GAO Issues Priority Recommendation Letter to ODNI

Published: September 14, 2022

Federal Market AnalysisInformation TechnologyInfrastructureIntelligenceIT Workforce

Earlier this month, GAO issued a letter to the Director of National Intelligence describing 19 open priority recommendations. This is the first time GAO has issued a priority recommendation letter to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).

Although details of the 19 priority recommendations were classified, GAO publicly revealed that they fell into four categories:

  • Intelligence Enterprise Management – Includes five recommendations related to Intelligence Community (IC) enterprise business functions, systems, and organizations.
  • Infrastructure and Facilities – Includes two recommendations related to planning and management of IC infrastructure and facility projects.
  • Workforce Management – Includes seven recommendations related to IC human capital and talent management.
  • Personnel Vetting – Includes five priority recommendations related to personnel vetting and the security clearance process.

GAO advises that “ODNI's continued attention to these issues could lead to significant improvements in government operations.” Implementing these recommendations would “address challenges in key areas of IC management” and would positively impact mission fulfillment.

Although I’m not privy to the detailed list of 19 recommendations, Deltek’s analysis of the IC for the Federal Defense and Intelligence IT Market, 2022-2024 report presented key findings around IC enterprise management and workforce efforts.

Deltek’s report found that intelligence agencies’ overall budgets and IT budgets remain strong; however, the speed of technological advancement, data growth, and ever-increasing tech-savviness of adversaries makes it imperative that the IC employs innovation and IT, and strive for efficiency while detecting, evaluating and combating the threat landscape. Additionally, the Office of the ODNI CIO announced in December 2021 that the IC was close to releasing a revised strategy for its Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise initiative. But to date, the new strategy has not been publicly released.  Also, in June 2022, the IC announced it was in the process of updating its data strategy. But again, this strategy has not been publicly released.

In the area of workforce management, Deltek’s report stated that the IC has long faced challenges in the attainment and retention of innovative talent. In the past, the power of the mission alone would drive people to join an IC agency. But the IC mission alone is no longer a key motivator. The IC is struggling with low recruitment, high attrition rates, mandatory on-site work, lack of workforce diversity, and long onboarding timelines. The IC is exploring several avenues to combat these challenges and build a highly-skilled, diverse, and equitable workforce, such as expanded pay and educational partnerships.

GAO’s letter to ODNI expounded on the category of personnel vetting, explaining that this area is also one of GAO’s government-wide high-risk areas. GAO’s five priority recommendations to ODNI are focused on “ensuring the timely completion of investigations and adjudications and developing performance measures for assessing the quality of all phases of the personnel security clearance process.”

GAO states that ODNI’s rate of implementation for all GAO recommendations since 2011 was 27%. At the time of the letter, ODNI had 61 open GAO recommendations out of 90 made since 2011.

Federal contractors may find an opportunity to support ODNI and other IC agencies in implementing GAO recommendations, closing gaps, and resolving challenges in the areas recognized by GAO.