
                          While CTD and FBI HQ in general depend on TDYs for other purposes, agents on 18-
                         month TDY accounted for 87 percent of all TDYs in CTD at the end of fiscal year 2011.




                         Page 22                                              GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
Figure 5: Agents on 18-Month TDY as Percentage of Total Agents in CTD, Fiscal
Years 2006 through 2011




However, because it is not possible to identify how many HSI participants
would have taken a position in CTD without the relocation incentive or the
TDY option, it is not possible to quantify this effect. Further, HSI did not
work in isolation of other factors, which also likely affected vacancies.
Specifically, FBI officials identified other factors that also contributed to
the decrease in agent vacancies, including the improved operational
efficiency in CTD and increased counterterrorism experience in the FBI in
general. According to the FBI, following its prioritization of
counterterrorism work in 2002, many agents across the FBI lacked the
experience they have today in conducting counterterrorism work. This
lack of experience combined with the high number of agent vacancies in
CTD at the time resulted in an extremely fast-paced and high-stress work
environment, making it difficult to attract agents to CTD. All CTD section
chiefs told us that some field agents considering positions in CTD
negatively perceived the division’s high pace of work and lack of
experience of its staff. However, officials said that as CTD and the FBI
became more experienced and achieved better staffing levels, its
operations became more efficient. The section chiefs said specifically that
CTD is better at gathering, analyzing, and disseminating intelligence and
collaborates better with other components of the IC. This increase in




Page 23                                   GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
                        efficiency translated to an improved work environment, which in turn
                        improved field agents’ perceptions of CTD.

Other Benefits of HSI   In addition to filling positions, FBI officials also identified various other
                        benefits that were not originally intended as part of the HSI program.
                        Table 3 summarizes these other benefits as well as costs associated with
                        HSI.

                        Table 3: Other Benefits and Costs of the Headquarters Staffing Initiative

                         Benefits                                                      Costs
                         •     HQ experience without committing to permanently         •   Financial costs.
                               relocate.                                               •   Administrative
                         •     Stability in workforce planning.                            burden.
                         •     Exchange of experience between CTD and field offices.   •   Continuity of
                         •     Increased leadership development among agents.              operations.

                        Source: GAO analysis.



                        HQ experience without committing to permanently relocate. In
                        addition to reducing vacancies, officials from HRD and all CTD sections
                        stated that another benefit of HSI is that the TDY option allows agents to
                        gain experience in CTD without committing to permanently relocate to
                        Washington, D.C. This has been an important aspect to the program, as
                        71 percent of all agents coming to CTD under HSI from 2007 through
                        2010 came on TDYs. According to the FBI, this has brought three
                        benefits for the agents on TDY. First, it mitigates the family disruption
                        associated with relocating agents permanently, as an agent can maintain
                        residence in the field. Second, for field agents affected by a depressed
                        housing market, the TDY allows them to gain experience in CTD without
                        incurring the financial hardship associated with selling a potentially
                        undervalued home. Third, it allows agents to assess the extent to which
                        they enjoy working in CTD. In addition, agents who decide to stay in CTD
                        after the completion of their 18-month TDY assignment can elect to
                        permanently relocate, and officials stated this has helped them fill some
                        agent positions on a permanent basis. In fact, since the program began,
                        32 percent of all agents on 18-month TDY converted their positions to
                        permanent. This rate is comparable to the overall HQ rate, which is
                        slightly lower at 31 percent. Figure 6 shows the percentage of agents on
                        18-month TDY that converted to permanent status for fiscal years 2008
                        through 2011.




                        Page 24                                       GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
Figure 6: Percentage of Agents Completing 18-Month TDY Assignment in CTD Who
Converted to Permanent Positions, Fiscal Years 2008 through 2011




Following fiscal year 2008, when only a small number of agents
completed their TDY terms, conversions of agents from 18-month TDYs
to permanent positions ranged from a high of 36 percent in 2010 to a low
of 27 percent in 2011.

Stability in workforce planning. Officials stated that another benefit of
HSI is that it facilitates workforce planning by stabilizing a schedule of
when agents join and separate from CTD. According to officials,
historically agents typically transfer out of CTD after 2 to 3 years.
However, CTD does not have a schedule for when agents who are
permanently staffed to CTD will transfer out, making it difficult to plan
ahead for upcoming vacancies. According to FBI officials, the 18-month
TDY option provides certainty to CTD workforce planning by providing a
schedule of when agents on TDY will leave, allowing the division time to
plan for vacancies in advance.

Exchange of experience between CTD and field offices. Another
benefit of HSI cited by FBI officials is that the TDY option circulates HQ
counterterrorism experience to field offices and regularly brings field
experience to CTD. Officials said that CTD provides agents with a broad
perspective on counterterrorism investigations as well as experience



Page 25                                 GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
               working on a large number of complex cases and collaborating with the
               IC. The Deputy Assistant Director of CTD cited examples where key
               counterterrorism operations have been successful because of field agents
               having had experience in CTD. A corollary benefit, officials also said, is
               that the constant inflow of agents on TDY to CTD brings field
               perspectives to CTD. These field perspectives benefit other agents,
               analysts, and support staff working in CTD by helping keep their work
               grounded in the reality of FBI investigations.

