Attrition of Scientists at Three Regulatory Agencies

PAD-83-16: Published: Dec 27, 1982. Publicly Released: Dec 27, 1982.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO described: (1) the net changes that occurred in the employment of scientific personnel in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) during calendar year 1981, and compared these changes with those that occurred in the previous 2 years; (2) the extent to which reductions in force (RIF) and hiring freezes played a role during the periods; and (3) how personnel changes have affected the occupational and functional composition of scientific employees at each agency.

GAO found that, from October 1979 to December 1980, EPA and FDA experienced a general expansion among scientists and engineers, and this was followed by a period of declining employment during calendar year 1981 which produced little net change in the number of scientific personnel during these periods. On the other hand, CPSC experienced losses of scientific personnel during the first period which continued to accelerate during the second period. RIF's played a negligible role in these changes, and most of the decline at the three agencies could be traced to nonreplacement of departing scientists during calendar year 1981. The GAO analysis showed that only one group of scientists, general engineers at EPA, appeared to have been noticeably depleted, which may have been due to reclassification rather than personnel turnover. During calendar year 1981, nearly all groups at both agencies sustained personnel losses. Attrition at EPA was approximately equivalent for scientists and nonscientists, while nonscientists at FDA suffered greater attrition. Nearly all groups in CPSC sustained losses in both periods, resulting in an overall decline of 87 percent in the number of scientific personnel engaged in regulatory licensing and enforcement.

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