Department of Energy:

Alternatives for Clearer Missions and Better Management at the National Laboratories

T-RCED-95-128: Published: Mar 9, 1995. Publicly Released: Mar 9, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the Department of Energy's (DOE) management of its national laboratories. GAO noted that: (1) DOE does not focus the laboratories' work on national priorities; (2) experts believe the laboratories' highest priority missions should be national defense, energy, the environment, and commercial technology; (3) DOE has not established clear and appropriate missions for the laboratories and treats them as separate entities rather than as a coordinated national research system with unified goals which could bring multidisciplinary talents to complex, cross-cutting problems; (4) fragmented DOE micromanagement has impeded the laboratories' ability to achieve their current research missions and administrative responsibilities; (5) DOE has initiated a new strategic planning process and reformed its laboratory contracts to correct problems; (6) some experts have suggested transferring laboratory management responsibilities to other federal agencies or to universities or that the laboratories be privatized, which would raise new concerns; and (7) DOE needs to better define its missions and strengthen its working relationships with all of the laboratories to ensure that the laboratories are making maximum contributions to national priorities.

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