               Increased leadership development among agents. A final benefit to
               HSI identified by officials is the increase in the pool of leaders across the
               FBI. The TDY option in HSI brings a large number of agents through CTD
               and other HQ divisions, giving them HQ experience not only valuable for
               operational purposes but also for career development purposes.

Costs of HSI   While FBI officials identified benefits to using 18-month TDYs for
               attracting agents to work in CTD, they also identified three primary costs:
               (1) financial costs, (2) administrative burden, and (3) continuity of
               operations.

               Financial costs. From 2006 through September 2011, based on FBI
               data, we estimate that the FBI has incurred financial expenses of
               $50 million for the CTD staff under HSI, in addition to normal salaries and
               benefits. Most of these expenses have been associated with 18-month
               TDYs, totaling $36.5 million, according to the FBI. Figure 7 provides the
               total annual costs for all 18-month TDYs assigned to CTD for fiscal years
               2006 through 2011. According to the FBI, the average cost for each TDY
               in CTD from fiscal years 2006 through 2010 was $102,900.




               Page 26                                 GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
Figure 7: Annual Financial Expenses for 18-Month TDYs in CTD, Fiscal Years 2006
through 2011




According to the FBI, in addition to normal salaries and benefits, the
average financial expense incurred by FBI per permanent transfer is at
least $113,633, including an average cost of relocation expenses of
$88,633 and a relocation incentive of at least $25,000. Our analysis of
FBI data estimated that the FBI spent $13.5 million on permanent
transfers from 2006 through September 2011, $2.88 million of which was
for relocation incentives. 27 The FBI pays for specific categories of
financial expenses associated with permanent transfers and 18-month
TDYs, as summarized in table 4.




27
     The FBI provided us 3R incentive data through June 6, 2011.




Page 27                                         GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
Table 4: Financial Expenses for the FBI Associated with HSI Options

                Permanent transfer                                     18-month TDY
                                         Average       Expense (per 12-month                 Average
    Expense                                 cost       period)                                  cost
    Real estate assistance in            $52,340       Lodging                                $37,361
    selling home in point of origin
                           a
    Relocation incentive                   25,000      Meals and incidental                     16,279
                                                       expenses
    Shipment and storage of                 9,946      Gross-up of tax liabilities              16,160
    household goods                                    under the Income Tax
                                                                                   b
                                                       Reimbursement Allowance
    Real estate assistance in               8,869      One trip home per month                   3,243
    purchasing home in point of
    destination
    Temporary quarters                      5,789      Initial and return trip to and              405
                                                       from TDY destination
    Gross-up of tax liabilities under       6,707
    the Relocation Income Tax
              c
    Allowance
    Miscellaneous expenses                  4,982
                         a
    Total average cost                  $113,633       Total average cost per 12-             $68,600
                                                       month period
                                                       Total average cost for full           $102,900
                                                                     d
                                                       18-month term
Source: FBI.
a
 As of fiscal year 2011, relocation incentives for permanent transfers were set at a minimum of
$25,000, or 24 percent of the agent’s base salary. As a result, our estimate of the total average cost
of permanent transfers should be interpreted as a lower bound to the actual total average cost.
b
 The Income Tax Reimbursement Allowance, in general, is a reimbursement of federal, state, and
local income taxes incurred as a result of an extended TDY assignment in one location. According to
the FBI, TDYs in nonoperational offices in the FBI, for example HRD, are eligible to receive this
allowance.
c
 The Relocation Income Tax Allowance, in general, is a reimbursement for additional federal, state,
and local income taxes incurred by an employee as a result of certain travel and transportation
expenses and relocation allowances provided by the government.
d
 The sum of the individual expenses for 18-month TDYs is greater than the total average cost
because most agents on TDY under HSI were assigned to operational divisions, such as CTD, and
did not receive gross-up payments under the Income Tax Reimbursement Allowance.


FBI officials told us that of the two options agents can choose to come to
HQ, the 18-month TDY option presents the lowest financial cost per agent
to the FBI. However, a direct comparison between the two options is
complicated by the fact that permanent agents and agents on TDY often
stay in CTD for different periods of time. Agents on TDY are assigned to
CTD for 18 months, whereas agents who permanently transfer to CTD
must stay a minimum of 1 year to receive the relocation incentive and do


Page 28                                               GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
not have a maximum time limit. Our analysis of FBI data showed that half
of agents permanently assigned to CTD from fiscal years 2006 through
2011 left the division after just over 2 years, 6 months longer than agents
on TDY. A second complicating factor in comparing TDYs to permanent
transfers is that the FBI pays the relocation costs for agents who transfer
from CTD to a supervisory position in a field office. Our analysis of FBI
data from fiscal years 2005 through 2011 showed that 31 percent of all
agent separations from CTD were due to promotions to a field office.
Assuming that permanent transfers stay in CTD for 2 years, and taking
into consideration that the FBI will incur the average transfer cost of
$88,633 for 31 percent of agents in CTD, we estimate that the average
annual cost for permanent transfers is from $70,112 to $71,112. This is 3
to 4 percent higher than the average annual cost for agents on 18-month
TDY, which according to the FBI is $68,600.

