Surface Mining:

Office of the Solicitor Fiscal Year 1986 Staffing Needs

RCED-87-140BR: Published: May 27, 1987. Publicly Released: Jun 29, 1987.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO examined the Department of the Interior's staffing of the Office of the Solicitor for fiscal year (FY) 1986 to determine: (1) if available case-load statistics indicated an appropriate legal support staffing level; (2) how the Solicitor arrived at his staffing decision; and (3) whether current and former Office of the Solicitor officials agreed with the Solicitor's staffing decision.

GAO noted that case-load statistics indicated that the backlog of open surface-mining-related cases increased during FY 1986. GAO found that current Office of the Solicitor officials believe that: (1) the statistics were misleading, since most of the cases were not ready for attorney involvement; (2) the office could not have used additional staff productively in FY 1986 to work on those cases, since Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) contractors had not provided the necessary financial information; and (3) waiting for OSMRE contractors to supply this information was more cost-effective than using additional staff from the office and did not affect the outcome of the cases. GAO also noted that, in anticipation of receiving the necessary financial information, the Solicitor requested a staffing increase to 77 full-time equivalent employees to work on surface-mining-related activities in FY 1988. GAO also found that former Office of the Solicitor officials believed that the Solicitor should have: (1) hired additional staff to more aggressively reduce the surface mining case load; and (2) used the additional staff to obtain the necessary financial information, since waiting for the information would hamper the successful resolution of the cases.

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