Report: DHS training problems traced to disparate systems

Developing strategic training programs at the Homeland Security Department is being hampered by incompatible IT systems among the department's 22 agencies, among other problems, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

"Officials told us that the lack of compatible information technology systems complicated their efforts to make the most efficient use of training resources across components," GAO stated. The report was released on Sept. 23.

The study identifies shortcomings and incompatibility among IT systems?including information management, financial management and learning management IT systems?throughout the department.

For example, DHS officials said they do not have a "unified sourcebook that employees could consult for the names, telephone numbers and other relevant information of key contact persons in areas such as acquisition," the GAO said. DHS executives also said available training data was not always accurate or timely, delaying the ability to track and fully account for training funds. Furthermore, DHS officials indicated there was little or no common training terminology among DHS' 22 agencies, the report said.

Heightening awareness of IT-related training concerns, DHS workers scored the department much lower than average for availability of electronic training materials in the 2004 Federal Human Capital Survey, conducted by the Office of Personnel Management. Only 51 percent of DHS employees said they have access to electronic training courses, compared to 71 percent governmentwide.

In addition, 54 percent of DHS employees said they received adequate training, versus 60 percent governmentwide, the GAO said.

Overall, DHS has made progress on departmentwide training. DHS officials issued the department's first strategic plan, the Learning and Development Strategic Plan, for departmental training in July, and have established internal training councils and groups.

The department is implementing the new personnel management system, known as MaxHR, for its 180,000 employees. MaxHR covers pay, performance management, classification, labor relations, adverse actions and appeals.

"To date, DHS has taken positive steps in these areas, yet significant challenges lie ahead," the GAO report said.

However, DHS needs to clarify accountability for training between the chief human capital officer and component agencies and to address its other training shortcomings, including the lack of compatible IT, the GAO said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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