Administrative burden. Aside from financial costs, there are
administrative costs to HSI that are not easily quantified. The frequency
with which agents separate from CTD means CTD continuously needs to
fill agent positions. As a result, there is a constant inflow and outflow of
agents who must be trained. For example, from fiscal years 2007 through
2011 on average 5 agents per month joined CTD on 18-month TDY, with
6 months having more than 10 agents entering on TDY. There are
various administrative processes involved in bringing these agents on
board, for example, two levels of career boards made up of CTD
managers must be held for each vacant agent position. After joining CTD,
depending on the section, new agents may go through training in a new
subject area. There is also a burden associated with managing the
program, whereby CTD and HRD staff must constantly monitor the flow of
agents to ensure that time frames are met to avoid short-term vacancies
during the period between when one agent leaves and another joins CTD.

Continuity of operations. FBI human capital officials we met with stated
that managing the constant flow of agents circulating through CTD can
sometimes make it difficult to align new agents being brought on board to
fill the positions of departing agents. In addition, all section chiefs we
interviewed in CTD stated that the learning curve for working in their
sections can be steep and that it can take up to 1 month or more before
an agent is fully contributing (or independently operating), depending on
which section an agent enters and how much counterterrorism
experience he or she brings. Three CTD section chiefs told us that the
constant flow of agents in and out of CTD can have impact on the
effectiveness and morale of intelligence analysts and professional support
staff. According to these officials, because intelligence analysts and


Page 29                                GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
                             professional support staff in general have a longer tenure in CTD, they
                             typically have the legacy and historical knowledge that is critical to
                             understanding CTD intelligence and operations. CTD relies on
                             intelligence analysts and professional support staff to help new agents get
                             up to speed on CTD operations and procedures, which can take time
                             away from their day-to-day work and analysis.

                             Despite these costs, FBI officials stated that they do not negatively affect
                             the FBI’s ability to meet its mission. Prior to HSI, officials told us that
                             agents typically only stayed in CTD 2 years anyway, after which they are
                             eligible for a promotion to a supervisory position in a field office. This
                             resulted in a constant turnover of agents similar to the current flow
                             stemming from the 18-month TDYs. Our analysis of FBI data showed that
                             of the agents who permanently transferred to CTD since fiscal year 2006,
                             nearly 50 percent left the division after 2 years. Therefore, these
                             challenges are not direct results of HSI, but rather a result of the amount
                             of time agents typically stay at FBI HQ.


The FBI Has Used 3R          The FBI has used various strategies to fill positions for intelligence
Incentives and Other         analysts and professional support staff, including the use of 3R
Workforce Flexibilities to   incentives, targeted recruitment for technical positions, and developing
                             clearly defined career paths for intelligence analysts. CTD faces different
Fill Intelligence Analyst    challenges in filling intelligence analyst and support staff positions than
and Professional Support     those related to filling agent positions. Most agents in CTD are at the GS-
Staff Positions              14 and GS-15 supervisory level and are required to have a certain level of
                             FBI experience in the field. Because of the unique type of work conducted
                             by agents, officials told us that they do not consider external candidates
                             for supervisory agent positions in CTD. In contrast, intelligence analysts
                             and support staff are typically recruited from other law enforcement
                             agencies, other components of the IC, and the private sector. Unlike
                             agents, intelligence analysts and professional staff do not need to
                             relocate from a field office to fill a position in CTD. The strategies used to
                             reduce vacancies in these positions therefore differ from those used to fill
                             agent positions.

                             The FBI uses 3R incentives to fill positions for agents, intelligence
                             analysts, and professional staff. As discussed above, the FBI primarily
                             has used relocation incentives for agents, totaling $4.3 million in




                             Page 30                                 GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
incentives from 2005 through 2011. 28 For intelligence analyst positions,
the FBI has primarily used recruitment incentives. According to FBI data,
from calendar years 2005 through 2011, the FBI provided $970,489 in
recruitment incentives, $5,000 in relocation incentives, and $58,842 in
retention incentives for intelligence analysts. The number of incentives
decreased steadily from calendar years 2005 through 2007, reflecting a
diminishing need to fill positions as the number of intelligence analyst
vacancies decreased during these years, but increased in 2008. As
discussed previously, the separation rate for intelligence analysts peaked
in 2008, and these incentives may have been provided to fill positions.
Since 2009, no intelligence analyst in CTD has received any incentive,
which corresponds to a diminished need to fill positions, as vacancies
decreased to 0 in 2010 and remained lower than the period average in
2011. 29

Aside from financial incentives, the FBI also engages in other efforts to
continue to attract and retain qualified intelligence analyst and
professional support staff to FBI HQ. For example, the FBI engages in
various targeted recruiting efforts at universities and other organizations
to identify individuals with certain skill sets, such as technical and
language capabilities, necessary for working in certain parts of the FBI. In
addition, since 2005, regardless of the division intelligence analysts are
located in, the FBI has reorganized their career development under the
Directorate of Intelligence to better manage their development and
training needs as well as provide them with a more centralized
management structure. In 2011, the FBI also created three distinct career
paths for intelligence analysts, specializing in one of the three
components of intelligence work: (1) collection and reporting, (2) tactical
analysis, and (3) strategic analysis. All intelligence analysts have been
placed into one of these paths. According to FBI officials, all applicants to
intelligence analyst positions at the FBI will choose which career path
they wish to apply for and will be vetted against the requirements of that
path, which will ensure that new intelligence analysts are a good match
for the position they will fill in CTD. Officials said that before these career


28
  Relocation incentives used for special agents were provided as part of HSI and the
Special Agent Headquarters Assignment. Details of the Special Agent Headquarters
Assignment can be found in app. II.
29
   The FBI has used far fewer incentives for professional support staff than for agents and
intelligence analysts, providing $45,030 in recruitment incentives for three management
and program analysts since 2005.




