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FBI counterterror division hiring program works, but needs study, says GAO


The FBI’s counterterrorism division has reduced open employee positions in the last few years through a strong staffing initiative, but a government report said the program’s success needs to be proven long-term.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) said between fiscal year 2005 and fiscal year 2011, the FBI’s human capital strategies contributed to reductions in the vacancy rate for all positions in its counterterrorism division (CTD) from 26 percent to 6 percent. The GAO said most of the vacancies had been caused by transfers to other parts of the FBI.

However, it said, while overall vacancies declined, trends in vacancies varied by position. For example, according to GAO, vacancies for special agents and professional staff generally decreasing each year, but vacancies for intelligence analysts varied during the same time period.

The FBI Headquarters Staffing Initiative (HSI), established in 2005 to reduce special agent vacancies in CTD and other headquarters (HQ) divisions, has largely been successful, said GAO. The HSI initiative is primarily used to implement workforce flexibilities, like recruitment incentives, and targeted recruitment to for intelligence analysts and professional staff, said the report.

Overall, according to GAO, FBI officials reported the strategies have been effective. Two incentives have worked particularly well, it said   --  allowing special agents to come to FBI headquarters on 18-month temporary duty assignments instead of permanent transfers and providing relocation incentives to special agents to permanently transfer to headquarters.

Since 2006, GAO estimated the FBI has spent $50 million to staff the CTD with special agents using HSI. The FBI told the GAO that HSI was the primary reason agent vacancies in CTD were reduced.  

FBI officials said HSI yielded other benefits, including helping build a cadre of experienced counterterrorism agents both within CTD and in field offices.

However, even though HSI has reduced vacancies, a 2005 FBI working group report noted that while HSI may be effective in the short term, a long-term solution would require a more thorough analysis. GAO said the FBI is planning an evaluation of HSI; but it hasn’t established criteria, time frames, and other factors of the evaluation. The GAO recommended the FBI establish criteria, time frames, and other factors in evaluating the program’s long-term sustainability and effectiveness.


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