oversight

Assessment of Public Law 106-303: The Role of Personnel Flexibilities in Strengthening GAO's Human Capital

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2003-06-27.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

               United States General Accounting Office

GAO            Report to Congressional Committees




June 2003
               ASSESSMENT OF
               PUBLIC LAW 106-303
               The Role of Personnel
               Flexibilities in
               Strengthening GAO's
               Human Capital




GAO-03-954SP
Contents


Letter                                                                                                                1


Introduction                                                                                                          5
                           Implementation of the Act                                                                  7

Public Law 106-303                                                                                                    8
                           Section 1: Voluntary Early Retirement                                                      8
                           Section 2: Voluntary Separation Incentive Payments                                        11
                           Section 3: Reduction in Force                                                             12
                           Section 4: Senior-Level Positions                                                         13

Employees’, Personnel Appeals Board’s, and Senior Executives’ Assessments                                            14



Appendix I                 GAO Order 2831.1                                                                          16



Appendix II                GAO Order 2351.1                                                                          21



Appendix III               GAO Order 2319.1                                                                          51



Table
                           Table 1: Summary Data on Voluntary Early Retirements                                       9


Figure
                           Figure 1: GAO’s Human Capital Profile                                                     10


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                           Page i                                   GAO-03-954SP Assessment of Public Law 106-303
                                                                                            Comptroller General
                                                                                            of the United States
United States General Accounting Office
Washington, DC 20548




                                   June 27, 2003

                                   Congressional Committees

                                   Leading public organizations here and abroad have found that strategic
                                   human capital management must be the centerpiece of any serious change
                                   management initiative and effort to transform the culture of government
                                   agencies. GAO is not immune to these challenges facing the federal
                                   government. Over the past 3 years, however, we have made considerable
                                   progress toward addressing a number of our major human capital
                                   challenges through various initiatives. While many of the initiatives were
                                   administrative in nature, the additional flexibilities that the Congress
                                   authorized in Public Law 106-303 have helped to ensure that we have the
                                   right staff, with the right skills, in the right locations to better meet the
                                   needs of the Congress and the American people.

                                   As we approach the third anniversary of Public Law 106-303’s passage, we
                                   are submitting this assessment in accordance with section 6(b) of that law.
                                   This report contains information about our use of the flexibilities
                                   authorized by section 1, Voluntary Early Retirement; section 2, Voluntary
                                   Separation Incentive Payments; and section 3, Modified Reduction in
                                   Force Procedures; and presents our recommendations on the retention of
                                   sections 1 and 2. We do not have any recommendations for modifying
                                   section 3 at this time. To the extent possible, we have provided our
                                   assessment of the effectiveness of the flexibilities in addressing the
                                   challenges we faced when we requested the legislation. We have also
                                   included information about our use of the law’s senior-level provision.
                                   Lastly, we have included a summary of the responses provided by the
                                   Personnel Appeals Board, GAO’s Employee Advisory Council and GAO’s
                                   senior executives with regard to this report and our recommendations.




                                   Page 1                             GAO-03-954SP Assessment of Public Law 106-303
If you or members of your staff have any questions or comments about
matters discussed in this report, please contact me at (202) 512-5500 or
walkerd@gao.gov or Gene L. Dodaro, Chief Operating Officer, at (202) 512-
5600 or dodarog@gao.gov.

Sincerely yours,




David M. Walker
Comptroller General
of the United States




Page 2                           GAO-03-954SP Assessment of Public Law 106-303
List of Congressional Committees

The Honorable Ted Stevens
Chairman
The Honorable Robert C. Byrd
Ranking Minority Member
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate

The Honorable Ben Nighthorse Campbell
Chairman
The Honorable Richard J. Durbin
Ranking Minority Member
Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate

The Honorable Susan M. Collins
Chairman
The Honorable Joseph I. Lieberman
Ranking Minority Member
Committee on Governmental Affairs
United States Senate

The Honorable Peter G. Fitzgerald
Chairman
The Honorable Daniel K. Akaka
Ranking Minority Member
Subcommittee on Financial Management,
 the Budget and International Security
Committee on Governmental Affairs
United States Senate