Page 31                                        GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
                           paths, new intelligence analysts often did not know where they would be
                           placed when they joined the FBI. Aside from other operational
                           improvements, FBI officials stated that they expected these changes to
                           improve the recruitment and retention of quality intelligence analysts in
                           CTD and across the FBI.


The FBI Has Not Assessed   While FBI officials told us that its strategies to fill vacant CTD positions
the Long-Term              with qualified candidates have so far been effective, the FBI has not yet
Sustainability of Its      assessed their long-term sustainability nor identified a long-term strategy
                           for maintaining adequate staffing levels in CTD. Under the Chief Human
Strategy for Addressing    Capital Officers Act of 2002, 30 federal agencies have the responsibility to
Vacancies                  incorporate strategic workforce planning into their operations. Strategic
                           workforce planning addresses two critical needs: (1) aligning an
                           organization’s human capital program with its current and emerging
                           mission and programmatic goals and (2) developing long-term strategies
                           for acquiring, developing, and retaining staff to achieve programmatic
                           goals. In addition, to ensure their long-term ability to match human capital
                           with goals, both OPM 31 and our 32 best practices state that agencies need
                           to measure the effects of key initiatives to address critical skills gaps,
                           evaluate the performance of those initiatives and their contribution to key
                           programmatic results, and make appropriate adjustments. By following
                           these principles, agencies can better ensure that their human capital
                           management appropriately addresses the staffing challenges of the future
                           and better contributes to their efforts to meet their missions and goals.
                           Particularly given the fiscal constraints federal agencies are facing and
                           will continue to face, it is incumbent on the FBI to make sure its efforts are
                           cost-effective and sustainable over the long term.

                           The 2005 working group identified the need for the FBI to assess the
                           long-term effectiveness of any staffing strategies implemented as a result
                           of the 2005 study, reporting that long-term staffing solutions should be
                           developed to ensure sustainability, and that what may be best for the FBI
                           in the short term may not be sufficient over the long term. According to


                           30
                                Pub. L. No. 107-296, 116 Stat. 2287 (2002).
                           31
                             Office of Personnel Management, Human Capital Assessment and Accountability
                           Framework (HCAAF).
                           32
                             GAO, High-Risk Series: An Update, GAO-11-278 (Washington, D.C.: February 2011),
                           and GAO-04-39.




                           Page 32                                            GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
the FBI, the working group’s analysis was restricted to stopgap measures,
and its recommendation of 18-month TDYs was not assessed as a long-
term strategy. The working group provided potential long-term solutions,
but it noted that providing long-term recommendations would require a
more detailed study to ensure that the FBI is adequately staffed in HQ.
While FBI officials agreed that such a long-term evaluation was
necessary, the FBI has not yet conducted such an evaluation of HSI. FBI
officials told us in December 2011 that they were planning to review HSI,
including the 18-month TDY option, to better assess its success since
2005, and how it can be improved. In January 2012, the FBI provided us
with a brief description of its future plans to evaluate HSI, including the
overall research objectives, some methodological information, and a
deadline of spring 2012 for preliminary results.

However, the FBI has not yet clearly defined several key elements of its
evaluation, including planning and design, what specific data will be
analyzed, management of the evaluation, and how results will be
disseminated. These elements include specific actions, such as
developing measurable objectives and criteria to measure performance,
identifying sufficient data sources and methodology, determining and
allocating sufficient resources to conduct the evaluation, and establishing
time frames for completing the evaluation phases. Best practices we
established indicate that successful evaluations should articulate these
elements to help ensure overall usefulness, reliability, objectivity, and
timeliness of the results. 33 For example, the FBI’s overall objective for the
evaluation is to determine what has been learned and what, if any,
refinements need to be made to HSI in the future. While this may be
adequate as a broad goal, outlining more measurable objectives and
specific criteria as well as a comparison to alternative staffing strategies
could better position the FBI to determine the long-term sustainability of
HSI. In addition, while the FBI has broadly defined some aspects of its
evaluation methodology, including, for example, interviews and surveys of
managers and HSI participants, additional programmatic data could also
be important to use in the study, including data on staff participation,
financial costs of the program, and the perspectives of nonsupervisory
CTD staff, such as intelligence analysts and professional staff.
Specifically, it is important for the FBI to account for the full costs of its


33
  Rossi, Lipsey, and Freeman, Evaluation: A Systematic Approach; Worthen, Sanders,
and Fitzpatrick, Program Evaluation: Alternative Approaches and Practical Guidelines;
GAO-12-208G; GAO-09-680G; and PAD-79-2.




Page 33                                      GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
              current and any proposed alternatives strategies, including financial,
              administrative, and operational costs as well as an estimation of the total
              and average per person cost. Operational or administrative costs to the
              program to be considered could include burdens placed on intelligence
              analysts and professional staff who support agents entering CTD and
              help them learn CTD operations and procedures quickly.

