Human Capital

Observations on EPA's Efforts to Implement a Workforce Planning Strategy Gao ID: T-RCED-00-129 March 23, 2000

This testimony presents GAO's observations on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) efforts to determine the workforce it needs to meet its strategic goals and objectives. During the past decade, when many agencies were cutting their staffing levels, EPA's workforce grew by about 18 percent, even though the states were assuming more responsibility for federal environmental programs and enforcement efforts. Members of Congress have raised concerns about this growth. GAO discusses (1) how EPA determines the number of employees and competencies needed to carry out its strategic goals and objectives and (2) what actions EPA is taking to improve its workforce planning.

GAO noted that: (1) EPA does not have a workforce planning strategy to determine the number of employees and competencies needed to carry out its strategic goals and objectives; (2) in preparing the agency's annual budget request, EPA assistant administrators, regional administrators, and other senior officials determine the increases or decreases in the full-time equivalents (FTE) requested by the agency; (3) the senior officials make their decisions on the basis of information provided by program managers, who identify incremental changes in their needs from the prior year; (4) however, EPA does not have the detailed workforce planning information it needs to inform such decisions, including: (a) information on the linkage between the FTEs requested and the agency's ability to meet its strategic goals and objectives; and (b) any excesses or gaps in needed competencies within the agency's various headquarters and field components; (5) furthermore, EPA has not assessed the accuracy of its existing data to ensure that its employees are being used in ways that are consistent with the intent of its congressional appropriators; (6) although EPA does not have a workforce planning strategy, it has taken steps to identify its current and future human capital needs, including the size and competencies of its workforce; (7) in May 1999, EPA completed a study that identified: (a) the competencies needed to meet the agency's current missions; (b) possible alternative missions that EPA may face in the future; and (c) new competencies that may be needed under each of the future mission scenarios; (8) however, the study was not detailed enough to identify in total or in individual organizational components the number of employees who need to possess the competencies identified; (9) citing budget constraints, EPA discontinued its efforts to implement a workforce planning strategy, which was to include a continuous process to monitor and assess the agency's workforce in light of internal and external changes in its environment; (10) although EPA has no resources designated for implementing a workforce planning strategy, the agency recently prepared a draft human resources strategic plan; (11) according to EPA officials, a workforce planning strategy would be developed and implemented as part of this plan; and (12) EPA officials plan to meet in April 2000 to consider whether to approve the draft plan.

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