The Honorable George V. Voinovich
Chairman
The Honorable Richard J. Durbin
Ranking Minority Member
Subcommittee on Oversight of
 Government Management, the Federal Workforce
 and the District of Columbia
Committee on Governmental Affairs
United States Senate



Page 3                         GAO-03-954SP Assessment of Public Law 106-303
The Honorable C. W. Bill Young
Chairman
The Honorable David Obey
Ranking Minority Member
Committee on Appropriations
House of Representatives

The Honorable Jack Kingston
Chairman
The Honorable James P. Moran
Ranking Minority Member
Subcommittee on Legislative
Committee on Appropriations
House of Representatives

The Honorable Tom Davis
Chairman
The Honorable Henry A. Waxman
Ranking Minority Member
Committee on Government Reform
House of Representatives

The Honorable Jo Ann Davis
Chairwoman
The Honorable Danny K. Davis
Ranking Minority Member
Subcommittee on Civil Service
 and Agency Organization
Committee on Government Reform
House of Representatives




Page 4                           GAO-03-954SP Assessment of Public Law 106-303
               Introduction
Introduction


               The U.S. General Accounting Office exists to support the Congress in
               meeting its constitutional responsibilities and to help improve the
               performance and assure the accountability of the federal government for
               the benefit of the American people. Given GAO’s role as a key provider of
               information and analyses to the Congress, maintaining the right mix of
               technical knowledge and subject matter expertise as well as general
               analytical skills is vital to achieving the agency’s mission. GAO spends
               about 80 percent of its resources on its people. And yet, like other federal
               agencies, GAO has faced significant human capital challenges—challenges
               that if not effectively addressed, could impair the timeliness and quality of
               its work for its congressional clients and the American people they
               represent.

               A number of these challenges were created by the significant reduction in
               the size of GAO undertaken in the mid-1990s. Specifically, from 1992
               through 1997, GAO underwent budgetary cuts totaling 33 percent in
               constant fiscal 1992 dollars. To achieve those budgetary reductions while
               meeting other agency needs, GAO reduced the number of its employees 39
               percent through extensive field office closings and targeted reductions in
               headquarters staff. To conform to the reduced budgetary ceiling, GAO then
               instituted a virtual hiring freeze at the entry level, cut training for all staff,
               suspended agencywide incentive programs, and at times used mid-level
               promotions as a retention strategy. Because of the reduction in hiring, the
               average age of the agency’s workforce increased, and the retirement
               eligibility of staff accelerated. GAO’s analyses showed that by the end of
               fiscal 2004, about 34 percent of all GAO employees would be eligible to
               retire. For upper-level staff, the proportion eligible to retire was even
               larger— 48 percent of all band III management-level employees and 55
               percent of all Senior Executive Service members.

               Thus, as at many federal agencies, GAO’s human capital profile reflected a
               workforce that was smaller, closer to retirement, and at increasingly
               higher-grade levels. In addition to the succession-related concerns raised
               by such a profile, GAO also faced a range of skills gaps. As major policy
               issues have become more complex and as technology has radically altered
               the way the federal government conducts business, the types of skills and
               knowledge needed by GAO staff have been evolving, and the need for
               sophisticated technical skills has been increasing.

               Early in his tenure, Comptroller General David Walker recognized that
               GAO’s human capital profile and selected skills gaps presented serious
               challenges to GAO’s future ability to serve the Congress. Comptroller
               General Walker also sought to have GAO become a model federal agency


               Page 5                               GAO-03-954SP Assessment of Public Law 106-303
Introduction




and a world-class professional services organization that focuses on
delivering positive results for the Congress and the country. The agency’s
ability to operate in an efficient, effective, and economical manner and
meet the ever-changing and increasingly complex needs of the Congress
could be seriously compromised if GAO’s human capital challenges were
not effectively addressed.