              Aside from the objectives, evaluation methods, and costs, the FBI has
              also not yet articulated other important aspects of the evaluation, as
              called for in our best practices, such as determining and allocating
              sufficient resources for conducting the evaluation and establishing time
              frames for completing different phases of the evaluation, including
              disseminating results. By defining these key aspects, the FBI could better
              ensure that its evaluation will produce accurate and relevant findings that
              can inform the long-term staffing strategy for agents in CTD and other HQ
              programs. The FBI acknowledged that it was still in the beginning phases
              of its evaluation of HSI and that incorporating these elements into the
              evaluation could help it identify the most effective long-term staffing
              strategies moving forward.


              Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the FBI has undergone
Conclusions   a major transformation and reallocation of resources toward
              counterterrorism, its number one priority. In addition to this
              transformation, the FBI has had to manage a significant expansion of
              resources and staff to fulfill this mission, particularly within CTD at FBI
              HQ. In 2005, the FBI identified that it had significantly high vacancies in
              CTD and other HQ divisions and subsequently took actions to assess and
              develop strategies to address this problem. While, according to the FBI,
              these strategies have helped to reduce vacancies and provided other
              benefits, the FBI has not yet assessed their long-term sustainability nor
              identified a long-term strategy for maintaining adequate staffing levels in
              CTD. The FBI is in the early stages of assessing its HSI program;
              however, it is too early to determine what, if any, refinements or
              alternative strategies will need to be developed in the future to ensure
              adequate staffing levels in CTD. In addition, the FBI has not yet
              established clear criteria, time frames, and other factors of the evaluation,
              which could help ensure that HSI or any proposed alternative strategies
              will be sustainable and effective over the long term. In this era of fiscal
              constraint, it is important that the FBI ensure that its staffing strategies
              allow it to meet its top priority counterterrorism mission in the most cost-
              effective manner possible.



              Page 34                                 GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
                     As the FBI conducts its evaluation of HSI to determine its long-term
Recommendation for   effectiveness and sustainability for addressing vacancies at FBI HQ, we
Executive Action     recommend that the FBI Director include the following best practices for
                     conducting evaluations:

                     •   develop measurable objectives and criteria for the evaluation;
                     •   determine and allocate sufficient resources for the evaluation;
                     •   establish time frames for completing different phases of the
                         evaluation;
                     •   include a comparison of current strategies to any proposed
                         alternatives; and
                     •   fully account for the financial, administrative, and operational costs.

                     We provided a draft of this report to DOJ and FBI for review and
Agency Comments      comment. The FBI provided written comments, which are reprinted in
and Our Evaluation   appendix V. The FBI concurred with our recommendation and identified
                     actions to implement it. We believe the steps the FBI is taking, and plans
                     to take, to assess HSI should help it identify HSI as sustainable over the
                     long term or determine what, if any, refinements or alternative strategies
                     will need to be developed in the future to ensure adequate staffing levels
                     in CTD. The FBI also provided us written technical comments, which we
                     incorporated as appropriate.


                     We are sending copies of this report to the Attorney General, the Director
                     of the FBI, appropriate congressional committees, and other interested
                     parties. In addition, this report is available at no charge on the GAO
                     website at http://www.gao.gov.

                     If you or your staff have any questions about this report, please contact
                     me at (202) 512-9627 or maurerd@gao.gov. Contact points for our
                     Offices of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on




                     Page 35                                 GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
the last page of this report. Key contributors to this report are listed in
appendix VI.




David C. Maurer
Director, Homeland Security and Justice Issues




Page 36                                  GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
List of Requesters

The Honorable Patrick Leahy
Chairman
The Honorable Chuck Grassley
Ranking Member
Committee on the Judiciary
United States Senate

The Honorable Daniel K. Akaka
Chairman
Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management
Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
United States Senate

The Honorable Lamar Smith
Chairman
The Honorable John Conyers, Jr.
Ranking Member
Committee on the Judiciary
House of Representatives

The Honorable Louie Gohmert
Vice-Chairman
The Honorable Bobby Scott
Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security
Committee on the Judiciary
House of Representatives




Page 37                            GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
Appendix I: Scope and Methodology
             Appendix I: Scope and Methodology




             To determine the extent of counterterrorism vacancies at Federal Bureau
             of Investigation’s (FBI) headquarters (HQ) since 2005, we obtained and
             analyzed Counterterrorism Division (CTD) staffing data from the FBI on
             the number of funded positions, the number of onboard staff, and the
             number of staff on temporary duty (TDY), for fiscal years 2005 through
             2011. 1 Specifically, we calculated vacancy rates for agents, intelligence
             analysts, and professional support staff by subtracting the total number of
             onboard staff from the total number of funded positions and then dividing
             the result by the total number of funded positions. We also compared
             vacancy rates between CTD and other operational HQ programs in order
             to understand whether CTD vacancies differed substantially from those of
             other HQ programs. The FBI provided data on funded positions and
             onboard staff as of the last pay period in each fiscal year, and therefore
             any calculations based on these data only provide a snapshot of the
             vacancies in CTD at one point in time. In addition, vacancy rates can
             fluctuate throughout the fiscal year for a number of reasons, including
             changes in allocations of funded positions, separations, and hiring of new
             staff members. Therefore, our analysis does not capture the continuous
             vacancy rate fluctuations over each fiscal year.

