Major Management Challenges and Program Risks:
Department of Energy
OCG-99-6, Jan 1, 1999
As part of its Performance and Accountability Series, GAO provided information on major management challenges and program risks facing the Department of Energy (DOE).
GAO noted that: (1) DOE has had difficulty completing large projects on time and within budget; (2) from 1980 through 1996, DOE terminated 31 of 80 major system acquisitions (mission-critical projects costing over $100 million) before completion, after expenditures of over $10 billion, and completed only 15, most of which were behind schedule and over budget; (3) with few exceptions, DOE's facilities are not licensed or inspected by independent regulators to help ensure safe operations; (4) the Department's own advisory committee concluded that widespread environmental contamination at DOE facilities and the immense costs associated with their cleanup provide clear evidence that self-regulation has failed; (5) while DOE agreed to external regulation in these areas, its commitment appears to be lagging; (6) DOE's ineffective organizational structure blurs accountability, allowing problems to go undetected and remain uncorrected; (7) DOE relies on contractors to perform about 90 percent of its work; (8) recently, it has significantly increased its use of competition in selecting contractors to manage and operate its major facilities, but it should do more; (9) however, it is still not competitively awarding contracts for environmental restoration work at its national laboratories, even though it does so at other facilities; (10) in addition, although DOE originally planned to shift risk from the federal government to private contractors as a means of enhancing their performance, it now considers risk-sharing more appropriate; (11) DOE's staff lack technical and management skills needed to oversee complex operations; (12) finding enough staff with the necessary skills presents a serious challenge to DOE, particularly in light of recent downsizing initiatives; (13) to correct performance and management challenges, DOE developed a strategic plan for contract reform in 1994; (14) in addition, during the early 1990s, DOE conducted or commissioned several studies of the missions and organization of its national laboratories; (15) DOE completed strategic and annual performance plans under the Results Act; and (16) these plans responded to reported criticisms of DOE's operations and established goals and measures for improved performance.