New technologies arising in the transportation sector of the economy require that the Transportation Department have employees with new skill sets, GAO has said in a finding that could apply as well across many agencies.
In the transportation field, “automated technologies in planes, trains, and passenger vehicles are in use today and likely to become increasingly widespread. While these technologies hold promise, accidents involving them demonstrate potential safety challenges . . . overseeing them will require understanding vehicle operating systems, software code, and the vast amounts of data produced by these systems to ensure their safety.”
It said the Transportation Department has identified most skills it needs to oversee those technologies but it “has not fully assessed whether its workforce has these skills” including regulatory expertise; computer, electrical and systems engineering; cybersecurity; and data analysis.
It said that in 2016 and again this year the department surveyed staff in related positions and identified gaps in some areas including regulatory expertise. The department carried out some recruiting strategies and established hiring in response to the 2016 survey and plans to continue these efforts in light of the 2020 survey, it said.
However, the department “did not survey staff or assess skill gaps in data analysis or cybersecurity positions important to automated technology oversight. As a result, DoT lacks critical information needed to identify skill gaps and ensure key relevant staff are equipped to oversee the safety of these technologies now and in the future,” it said.
Management generally concurred with the report’s recommendations for measuring relevant skills gaps and monitoring progress toward closing them.