             To understand the reasons for identified vacancies in CTD since 2005,
             we interviewed knowledgeable officials and staff in CTD, the Human
             Resources Division (HRD), the Directorate of Intelligence (DI), and the
             Resources Planning Office for their perspectives on the reasons for
             vacancies. In addition, we examined three general categories of FBI data,
             including how fluctuations in these data categories affected CTD
             vacancies. The categories were funded positions, separations, and
             applicants. More specifically, we obtained data from the FBI on the total
             number of funded positions in the last pay period of each year, the total
             number of staff who separated from CTD for any reason throughout each
             year, 2 and the total number of applicants to external vacancy



             1
               The analysis was restricted to CTD because CTD coordinates all counterterrorism
             operations in FBI HQ and field offices. Other offices conduct counterterrorism work,
             including the Terrorist Screening Center (an independent office from CTD as of 2008) and
             the Directorate of Intelligence. The extent of vacancies in those offices is not addressed in
             this report.
             2
              Although the Terrorist Screening Center was part of CTD from fiscal years 2005 through
             2007, the FBI was unable to provide us with data on separations for the Terrorist
             Screening Center for these years by the time we completed our review. The Terrorist
             Screening Center made up from 3 to 4 percent of total CTD onboards for these years.




             Page 38                                         GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
Appendix I: Scope and Methodology




announcements throughout each year, from fiscal years 2005 through
2011. To calculate separation rates, we divided the total number of
separating staff in the given fiscal year by the average number of onboard
staff at the beginning and end of that fiscal year. To calculate application
rates, we calculated the average number of best qualified applicants to
each vacant position announced by CTD. To understand the trends in the
number of qualified applicants to internal positions in CTD, we
interviewed knowledgeable officials in CTD and HRD. Unlike data on
vacancies and funded positions, data on separations and applicants
included the total number of separations and applicants throughout the
entire fiscal year, not solely at one point during the year. As a result,
reported data totals for separations and applicants do not match the
reported end of the fiscal year totals for vacancies and funded positions.
To analyze the impact that changes in the number of funded positions,
separations, and applicants had on vacancies in CTD, we based our
analysis on how each of these factors conceptually relates to vacancies.
For example, an increase in the number of funded positions or high levels
of staff separations increase the likelihood of vacancies, while high rates
of applicants per vacancy decrease the likelihood of vacancies. We
calculated annual changes in funded positions, separation rates,
applicant rates, and vacancy rates to identify any patterns.

To assess the reliability of the data we received from the FBI, we
conducted interviews with FBI officials and staff who regularly work with
the data and were tasked with extracting the data. In our interviews we
asked about the internal controls related to inputting the data, as well as
the programming criteria used to extract the data. We also conducted
electronic checks of the data, including logic checks, checks for missing
and unreasonable data, and comparisons across different data sets the
FBI provided that contain the same or similar information. We compared
our own analysis to testimonial evidence from interviews with FBI officials
and discussed with officials potential inconsistencies in the data. We
determined all data used to be sufficiently reliable for the purposes of this
report.

To determine the impact of the FBI’s human capital strategies on CTD
vacancies, we reviewed the 2005 Understaffing Working Group study as
well as other official FBI documents and interviewed officials in HRD and
CTD. In addition, we analyzed whether there were substantive changes in
agent vacancies following the initiation of the Headquarters Staffing
Initiative (HSI) and whether those changes continued over the course of
implementation. We also obtained and analyzed data on participation in
the 18-month TDY option of HSI to determine the percentage of all agents


Page 39                                 GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
Appendix I: Scope and Methodology




in CTD on 18-month TDY and the percentage of agents on TDY who
converted to a permanent position in CTD. We also interviewed relevant
officials in CTD, HRD, and DI, including section chiefs and assistant
section chiefs for all CTD sections, to obtain their perspectives of the
benefits, costs, and effectiveness of HSI. To compare the tenure of
agents on TDY and permanent transfer, we conducted a life table
analysis to estimate the median number of months agents not on TDY
stayed in CTD, for agents entering the division in fiscal years 2005
through 2011.

We also estimated the total financial cost of HSI to CTD by obtaining data
on the various costs associated with the program, including relocation
incentives, relocation costs for permanent transfers, and costs for TDYs.
We used these data to calculate the total cost of the program, as well as
the average cost per agent on TDY and permanent transfer. While the
FBI provided us an average 12-month cost of TDYs under HSI, it did not
provide one for permanent transfers. To estimate the average per agent
cost of permanent transfers, we summed the average cost of relocation
expenses, the average relocation incentive, and an estimate of relocation
expenses to transfer an agent from CTD to a supervisory position in the
field. 3 To determine the financial costs of other strategies, we obtained
and analyzed data on the 3R incentives received by staff in CTD for
calendar years 2005 through 2011, and tabulated the sum of the number
and value of incentives by position type (agent, intelligence analyst,
professional support) and type of incentive (recruitment, relocation,
retention). To determine the extent to which the FBI has evaluated the
long-term sustainability of HSI and other staffing strategies, we compared
the FBI’s efforts to principles of strategic workforce planning established
by us 4 and the Office of Personnel Management, 5 as well as the 2005
Understaffing Working Group’s report, which stated that a further


3
  To calculate this last estimate, we first estimated the likelihood of paying these relocation
expenses as the percentage of agents who separate from CTD for a promotion to a field
office. We then multiplied that percentage by the average relocation cost provided by the
FBI. To make the average costs of TDYs and permanent transfers comparable, we
converted the average cost to permanent transfers to a cost per 12 months, using our
estimate of the median time permanent agents remain in CTD from our life table analysis.
4
 GAO, Human Capital: Key Principles for Effective Strategic Workforce Planning,
GAO-04-39 (Washington, D.C.: Dec. 11, 2003).
5
 Office of Personnel Management, Human Capital Assessment and Accountability
Framework (HCAAF), 5 C.F.R. Part 250.