As a first step in addressing these concerns, GAO used its internal
administrative authority to implement measures to improve the alignment
of its human capital with the agency’s overall strategic goals and
objectives as contained in GAO’s Strategic Plan. Subsequent to developing
its first strategic plan, GAO undertook a number of major human capital
initiatives, including an agencywide realignment and reorganization, an
overall human capital self-assessment, the revitalization of its recruiting
and college relations programs, an agencywide knowledge and skills
inventory, the development of competency-based performance appraisal
systems, the establishment of an Employee Advisory Council, the
enhancement of GAO’s employee benefit programs, a comprehensive
employee feedback survey, a workforce-planning process, and the
establishment of a professional development program for entry-level
analysts.

In addition to these initiatives, GAO’s leadership recognized that
additional steps to reshape the agency’s workforce were necessary and
that preexisting personnel authorities did not allow the agency to address
these challenges effectively. Therefore, GAO sought legislation
establishing narrowly tailored flexibilities that would help to reshape the
agency’s workforce and recruit and retain staff with needed technical
skills. Based on a sound business case, Public Law 106-303—known as the
GAO Personnel Flexibilities Act—became law in October 2000. The act
authorized the Comptroller General to implement the following personnel
flexibilities:

    1. Offer voluntary early retirement to realign the workforce to meet
       budgetary constraints or mission needs; correct skill imbalances;
       or reduce high-grade, managerial, or supervisory positions.

    2. Offer separation incentive payments to realign the workforce to
       meet budgetary constraints or mission needs; correct skill
       imbalances; or reduce high-grade, supervisory, or managerial
       positions.




Page 6                            GAO-03-954SP Assessment of Public Law 106-303
                        Introduction




                            3. Establish modified regulations for the separation of employees
                               during a reduction or other adjustment in force.

                            4. Establish senior-level scientific, technical, and professional
                               positions and provide those positions with the same pay and
                               benefits applicable to the Senior Executive Service while
                               remaining within GAO’s current allocation of super-grade
                               positions.


                        After the Congress passed the act in 2000 and the President signed it into
Implementation of the   law, GAO began the process of developing regulations to implement the
Act                     four authorities it established. Because stakeholder involvement is a
                        critical component of successful human capital management, particularly
                        when initiatives are being introduced, GAO established a standard practice
                        to ensure employee involvement in significant agency initiatives.

                        GAO’s standard practice involves the initial discussion and presentation of
                        draft proposals to members of GAO’s Employee Advisory Council—a
                        panel of employees representing a variety of employee constituent
                        groups—and also to the agency’s senior executives. The Comptroller
                        General was personally involved in the vast majority of those exchanges,
                        which afforded an opportunity for the direct communication of employees’
                        and managers’ reactions. After the views of employees and managers were
                        considered, further changes were made, if needed, before the draft
                        proposal was issued to all employees for their review and consideration.
                        Materials were posted on GAO’s intranet home page, and employees were
                        notified by E-mail that proposals were available for their review,
                        comments, and suggestions for a period of 30 days. The documents were
                        posted in a user-friendly format that allowed employees to access the
                        documents and provide comments directly on any or all of the provisions.
                        Generally, the regulations were accompanied by “Frequently Asked
                        Questions,” which elaborated on and explained the details of the
                        provisions. The agency received 60 comments on the voluntary early
                        retirement order, 33 on the workforce restructuring order, and 12 on the
                        senior-level order. These comments were collected, reviewed, and
                        carefully considered by GAO’s Executive Committee prior to finalizing the
                        regulations.

                        The approaches that GAO took in implementing these four flexibilities as
                        well as the results that the agency has achieved are described in the
                        following four sections.



                        Page 7                            GAO-03-954SP Assessment of Public Law 106-303
                       Public Law 106-303
Public Law 106-303


                       At the time the GAO Personnel Flexibilities Act was passed, GAO’s
Section 1: Voluntary   workforce was sparse at the entry level and plentiful at the midlevel. The
Early Retirement       agency was concerned about its ability to support the Congress with
                       experienced and knowledgeable staff, given the significant percentage of
                       the agency’s senior managers and analysts reaching retirement eligibility
                       and the relatively small number of entry-level employees who were in
                       training to replace more senior staff. The use of the voluntary early
                       retirement authority provided in section 1 of the act is one of the tools that
                       the agency has used to confront this serious issue—one that is facing
                       much of the federal community.

