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Human Capital: Opportunities to Improve Federal Continuity Planning Guidance.

GAO-04-384 April 20, 2004

Federal agencies must have the capacity to serve the public during disruptions to normal operations. This depends, in part, on continuity efforts that help agencies marshal, manage, and maintain their most important asset--their people, or human capital. GAO identified the human capital considerations relevant to federal continuity efforts; described efforts by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to address these considerations relevant to continuity of operations (COOP); and described the role Federal Executive Boards (FEB) play in coordinating such efforts outside Washington, D.C.

According to recognized experts from the private and public sectors, continuity efforts should give priority to the immediate aftermath of a crisis--securing the safety of all employees and addressing the needs of employees who perform essential operations. However, experts noted that additional human capital considerations, especially those associated with the majority of an organization's employees who would be needed to resume all other operations, are also crucial and have not been well developed by many public and private sector organizations. To more fully address human capital considerations, experts identified two human capital principles that should guide all continuity efforts--demonstrating sensitivity to individual employee needs and maximizing the contributions of all employees--and six key organizational actions designed to enhance continuity efforts. FEMA and OPM have exhibited leadership in addressing human capital considerations relevant to COOP, but opportunities to improve exist. For example, while both agencies have issued guidance that addresses securing the safety of all employees and responding to the needs of personnel performing essential operations, neither agency's guidance addresses human capital considerations related to resuming broader agency operations. Although not specifically tasked with coordinating emergency preparedness efforts, including COOP, FEBs are uniquely positioned to do so, given their general responsibility for improving coordination among federal activities in areas outside of Washington, D.C. While some FEBs already play an active role in coordinating such efforts, the current context in which FEBs operate, including the lack of a clearly defined role and varying capacities among FEBs, could lead to inconsistent levels of preparedness across the nation.
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Publication:General Accounting Office Reports & Testimony
Date:Aug 1, 2004
Words:350
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