Federal Downsizing:

Agency Officials' Views on Maintaining Performance During Downsizing at Selected Agencies

GGD-98-46: Published: Mar 24, 1998. Publicly Released: Mar 27, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department of the Interior, the General Services Administration (GSA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to obtain information on the effects downsizing has had on their performance and what actions were taken to maintain performance, focusing on: (1) which components within the five agencies were downsized and to what extent; (2) what actions were taken to maintain performance for one selected downsized component at each parent agency, the results of those actions on the component's performance, and the effect of the downsizing on customer service; and (3) the lessons that the five components learned about maintaining performance during a period of downsizing.

GAO noted that: (1) most components within the five parent agencies were downsized to some extent, although how much varied considerably; (2) the percentage of agency components' full-time equivalent reductions from fiscal year (FY) 1993 through 1996 ranged from 3 percent to 100 percent at HUD, 2 percent to 87.5 percent at Interior, 10 percent to 37 percent at GSA, 3 percent to 42 percent at NASA, and 2 percent to 100 percent at OPM; (3) according to officials of the parent agencies and the five selected components, several actions helped the components maintain performance levels during the period of downsizing; (4) they explained that it was difficult to isolate actions taken independently of downsizing from those taken because of downsizing; (5) however, the actions the officials told GAO about generally fell into three categories: (a) refocusing of missions; (b) reengineering of work processes; and (c) building and maintaining employee skills; (6) the officials stated that the five components were generally able to maintain performance and fulfill the requirements of their missions despite the relatively large downsizing that occurred from FY 1993 to FY 1996; (7) although the officials stated that they could not connect specific actions taken with specific outcomes, they stated that without the three actions mentioned, the performance levels of the components would not have been maintained; (8) officials at some components stated that additional downsizing could hamper future performance; (9) it should be noted that GAO's results primarily reflect the viewpoints of officials from the agencies and components and are a snapshot at the time of its review; (10) performance measurement data, particularly baseline data with which current data could be compared, that would support agency officials' views or enable policymakers to track program performance and make informed decisions were limited; (11) the data that were available tended to substantiate the views of component officials that they were meeting goals they had set for themselves; (12) according to component officials and employees or their representatives at the five components, customers remained satisfied with the components' performance during the period of downsizing; and (13) among the lessons learned, officials stated that the most important was the need for early planning and open communication with employees.

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