                       The act allows the Comptroller General to offer voluntary early retirement
                       to up to 10 percent of the workforce when necessary or appropriate to
                       realign the workforce to address budgetary or mission constraints; correct
                       skill imbalances; or reduce high-grade, supervisory, or managerial
                       positions. This flexibility represents a proactive use of early retirement to
                       shape the workforce to prevent or ameliorate future problems. GAO Order
                       2831.1, Voluntary Early Retirement, containing the agency’s final
                       regulations, was issued in April 2001 and is included in appendix I. Under
                       the regulations, each time the Comptroller General approves a voluntary
                       early retirement opportunity, he establishes the categories of employees
                       who are eligible to apply. These categories are based on the need to
                       ensure that those employees who are eligible to request voluntary early
                       retirement are those whose separations are consistent with one or more of
                       the three reasons for which the Comptroller General may authorize early
                       retirements. Pursuant to GAO’s regulations, these categories are defined in
                       terms of one or more of the following criteria:

                       •   organizational unit or subunit,
                       •   occupational series,
                       •   grade or band level,
                       •   skill or knowledge requirements,
                       •   performance appraisal average,
                       •   geographic location, or
                       •   other similar factors that the Comptroller General deems necessary
                           and appropriate.

                       Since it is essential that GAO retain employees with critical skills as well
                       as its highest performers, certain categories of employees have been
                       ineligible under the criteria. Some examples of ineligible categories are
                       employees receiving retention allowances because of their unusually high
                       or unique qualifications; economists, because of the difficulty that the
                       agency has experienced in recruiting them; and staff in the information



                       Page 8                             GAO-03-954SP Assessment of Public Law 106-303
                                           Public Law 106-303




                                           technology area. In addition, employees with performance appraisal
                                           averages above a specified level have not been eligible under the criteria.

                                           To give the fullest consideration to all interested employees, however, any
                                           employee may apply for consideration when an early retirement
                                           opportunity is announced, even if he or she does not meet the stated
                                           criteria. The Comptroller General may authorize early retirements for
                                           these applicants on the basis of the facts and circumstances of each case.
                                           The Comptroller General or his Executive Committee designee(s)
                                           considers each applicant and makes final decisions on the basis of the
                                           institutional needs of GAO. Only employees whose release is consistent
                                           with the law and GAO’s objective in allowing early retirement are
                                           authorized to retire early. In some cases, this has meant that employees’
                                           requests must be denied.

                                           GAO held its first voluntary early retirement opportunity in July 2001.
                                           Employees who were approved for early retirement were required to
                                           separate in the first quarter of fiscal 2002. As required by the act,
                                           information on the fiscal 2002 early retirements was reported in an
                                           appendix to our 2002 Performance and Accountability Report. Another
                                           voluntary early retirement opportunity was authorized in fiscal 2003, and
                                           employees were required to separate by March 14, 2003. Table 1 provides
                                           the data on the number of employees separated by voluntary early
                                           retirement as of May 30, 2003.

Table 1: Summary Data on Voluntary Early Retirements

                                              Fiscal year 2002          Fiscal year 2003                Totals
                                                        Percentage                Percentage                 Percentage
 Applications/Status of applications          Number         of total   Number         of total     Number       of total
 Total applications submitted                      78          100.0         39          100.0         117         100.0
 Approved applications                             72            92.3        37            94.8        109           93.1
 Disapproved applications                           6             7.7         2             5.1          8            6.8
 Approved applications withdrawn by                18            23.0        12            30.7         30           25.6
 employees
 Applicants separated by voluntary early            54          69.3         25           64.1            79           67.5
 retirement
Source: GAO.

                                           Of the 79 employees who separated from GAO through voluntary early
                                           retirement, 66, or 83.5 percent, were high-grade, supervisory, or
                                           managerial employees. High-grade, supervisory, or managerial employees
                                           are those who are in grade GS-13 or above, if covered by GAO’s General
                                           Schedule, in band II or above, if covered by GAO’s banded systems for




                                           Page 9                             GAO-03-954SP Assessment of Public Law 106-303
Public Law 106-303




Analysts and Attorneys or in any position in GAO’s Senior Executive
Service or Senior Level system.