Page 40                                          GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
Appendix I: Scope and Methodology




evaluation of long-term strategies would be necessary. In addition, we
assessed the extent to which the FBI’s plans to conduct an evaluation of
HSI followed criteria for conducting evaluations we identified from the
social science and evaluation literature 6 as well as our own published
guidance. 7 In addition, we interviewed officials from other federal law
enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Marshals Service; Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Drug Enforcement
Administration; Secret Service; and Immigration and Customs
Enforcement, to discuss the strategies they use to fill HQ vacancies. After
conducting these interviews, we determined that these agencies’ efforts
and missions where not directly comparable to those of the FBI.

We conducted this performance audit from May 2009 through April 2012
in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.
Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain
sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our
findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that
the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and
conclusions based on our audit objectives.

Shortly after we began the review in May 2009, the Department of Justice
and the FBI raised questions about GAO’s access authority to obtain
certain information from the Intelligence Community (IC) about FBI
counterterrorism positions, which resulted in the FBI not providing
information necessary for completing our review. 8 We obtained general
information from the FBI on policies, protocols, and strategies related to
human capital issues, such as staffing, retention, recruitment, and
workforce planning. However, because we were temporarily denied
access to the information necessary to complete our review, we
suspended our work. On June 30, 2011, in response to a statutory



6
  P. H. Rossi, M. W. Lipsey, and H. E. Freeman, Evaluation: A Systematic Approach, 7th
ed. (Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications, Inc., 2004), and B. R. Worthen, J. R.
Sanders, and J. L. Fitzpatrick, Program Evaluation: Alternative Approaches and Practical
Guidelines, 4th ed. (Allyn & Bacon, 2010).
7
  GAO, Designing Evaluations: 2012 Revision, GAO-12-208G (Washington, D.C.: January
2012); Assessing the Reliability of Computer-Processed Data, GAO-09-680G
(Washington, D.C.: July 2009); and Assessing Social Program Impact Evaluations: A
Checklist Approach, PAD-79-2 (Washington, D.C.: October 1978).
8
    CTD is considered part of the IC.




Page 41                                       GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
Appendix I: Scope and Methodology




requirement, 9 the Director of National Intelligence finalized a directive
pertaining to the Comptroller General’s access to IC information, which
provides, among other things, that elements of the IC shall not
categorically deny GAO access to information and shall not withhold
information solely because that information relates to a program funded
by the National Intelligence Program. As a result, we reinitiated our
review in June 2011 and completed our work in April 2012.




9
  In general, section 348 of the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 (Pub. L.
No. 111-259, 124 Stat. 2654, 2700 (2010)) required the Director of National Intelligence, in
consultation with the Comptroller General of the United States, to issue a written directive
governing the access of the Comptroller General to information in the possession of an
element of the IC.




Page 42                                         GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
Appendix II: Special Agent Headquarters
              Appendix II: Special Agent Headquarters
              Assignment



Assignment

              Following up on a recommendation of the 2005 Understaffing Working
              Group study, the FBI implemented the Special Agent HQ Assignment
              (SAHA). SAHA was based on the working group’s long-term
              recommendation of establishing a “57th Field Office,” and was announced
              in early 2008 as an effort to realign agent staffing levels in HQ. SAHA
              allowed field agents at the General Schedule (GS) 12 and 13 levels to fill
              nonsupervisory agent positions in HQ. Participating agents would receive
              a relocation incentive of $25,000, and serve in HQ for a minimum of 2
              years and a maximum of 3 years. Upon completion of the assignment,
              participants were given a choice as to which region in the United States
              they would like to transfer. Unlike the 18-month TDY option in HSI, the
              time spent in HQ as part of the SAHA did not count as HQ supervisory
              experience for participating agents.

              According to the Assistant Director of HRD, SAHA was based on the
              FBI’s assumption that the nonsupervisory tasks assigned to supervisory
              agents at the GS-14 and GS-15 levels could be fulfilled by
              nonsupervisory agents of a lower grade. In this manner, the initiative
              would have reduced the staffing pressure to fill supervisory agent
              positions in divisions such as CTD. SAHA reached its staffing goals, but
              the FBI determined that these positions needed to be filled with
              supervisory agents at the GS-14 level or above. According to officials, the
              supervisory tasks typically assigned to supervisory agents cannot be
              isolated from nonsupervisory tasks, and therefore the nonsupervisory
              agents were not as productive as the FBI had expected. Subsequently,
              the program was discontinued in early 2011. We estimate that the FBI
              spent a total of $1.1 million in relocation incentives as part of SAHA.




