Department of Energy:

Value of Benefits Paid to Separated Contractor Workforce Varied Widely

RCED-97-33: Published: Jan 23, 1997. Publicly Released: Jan 30, 1997.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Energy's (DOE) workforce restructuring plans, focusing on the: (1) types and amounts of benefits provided to separated employees; (2) distinctions DOE made in determining who should receive these benefits; (3) extent to which the contractors at DOE's facilities have to rehire workers or replace them with others having similar skills, because the downsizing was not targeted sufficiently to retain critically needed skills; and (4) steps DOE has taken to oversee the implementation of the plans.

GAO found that: (1) the 23,800 contractor employees separated since 1993 under DOE's workforce restructuring plans have received an average of $25,600 in benefits; (2) about 88 percent of the costs were for enhanced retirement incentives or severance pay; (3) although similar benefits were offered at most facilities, the value of these benefits varied considerably among locations, reflecting the considerable discretion given to each facility in determining how best to reduce its workforce; (4) more than half of the workforce restructuring plans provided more generous severance pay than would have normally been provided by the contractors under existing contracts, and almost all plans provided other benefits not normally provided by the contractors, such as extended medical insurance; (5) the benefits provided under the plans exceeded those that would have been provided to federal employees in a reduction in force; (6) DOE's guidelines provide that the consideration of specific benefits for contractor employees should take into account both available funding and whether the employee was hired prior to the end of the Cold War, but most plans made no distinction in the benefits provided to employees hired during the Cold War and those hired after the Cold War ended; (7) the preliminary data for fiscal years (FY) 1995 and 1996 suggest that DOE's facilities have improved their ability to retain critically needed skills during downsizing; (8) early restructuring at some facilities resulted in subsequent hiring to fill vacated critical skill positions; (9) while data are not available on the number of critical skill positions that were refilled during FY 1993 and 1994, DOE's preliminary data for FY 1995 and 1996 indicate that about 2 percent of the positions vacated had to be refilled; (10) DOE provides limited oversight over how contractors implement workforce restructuring plans; (11) according to DOE officials, once the workforce restructuring plans are approved, the responsibility for implementation is left with the contractors and little monitoring is done by DOE program personnel; and (12) reviews by DOE's Office of Inspector General and others of DOE's early restructuring efforts have identified problems with the awarding of benefits.

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