NNSA could soon face workforce gaps but struggles to monitor them


The National Nuclear Security Administration and the contractors who operate the national lab sites for NNSA may soon face a workforce shortage, according to an April 26 Government Accountability Office report (.pdf).

NNSA's hiring and retention efforts have typically focused on "attracting early career hires with competitive pay and development opportunities," but the positions may not be appealing to today's young workers, say report authors.

NNSA "staff must often work in secure areas that prohibit the use of personal cell phones, e-mail, and social media, which is a disadvantage in attracting younger skilled candidates," says GAO.

The isolated location of the sites also means career opportunities for candidates' spouses are limited. What's more, the pool of qualified applicants is dwindling. Many of the most qualified applicants from top science, technology, and engineering programs are not U.S. citizens and would be unable to obtain security clearances, says GAO.

Report authors suggest that if NNSA and its contractors streamline the hiring and security clearance process and more actively seek out new candidates it may be able to overcome hiring challenges. For the most part, NNSA let's contractors take primary responsibility for identifying their workforce needs and strategies. But NNSA isn't effective in monitoring contractors' recruitment and retention process because it doesn't have consistent definitions for charting human capital strategy, says GAO.

"While contractor efforts may be effective at a specific site, they do not provide NNSA with the information needed to make enterprisewide decisions," says GAO. "Without this information, NNSA's ability to monitor the effectiveness of its and its M&O contractors' strategies to recruit, develop, and retain the workforces needed to preserve critical skills may be hindered."

NNSA is currently doing a comprehensive reassessment of its workforce to plan through 2016, ensuring it has the skills needed to carry out its mission. GAO recommends that, as it develops system for tracking federal and contractor human capital performance metrics, it also standardize definitions.

For more:
- download the GAO report (.pdf)

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