A New Headquarters/Field Structure Could Provide a Better Framework for Improving Department of Energy Operations

EMD-81-97: Published: Sep 3, 1981. Publicly Released: Oct 5, 1981.

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The Department of Energy (DOE) field structure is a collection of the field offices associated with the various agencies which were consolidated to form DOE. GAO examined the DOE headquarters/field organization structure to determine its impact on the agency's ability to carry out its mission and evaluated the effectiveness of the organizational structure as it relates to lines of authority between headquarters and field offices.

GAO believes that the recent reorganizations DOE has made will not capitalize on the benefits that are available under the direct line authority organization structure. Currently, the DOE program Assistant Secretaries do not have the authority to control and direct the field staff who implement their program requirements. As a result, programs are not implemented as effectively, efficiently, and economicaly as possible. Because of the potential for conflict between functional and program goals and objectives, functional offices often are and should be independent of program offices. In the DOE field offices, most functional offices report to the field office managers on the program, not the functional side of the organizational structure. Headquarters functional office managers generally do not have direct line authority over functional staff in the field. Direct lines of authority between headquarters functional managers and field functional staffs could provide a framework for getting a better staff assignment mechanism in the field, more consistent implementation of departmental requirements, and better evaluation of functional activities and staff performance and control to take corrective actions.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOE stated that it did not agree with the recommendation and did not intend to take any action. GAO reiterated the recommendation in a subsequent report (OCG-82-1), but DOE again stated that it did not agree and did not intend to take action.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should give program Assistant Secretary-level managers direct line authority over all field program staffs responsible for implementing their respective program requirements. This authority should ensure that headquarters program managers could assign, reassign, direct, control, and evaluate the field staffs authorized to their respective program areas.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOE stated that it did not agree with the recommendation and did not intend to take any action. GAO reiterated the recommendation in a subsequent report (OCG-82-1), but DOE again stated that it did not agree and did not intend to take any action.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should give direct line authority to the headquarters functional office managers over all their respective field functional office staffs. In exercising this authority, headquarters functional office managers should ensure that the independence of functional offices is maintained in headquarters and in the field so that they can effectively carry out their missions, and program Assistant Secretary-level managers receive functional support for actions that are considered critical for meeting established program goals and objectives. DOE should create, to the extent practicable, dedicated functional support staffs for each program Assistant Secretary-level manager.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

 

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