GAO’s transformation effort is a work-in-progress and, for that reason, the
agency supports additional legislation to make the voluntary early
retirement provision in section 1 of Public Law 106-303 permanent. While
the overall number of employees electing early retirement has been
relatively small, GAO believes that careful use of voluntary early
retirement has been an important tool in incrementally improving the
agency’s overall human capital profile. Each separation has freed
resources for another use, enabling GAO to fill an entry-level position or to
fill a position that will reduce a skill gap or address other succession
concerns. Importantly, these separations are accomplished voluntarily
with the acquiescence of both the employee and the agency. Although
GAO has made progress in improving its human capital profile, there is
still work to do. GAO needs to retain its option to use this flexibility when
necessary to address current and future concerns.

In making this recommendation, GAO points to its progress in changing
the overall shape of the organization. As illustrated in figure 1, by the end
of fiscal year 2002, GAO had almost a 74 percent increase in the proportion
of staff at the entry level (Band I) compared with fiscal year 1998. Also, the
proportion of the agency’s workforce at the midlevel (Band II) decreased
by about 16 percent.

Figure 1: GAO’s Human Capital Profile




a
Attorneys and criminal investigators.
b
Mission support includes both mission and mission support offices.
Since the beginning of fiscal 2001, a total of 447 employees have retired
from GAO; 79 (or 17.6 percent) of those retirements are the result of


Page 10                                      GAO-03-954SP Assessment of Public Law 106-303
                       Public Law 106-303




                       GAO’s early retirement offerings, and as noted above, 83.5 percent of those
                       retiring were high-grade, supervisory, or managerial employees. The loss
                       of these higher-level staff, along with other employees whose skills are no
                       longer essential to GAO has helped the agency address succession
                       planning and skill imbalance issues, in addition to increasing the numbers
                       of entry-level staff who can be hired.


                       In addition to authorizing voluntary early retirement for GAO employees,
Section 2: Voluntary   the act permits the Comptroller General to offer voluntary separation
Separation Incentive   incentive payments—also known as “buyouts”—when necessary or
                       appropriate to realign the workforce to meet budgetary constraints or
Payments               mission needs; correct skill imbalances; or reduce high-grade, supervisory,
                       or managerial positions. Under the act, up to 5 percent of employees could
                       be offered such an incentive, subject to criteria established by the
                       Comptroller General.

                       The act requires GAO to deposit into the U.S. Treasury an amount
                       equivalent to 45 percent of the final annual basic salary of each employee
                       to whom a buyout is paid. The deposit is in addition to the actual buyout
                       amount, which can be up to $25,000 for an approved individual. Given the
                       many demands on agency resources, these costs present a strong financial
                       incentive to use the provision sparingly, if at all. GAO anticipates little, if
                       any, use of this authority because of the associated costs. For this reason,
                       as well as to avoid creating unrealistic employee expectations, GAO has
                       not developed and issued agency regulations to implement this section of
                       the act.

                       GAO also supports legislation making section 2—-authorizing the payment
                       of voluntary separation incentives—permanent. GAO notes that the
                       Homeland Security Act of 2002 provides most federal agencies with
                       buyout authority. Agencies with preexisting legislative authority to offer
                       buyouts retain their authority, although they may be covered under the
                       Homeland Security Act provision as well. Although GAO has not yet used
                       its buyout authority and has no plans to do so in the foreseeable future,
                       GAO recommends the retention of this flexibility and the elimination of
                       the expiration date of December 31, 2003. The continuation of this
                       provision maximizes the options available to the agency to deal with
                       future circumstances. Since GAO is also eligible to request buyouts under
                       the provisions of the Homeland Security Act, the agency will consider its
                       options under this provision as well.