              Page 43                                   GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
Appendix III: Vacancy Rates for CTD and
              Appendix III: Vacancy Rates for CTD and Other
              Operational HQ Programs



Other Operational HQ Programs

              Figures 8 through 11 show vacancy rates for CTD and other operational
              HQ programs for fiscal years 2005 through 2011.

              Figure 8: Vacancy Rates for All Staff in CTD and Other Operational HQ Programs,
              Fiscal Years 2005 through 2011




              Note: Other operational HQ programs include the Counterintelligence Division, Criminal Investigation
              Division, Critical Incident Response Group, Cyber Division, DI, International Operations Division,
              Office of Victim Assistance, Terrorist Screening Center, and Weapons of Mass Destruction
              Directorate.




              Page 44                                             GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
Appendix III: Vacancy Rates for CTD and Other
Operational HQ Programs




Figure 9: Vacancy Rates for Agents in CTD and Other Operational HQ Programs,
Fiscal Years 2005 through 2011




Note: Other operational HQ programs include the Counterintelligence Division, Criminal Investigation
Division, Critical Incident Response Group, Cyber Division, DI, International Operations Division,
Office of Victim Assistance, Terrorist Screening Center, and Weapons of Mass Destruction
Directorate.




Page 45                                             GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
Appendix III: Vacancy Rates for CTD and Other
Operational HQ Programs




Figure 10: Vacancy Rates for Intelligence Analysts in CTD and Other Operational
HQ Programs, Fiscal Years 2005 through 2011




Note: Other operational HQ programs include the Counterintelligence Division, Criminal Investigation
Division, Critical Incident Response Group, Cyber Division, DI, International Operations Division,
Office of Victim Assistance, Terrorist Screening Center, and Weapons of Mass Destruction
Directorate.
a
 In fiscal year 2008, the number of onboard intelligence analysts in other operational HQ programs
exceeded the number of funded positions for intelligence analysts by 17.
b
 In 2010, the number of onboard intelligence analysts in CTD exceeded the number of funded
positions for intelligence analysts by 29.




Page 46                                             GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
Appendix III: Vacancy Rates for CTD and Other
Operational HQ Programs




Figure 11: Vacancy Rates for Professional Support Staff in CTD and Other
Operational HQ Programs, Fiscal Years 2005 through 2011




Note: Other operational HQ programs include the Counterintelligence Division, Criminal Investigation
Division, Critical Incident Response Group, Cyber Division, DI, International Operations Division,
Office of Victim Assistance, Terrorist Screening Center, and Weapons of Mass Destruction
Directorate.




Page 47                                             GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
Appendix IV: Separations from CTD by Type
              Appendix IV: Separations from CTD by Type of
              Separation



of Separation

              Figures 12 through 14 provide information on staff separations for CTD
              from fiscal years 2005 through 2011.

              Figure 12: Separation Rates for Agents in CTD, by Type of Separation, for Fiscal
              Years 2005 through 2011




              Notes: Transfer includes reassignments, realignments, relocations, conversions, and grade changes.
              Termination includes removals and terminations. Resignation includes all resignations. Other includes
              death, retirement, and other less frequent categories.
              a
               Separation data for 2005 through 2007 do not include the Terrorist Screening Center, which was a
              part of CTD for these years.




              Page 48                                             GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
Appendix IV: Separations from CTD by Type of
Separation




Figure 13: Separation Rates for Intelligence Analysts in CTD, by Type of Separation,
for Fiscal Years 2005 through 2011




Notes: Transfer includes reassignments, realignments, relocations, conversions, and grade changes.
Termination includes removals and terminations. Resignation includes all resignations. Other includes
death, retirement, and other less frequent categories.
a
 Separation data for 2005 through 2007 do not include the Terrorist Screening Center, which was a
part of CTD for these years.




Page 49                                             GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
Appendix IV: Separations from CTD by Type of
Separation




Figure 14: Separation Rates for Professional Support Staff in CTD, by Type of
Separation, for Fiscal Years 2005 through 2011




Notes: Transfer includes reassignments, realignments, relocations, conversions, and grade changes.
Termination includes removals and terminations. Resignation includes all resignations. Other includes
death, retirement, and other less frequent categories.
a
 Separation data for 2005 through 2007 do not include the Terrorist Screening Center, which was a
part of CTD for these years.




Page 50                                             GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
Appendix V: Comments from the Federal
             Appendix V: Comments from the Federal
             Bureau of Investigation



Bureau of Investigation




             Page 51                                 GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
Appendix VI: GAO Contact and Staff
                  Appendix VI: GAO Contact and Staff
                  Acknowledgments



Acknowledgments

                  David C. Maurer, (202) 512-9627 or maurerd@gao.gov
GAO Contact
                  In addition to the contact named above, Chris Currie, Assistant Director,
Staff             and Christopher E. Ferencik, Analyst-in-Charge, and Robin Ghertner,
Acknowledgments   Analyst, managed this review. Geoffrey Hamilton provided legal support.
                  Rebecca Shea, Monique Williams, and Gregory Wilmoth assisted with
                  design, methodology, and data analysis. Lara Miklozek provided
                  assistance in report preparation.




(441059)
                  Page 52                               GAO-12-533 FBI Counterterrorism Vacancies
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