Superfund:

Improvements Needed in Work Force Management

RCED-88-1: Published: Oct 26, 1987. Publicly Released: Oct 26, 1987.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed employee-related aspects of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Superfund program, focusing on the: (1) type and extent of skilled staff shortages; (2) extent to which skilled federal and state employees are leaving for private-sector positions; (3) pay differentials between the public and private sectors for skilled positions; (4) success of Department of Defense (DOD) and Office of Personnel Management (OPM) programs in retaining skilled personnel; and (5) training required to improve employee skills.

GAO found that: (1) 80 percent of Superfund employees believed that they worked in understaffed units; (2) units experienced problems obtaining the services of chemists, hydrologists, and toxicologists; (3) staffing and skill shortages resulted in delays in performing Superfund activities; and (4) EPA filled 533 of 773 additional authorized full-time positions for fiscal year (FY) 1987. GAO also found that: (1) the turnover rate of EPA Superfund employees was below the average federal employee rate for FY 1984 and 1985, but increased from 2.9 to 7.2 percent between FY 1985 and 1986; (2) over one-third of Superfund employees planned to look for other jobs in 1987; (3) 67 percent of former employees cited a lack of or limited advancement opportunities as a major reason for leaving employment; (4) pay for federal attorneys, chemists, and engineers trailed private-sector pay by 25 to 68 percent; (5) EPA is considering compensation improvement through bonuses and additional fringe benefits; (6) about 60 percent of current employees believed that they needed more training; and (7) EPA has developed a 2-year plan that should provide needed training.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The agency has no intention of implementing this recommendation, however, in a recently issued report, RCED-90-22, December 14, 1989, GAO points out that this recommendation was valid.

    Recommendation: To develop a more informed basis for determining Superfund's staffing requirements and work-force skill mix, the Administrator, EPA, should examine the costs and benefits of using more objective techniques to determine staffing requirements (levels), including the collection of more specific historical time data from employees to help validate the reasonableness of its staffing estimates.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: GAO restated this recommendation in a recent report, RCED-90-22, December 14, 1989, and recommended that EPA establish long-term measurable goals to achieve the Administrator's objectives for Superfund. As EPA is likely to be more responsive to that report, subsequent followup efforts should be shifted there.

    Recommendation: To develop a more informed basis for determining Superfund's staffing requirements and work-force skill mix, the Administrator, EPA, should use productivity measures to gauge the appropriateness of the work-force size and skill mix, including regional variations.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EPA has approved and issued training policies and procedures. It has been reviewing training needs and recommendations from its Superfund work-force planning project to ensure that existing and future training addresses critical needs. EPA established an 80-hour training requirement for all OSC and RPM and published guidance on the training and certification levels for OSC and RPM.

    Recommendation: To meet present as well as future training needs, the Administrator, EPA, should direct the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response to implement its plans and proposed policies for improving the Superfund training program.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

 

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