                       Page 11                             GAO-03-954SP Assessment of Public Law 106-303
                       Public Law 106-303




                       Section 3 of the act allows the Comptroller General to prescribe
Section 3: Reduction   regulations for the separation of GAO employees during a reduction in
in Force               force or other adjustment in force consistent with those issued by the
                       Office of Personnel Management under section 3502(a) of title 5. In the
                       event that GAO is required to initiate involuntary job reductions,
                       employees would compete for retention on the basis of the following
                       factors in descending order of priority: tenure, veteran’s preference,
                       performance ratings, and length of federal service. At the discretion of the
                       Comptroller General, retention may also be based on other objective
                       factors, including skills and knowledge in addition to the preceding
                       criteria.

                       After careful analysis and deliberation, GAO Order 2351.1, Workforce
                       Restructuring Procedures for the General Accounting Office, containing
                       final agency regulations, was issued in January 2003. Those regulations,
                       which are included in appendix II, provide for establishing “zones of
                       consideration,” which define the geographical and organizational
                       boundaries within which employees compete for retention. All employees
                       would be placed in “job groups” that comprise all positions within a zone
                       of consideration that are at the same grade or band level and that perform
                       the same duties and responsibilities. The highest priority would be placed
                       on an employee’s tenure of employment and veteran’s preference. After
                       consideration of those two factors, an employee would be ranked on the
                       basis of his or her retention score. This score is based on the employee’s 3-
                       year appraisal average and his or her length of creditable federal service;
                       greater weight is placed on performance than on length of service.

                       GAO has not taken any actions under its workforce restructuring
                       regulations and is sensitive to concerns that were expressed prior to the
                       passage of Public Law 106-303 about the potential impact of GAO’s
                       modified reduction in force procedures on veterans. GAO is committed to
                       protecting the rights of veterans in a manner consistent with title 5 and has
                       retained all veterans’ protections in GAO orders. Therefore, GAO does not
                       foresee any impact on veterans that would differ from those at any other
                       agency involved in realigning or reducing their workforce.

                       Section 3, authorizing the Comptroller General to develop modified
                       regulations for the conduct of a reduction or other adjustment in force, is
                       a permanent authority. The act requires GAO to provide any
                       recommendations for changes to the section at this time. GAO is unable to
                       offer recommendations, however, because the procedures have not yet
                       been used. Circumstances leading to the decision to separate employees
                       involuntarily are infrequent, and it may be years before the agency has any


                       Page 12                            GAO-03-954SP Assessment of Public Law 106-303
                     Public Law 106-303




                     significant experience with the use of its procedures. Therefore, GAO has
                     no recommendations for changes to section 3 at this time.


                     To address a variety of complex issues, GAO needed to increase its skill
Section 4: Senior-   base in such highly competitive hiring areas as economics, information
Level Positions      technology, actuarial science, and evaluation methodology. Section 4 of
                     the act permits GAO to establish senior-level positions to meet critical
                     scientific, technical, or professional needs. To recruit and retain qualified
                     individuals, the act allows GAO to extend the rights and benefits of Senior
                     Executive Service employees to these positions. GAO Order 2319.1,
                     containing the agency’s regulations for the employment of senior-level
                     staff, was issued in March 2001 and is included in appendix III.

                     GAO has used this authority to fill eight senior-level positions, including
                     that of a Chief Accountant, Chief Economist, Chief Statistician, and Chief
                     Actuary. In addition, three senior-level technologists have been appointed
                     as well as a senior-level technologist with expertise in cryptography. The
                     expertise of these senior experts in highly specialized areas of economics,
                     technology, statistics, and cryptography has contributed significantly to
                     GAO’s efforts to support the Congress. The accomplishments achieved
                     with the expertise and contributions of the agency’s senior-level
                     employees include work on biometric technologies for U.S. border
                     security, anthrax irradiation of U.S. mail, and National Missile Defense
                     systems. These experts have also contributed to ensuring that GAO’s work
                     is based on the most technically accurate methodologies for conducting
                     cost-benefit studies and for utilizing appropriate data sources. GAO has
                     found this flexibility to be a critical component in its efforts to ensure that
                     the agency maintains the skills and knowledge necessary to address the
                     many highly complex areas of interest to the Congress.

