DOT's Restructuring

Limited Progress in Streamlining Field Office Structure Gao ID: RCED-98-138 April 30, 1998

GAO has reported for years that the Department of Transportation (DOT) could realize significant savings by restructuring its field organization. DOT has begun examining its field office structure and has identified options for streamlining its 1,700 field offices nationwide. This report examines the results of two DOT streamlining efforts--the field office Colocation Task Force and the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Organization Structure Task Force. The Colocation Task Force issued an interim report in November 1996 and mentioned several field offices that could be colocated over the next several years. FHWA's February 1998 report on its regional offices' restructuring called for replacing the agency's nine regional offices with four resource centers. GAO discusses the assumptions, limitations, findings, and potential cost savings associated with these two streamlining initiatives.

GAO noted that: (1) DOT's colocation effort will not result in the substantial restructuring of its field offices; (2) the 21-month colocation effort narrowly focused on developing an inventory of DOT's office space in the field and identifying opportunities for DOT's field offices to share space; (3) few colocations have occurred as a result of the colocation effort, and additional colocations will take years to accomplish; (4) morever, colocating offices will likely result in limited short-term dollar savings, if any; (5) FHwA's proposal to restructure its nine regional offices into four resource centers does not identify any long-term budgetary savings, and estimates are that in the short-term, the proposal might cost the agency more than $10 million to implement; (6) in addition, the proposal leaves many unanswered questions about the differences between the roles and responsibilities of current regional offices and the roles and responsibilities of the four new resource centers; (7) for example, the agency's report notes that most of the regional offices' responsibilities can be delegated to the agency's 52 division offices; (8) however, the agency envisions that the new resource centers will provide training, technical assistance, and supervision similar to that which the current regional offices provide; and (9) in addition, the agency will not complete the details on its restructuring efforts until June 1998 and projects that these efforts will take 3 to 5 years to complete.

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