Department of Energy:

Actions Necessary to Improve DOE's Training Program

RCED-99-56: Published: Feb 12, 1999. Publicly Released: Mar 15, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Department of Energy's (DOE) training program and the changes that are needed to address those problems, focusing on: (1) DOE's current process for setting its training budget; (2) opportunities to reduce the costs associated with DOE's training program; and (3) DOE's draft plan for training its employees in the future.

GAO noted that: (1) DOE has not completed any of the critical steps identified in the Office of Personnel Management's and its own guidance that lead to the development of a sound and defensible training budget; (2) for instance, DOE has not defined the training needs for various occupations, including program managers and contractor oversight specialists; (3) in addition, DOE employees have generally not completed individual development plans, and DOE offices have generally not prepared annual training plans; (4) DOE could reduce its training costs by eliminating certain nonmandatory training and reducing duplicative and nonstandardized training across the Department; (5) about 90 percent of DOE's training, according to a departmental estimate, is not mandated by laws or regulations, but DOE has not developed criteria on the type of nonmandatory training that is appropriate; (6) as a result, DOE offers a wide range of nonmandatory training courses, such as a course on determining social styles in the workplace and one on employees facing mid-life questions; (7) furthermore, because DOE and its contractors independently develop and deliver training, duplicate courses exist and nonstandardized training occurs across the department; (8) DOE's draft training plan has several shortcomings that may preclude it from improving departmental training over fiscal years 1999 through 2001, as intended; (9) for example, the draft plan does not realistically estimate what overall costs and overall savings will result from the plan, how the plan will be financed, given DOE's decentralized training resources, and how DOE's training centers of excellence will eliminate duplicative training, as intended; (10) moreover, even though DOE spent about 85 percent of its fiscal year 1997 training expenditures on contractor employees, the draft training plan does not address the steps necessary to improve contractor training; and (11) DOE officials stated that they are aware of these shortcomings and intend to address them in the final plan.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOE has developed a policy regarding the purpose, use, support for and services provided by the training centers of excellence.

    Recommendation: To improve DOE's new training plan, the Secretary of Energy should require that the plan include a policy regarding the use of the Department's centers of excellence.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Per discussions with the head of DOE training, a financial support approach for all the initiatives in the plan will be developed.

    Recommendation: To improve DOE's new training plan, the Secretary of Energy should require that the plan include an explanation of how DOE's decentralized training resources will be committed to finance the plan.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOE's finalized plan will include milestones, cost estimates, and projected benefits for each task in it. GAO staff reviewed the latest draft of the plan.

    Recommendation: To improve DOE's new training plan, the Secretary of Energy should require that the plan include a realistic estimate of the overall costs to implement the plan and the overall savings to be achieved.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOE has initiated a new training class referral process involving the DOE training community to standardize training and reduce duplication of training design and development.

    Recommendation: To reduce spending on DOE training, the Secretary of Energy should require the standardization of the development and delivery of training that has general application across DOE.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In a memorandum dated March 4, 1999, the Secretary of Energy required DOE offices to eliminate funding of unnecessary training that is not required by law or DOE directives, does not address a mission-related objective, or does not contribute to maintaining a highly skilled, versatile and diverse workforce.

    Recommendation: To reduce spending on DOE training, the Secretary of Energy should require the establishment of criteria for what type of nonmandatory training is appropriate and a review and elimination of nonmandatory training courses given across DOE that do not meet those criteria.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In a memorandum dated March 4, 1999, the Secretary of Energy required DOE offices to prepare annual training plans as required by DOE orders.

    Recommendation: To improve the process for setting the training budget, the Secretary of Energy should require the completion of annual training plans as required by DOE order.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In a memorandum dated March 4, 1999, the Secretary of Energy required DOE offices to prepare individual development plans for their employees as required by DOE orders.

    Recommendation: To improve the process for setting the training budget, the Secretary of Energy should require the completion of individual development plans for all departmental employees required to have one by DOE order.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOE has conducted job assessments and completed individual training needs assessments for critical nuclear safety and technical operations positions. Assessments will be carried out annually.

    Recommendation: To improve the process for setting the training budget, the Secretary of Energy should require the expeditious completion of a comprehensive occupational training needs assessment throughout the department. Where the assessment process cannot be expedited, priorities should be set for the order in which occupational groups will be assessed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In a memorandum dated March 4, 1999, the Secretary of Energy required DOE offices to establish specific DOE management objectives for contractor training programs and to amend DOE contracts to include performance-based requirements for contractor training.

    Recommendation: To improve DOE's new training plan, the Secretary of Energy should require that the plan include an identification of the steps necessary to improve contractor training performance. At a minimum, those steps should include: (1) establishing departmental guidance on the development, monitoring, and evaluation of contractor training programs and budgets; (2) incorporating a standard set of performance measures regarding training into its performance-based contracts; and (3) clarifying the roles and responsibilities for the oversight of contractor training performance departmentwide.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

 

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