Human Capital:

Observations on EPA's Efforts to Implement a Workforce Planning Strategy

T-RCED-00-129: Published: Mar 23, 2000. Publicly Released: Mar 23, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed its observations on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) efforts to determine the workforce it needs to meet its strategic goals and objectives, focusing on: (1) how EPA determines the number of employees and competencies needed to carry out its strategic goals and objectives; and (2) what actions, if any, EPA is taking to improve its workforce planning activities.

GAO noted that: (1) EPA does not have a workforce planning strategy to determine the number of employees and competencies needed to carry out its strategic goals and objectives; (2) in preparing the agency's annual budget request, EPA assistant administrators, regional administrators, and other senior officials determine the increases or decreases in the full-time equivalents (FTE) requested by the agency; (3) the senior officials make their decisions on the basis of information provided by program managers, who identify incremental changes in their needs from the prior year; (4) however, EPA does not have the detailed workforce planning information it needs to inform such decisions, including: (a) information on the linkage between the FTEs requested and the agency's ability to meet its strategic goals and objectives; and (b) any excesses or gaps in needed competencies within the agency's various headquarters and field components; (5) furthermore, EPA has not assessed the accuracy of its existing data to ensure that its employees are being used in ways that are consistent with the intent of its congressional appropriators; (6) although EPA does not have a workforce planning strategy, it has taken steps to identify its current and future human capital needs, including the size and competencies of its workforce; (7) in May 1999, EPA completed a study that identified: (a) the competencies needed to meet the agency's current missions; (b) possible alternative missions that EPA may face in the future; and (c) new competencies that may be needed under each of the future mission scenarios; (8) however, the study was not detailed enough to identify in total or in individual organizational components the number of employees who need to possess the competencies identified; (9) citing budget constraints, EPA discontinued its efforts to implement a workforce planning strategy, which was to include a continuous process to monitor and assess the agency's workforce in light of internal and external changes in its environment; (10) although EPA has no resources designated for implementing a workforce planning strategy, the agency recently prepared a draft human resources strategic plan; (11) according to EPA officials, a workforce planning strategy would be developed and implemented as part of this plan; and (12) EPA officials plan to meet in April 2000 to consider whether to approve the draft plan.

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