Analysis of Federal Energy Roles and Structure

EMD-82-21: Published: Jan 20, 1982. Publicly Released: Jan 26, 1982.

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Numerous questions have been raised about the Department of Energy's (DOE) management and the effectiveness of its operations leading the Administration to announce its intention to dismantle the Department and transfer its functions to other Federal agencies. Congressional concern over decentralization of the DOE responsibilities prompted a request for GAO to provide its views on: (1) recent energy trends and problems, and the evolution of Federal energy-related agencies; (2) the extent to which the Federal Government should be involved in various aspects of energy policy and programs; and (3) the Federal Government's organizational structure for dealing with the energy problem.

GAO believes that energy is a serious, long-term problem with important implications for the Nation's security. Although the U.S. energy posture has improved somewhat over the last few years, progress has been difficult to achieve due to a dependence on expensive and unreliable oil imports. Progress in this area will depend on a coordinated approach designed to effect long- term solutions which reduce U.S. reliance on these insecure sources of imported oil. GAO found that reducing Federal regulations over energy responsibilities is a worthy goal and can help ameliorate the energy problems. However, there is a continuing need for a strong Federal role in key areas such as advancing energy supply technologies and emergency energy preparedness. GAO identified three broad options for managing Federal programs: (1) the functions of DOE could be decentralized; (2) DOE could be maintained essentially as is, but reduced to a sub-Cabinet agency; and (3) energy activities could retain their Cabinet-level status, either by leaving DOE as is or merging its activities into an existing department. GAO concluded that moving to disperse DOE activities at this time might fragment programs and relationships that have been developed over the past few years and that a period of stability might finally permit the agency to devote adequate attention to organization and management.

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