                     The act does not require recommendations from GAO on section 4, which
                     permits the agency to establish senior-level positions to meet critical
                     scientific, technical, or professional needs.




                     Page 13                             GAO-03-954SP Assessment of Public Law 106-303
              Employees’, Personnel Appeals Board’s, and
Employees’, Personnel Appeals Board’s, and
              Senior Executives’ Assessments



Senior Executives’ Assessments

              When the act was under consideration, some GAO employees expressed
              their concerns about the legislation to their Congressional representatives.
              To ensure the active consideration of employees’ views, the act requires
              that this report include any assessments or recommendations of the GAO
              Personnel Appeals Board and of any interested groups or associations
              representing officers or employees of GAO. GAO also agreed to include in
              this report information about any impact upon employees’ attitudes and
              opinions, as measured by employee feedback survey responses.

              In response to these requirements, GAO’s Human Capital Officer sent a
              request soliciting recommendations for inclusion in this report to the
              Executive Director of the Personnel Appeals Board. The agency also
              alerted the members of GAO’s Employee Advisory Council by sending all
              members a memorandum notifying them of this provision. The topic was
              included on the agenda of the council’s quarterly meeting with the
              Comptroller General in March, and all members of the Employee Advisory
              Council were given a draft copy of the report for their review. GAO’s
              managing directors were also given a draft of this report for review. In
              addition, on May 21, 2003, a meeting of all GAO’s senior executives was
              held. At this meeting the Comptroller General solicited the views of senior
              staff on extending provisions of Public Law 106-303.

              The Personnel Appeals Board did not submit a specific assessment of the
              act’s implementation. However, in letter to GAO’s Human Capital Officer,
              dated May 15, 2003, Beth Don, Executive Director of the Personnel
              Appeals Board, stated that the board would be “willing to do a more
              comprehensive report in a year or so, at which point we think there will be
              more information available on the implementation and effectiveness of the
              personnel flexibilities granted under the Act.” Importantly, Ms. Don
              indicated that no cases had been filed with the Personnel Appeals Board
              concerning the matters covered by the act. She also stated that the board
              did not believe it was appropriate to comment, among other things, on the
              substantive nature of the regulations promulgated by GAO, or the manner
              in which the regulations were promulgated since the Board may be called
              upon to adjudicate matters relating to the act and its implementation. The
              Employee Advisory Council responded on May 13, 2002, that it did not
              have any comments on the report at this time. Using electronic polling
              technology that allows for confidential responses, GAO’s senior executives
              were asked if the voluntary early retirement and voluntary separation
              incentive authorities should be made permanent. All but one of the 110
              respondents agreed or strongly agreed that GAO should seek legislation to
              make these provisions permanent. One respondent was undecided.




              Page 14                                 GAO-03-954SP Assessment of Public Law 106-303
Employees’, Personnel Appeals Board’s, and
Senior Executives’ Assessments




As part of ongoing agency efforts to monitor progress in people measures,
GAO conducted employee feedback surveys in 1999 and 2002—before and
after the act’s passage. This survey asked employees for their agreement
or disagreement with a variety of statements relating to their work life but
was not designed to measure the impact of the act’s flexibilities on
employee satisfaction. The 2000 survey elicited an 89 percent response
rate, which was even better than the outstanding 87 percent achieved in
1999. On the basis of a comparison of responses to key questions in 2002
and 1999, employee satisfaction (as measured by the number of “strongly
agree”/“agree” responses) was up in 50 of the 52 categories. Negative
responses (as measured by the number of “strongly disagree”/“disagree”
responses) also declined in 50 of 52 categories.

GAO believes that the impact of the legislation on its employees has been
positive. Clearly, the employees who requested and were approved for
early retirement benefited from the act. Furthermore, the realignment of
resources resulting from these retirements has had a positive impact on
the remaining employees, as well. Ultimately, GAO’s efforts to improve the
strategic management of GAO’s human capital, of which the legislation is a
part, benefit all of GAO. Having the right people in the right places makes
it easier for all GAO employees to be successful in accomplishing their
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