The Missing Link in Planning Reorganizations

GGD-81-57: Published: Mar 20, 1981. Publicly Released: Mar 20, 1981.

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Arthur R. Goldbeck
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The Reorganization Act of 1977 provides the President with broad authority to reorganize Federal agencies. The Act expires in April 1981. In anticipation of the reauthorization proceedings, the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs asked GAO to identify: (1) what systemic problems, if any, new or reorganized agencies have had in obtaining personnel or support services made necessary by the reorganization; (2) how Congress and the executive branch can avoid or alleviate these problems; and (3) what services may be common to the successful implementation of any reorganization and must be routinely provided by the executive branch to effectively and efficiently carry out the transfer. GAO limited its review to four reorganizations involving six agencies.

The agencies which GAO reviewed experienced substantial startup problems. These included: delays in obtaining key agency officials, inadequate staffing, insufficient funding, inadequate office space, and delays in establishing support functions such as payroll and accounting systems. Solving these startup problems distracted agency officials from concentrating on their new missions during the critical first year of operation. The reorganization plans, the accompanying presidential messages, and supporting information submitted to Congress discussed such matters as the purpose of the reorganization, the affected policies and programs, and relevant statutes. However, the plans and supporting information did not address the administrative and operational requirements to carry out the proposed reorganizations. Factors such as the availability of needed office space or the time and cost required to establish support functions were not considered until the plans had met congressional approval. Many of the responsibilities for implementation were left up to the new and reorganized agencies. Office of Management and Budget coordination and oversight during most of the reorganizations were not enough to prevent problems. These startup problems could be alleviated by including in future reorganization plans front-end implementation planning objectives. The establishment of high level interagency implementation task forces to obtain timely commitments from all Federal agencies affected by reorganization plans might help to further alleviate startup problems.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Senate acted on the recommendation but the House did not.

    Matter: Congress should require that reorganization plans contain sections on proposed implementation actions for any future legislation granting reorganization authority to the President. These sections should describe (1) the high level interagency task force or other mechanism established to facilitate implementation activities; and (2) actions being taken to assure that, upon congressional approval of the reorganizations, factors such as leadership, staffing, funding, office space, and administrative support functions will be evaluated and planned for so as to expeditiously implement the reorganizations on their effective dates or as soon thereafter as practicable.


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