Department of Energy:

DOE Lacks an Effective Strategy for Addressing Recommendations From Past Laboratory Advisory Groups

T-RCED-98-274: Published: Sep 23, 1998. Publicly Released: Sep 23, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed: (1) the recommendations by various advisory groups for addressing management weaknesses at the Department of Energy (DOE) and the laboratories; and (2) how DOE and its laboratories have responded to these recommendations.

GAO noted that: (1) for nearly 20 years, many advisory groups have found that while DOE's national laboratories do impressive research and development, they are unfocused, are micromanaged by DOE, and do not function as an integrated national research and development system; (2) these groups have made dozens of recommendations ranging from improving strategic planning to streamlining DOE's internal processes, and some have also suggested major organizational changes in the way the laboratories are directed; (3) while DOE has made some progress--principally by reducing paperwork burdens on its laboratories--most of its actions in response to past advisory groups are still underway or have unclear outcomes; (4) DOE cannot show how its actions have resulted or may result in fundamental change because they lack the objectives, performance measures, and milestones needed to effectively track progress and account for results; (5) without a strategy for ensuring that reforms actually take place, DOE will make limited progress in achieving meaningful reforms; and (6) additionally, DOE's organizational weaknesses, which include unclear lines of authority, are a major reason why the Department has been unable to develop long-term solutions to the recurring problems reported by advisory groups.

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