National Science Foundation:

External Assignments Under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act's Mobility Program

GAO-01-1016: Published: Sep 24, 2001. Publicly Released: Oct 24, 2001.

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James E. Wells, Jr
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The Intergovernmental Personnel Act's (IPA) mobility program authorizes the temporary assignment of employees between federal agencies and state and local governments, universities, Indian tribal governments, and other nonfederal groups. These assignments, which may last up to four years, are intended to increase cooperation between the federal government and the non-federal entity. The National Science Foundation (NSF) temporarily assigned 45 of its employees to nonfederal organizations between 1995 and 2000, making NSF one of the most active users of the IPA program among federal agencies. NSF assigned 29 participants to universities, one to a local government, and 15 to other nonfederal organizations, such as research institutions or professional associations. NSF's implementation of the IPA program conformed to applicable laws and regulations. Although the partnering institutions nearly always made some financial contribution to these assignments, NSF paid about 78 percent of the total costs associated with the 45 assignments that GAO reviewed. The estimated total cost of these assignments to NSF was about $7.2 million for the six-year period GAO covered. NSF's external IPA assignments benefit not only the assignees but also the partnering institutions and NSF, according to NSF officials.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Based on GAO's recommendation, NSF instituted a new reporting requirement, effective in August 2001, requiring their employees who participate in mobility assignments to document the actual benefits of these assignments. The new requirement enables NSF to have greater assurance that its resources are being well spent and that information is collected that could serve to improve the program, if needed.

    Recommendation: To enable NSF to better evaluate the overall success of the IPA program and to identify any needed program improvements, NSF should implement procedures to consistently document the final results of the individual assignments.

    Agency Affected: National Science Foundation


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