Federal Management and Workforce Issue Area Plan--Fiscal Years 1997-98

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-03-01.

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

               United States General Accounting Office

GAO            General Government Division

March 1997
               Federal Management and
               Workforce Issue Area Plan
               Fiscal Years 1997-98


           As the investigative arm of Congress and the nation’s auditor, the General
           Accounting Office is charged with following the federal dollar wherever it
           goes. Reflecting stringent standards of objectivity and independence, GAO’s
           audits, evaluations, and investigations promote a more efficient and
           cost-effective government; expose waste, fraud, abuse, and
           mismanagement in federal programs; help Congress target budget
           reductions; assess financial information management; and alert Congress
           to developing trends that may have significant fiscal or budgetary
           consequences. In fulfilling its responsibilities, GAO performs original
           research and uses hundreds of databases or creates its own when
           information is unavailable elsewhere.

           To ensure that GAO’s resources are directed toward the most important
           issues facing Congress, each of GAO’s issue areas develops a strategic plan
           that describes the significance of the issues it addresses, its objectives,
           and the focus of its work. Each issue area relies heavily on input from
           congressional committees, agency officials, and subject-matter experts in
           developing its strategic plan.

           The Federal Management and Workforce issue area (FMWI) focuses on
           the analysis and evaluation of a broad range of crosscutting management,
           workforce, and statistical issues. These include the Government
           Performance and Results Act, regulatory reform, downsizing and
           privatization, oversight of the civil service, human resource management
           practices at specific agencies, as well as the quality, reliability, and
           usefulness of leading social and economic statistical data.

           The issue area specifically covers the Executive Office of the President,
           the Office of Management and Budget, Office of Personnel Management,
           Merit Systems Protection Board, Office of Special Counsel, Federal Labor
           Relations Authority, Office of Government Ethics, Federal Sector
           Programs at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the
           Department of Commerce, Government Printing Office, Bureau of Labor
           Statistics, the Library of Congress, and the National Archives. However,
           managerial, personnel, and statistical/information issues bridge into
           virtually all other agencies as well.

           Through consultation with key congressional committees, agency officials,
           and subject-matter experts, FMWI has developed this strategic plan to
           ensure that its resources are directed toward the most important
           management, workforce, and statistical issues facing Congress.

           Page 1                                                           GAO/IAP-97-5

    On the pages that follow, we outline FMWI’s most significant planned
    work on these issues:

•   managing a government in transition,
•   managing for results and accountability,
•   reevaluating the merit system,
•   redesigning compensation and benefits,
•   collecting and disseminating information, and
•   improving federal regulatory management.

    Because events may significantly affect even the most foresighted of plans
    and because periodic measurement of performance against any plan is
    essential, our planning process allows for updating the plan and
    responding quickly to emerging issues. If you have any questions or
    suggestions about this plan, please call me at (202) 512-8676.

    Nye Stevens
    Federal Management and Workforce Issues

    Page 2                                                         GAO/IAP-97-5

Table I: Key Issues
Table II: Planned
Major Work
Table III: GAO

                      Page 3   GAO/IAP-97-5
Table I: Key Issues

Issue                                      Significance
Managing a government in transition:       Financial constraints and public expectations are leading Congress to reconsider the
What strategies are appropriate for        government’s scope and structure. Federal agencies are undergoing streamlining and
managing a government undergoing           restructuring to better meet the public’s needs, while limiting costs. Further, proposals
fundamental change?                        are under consideration to bring more market-like mechanisms into the federal sector,
                                           ranging from outright privatization, to incentives for agencies to be more efficient, to
                                           creating performance-based organizations (PBO) akin to those used in foreign countries.
                                           Continued budget pressures likely will engender further agency reorganizations and the
                                           elimination of some programs or functions. To be effective, any significant change will
                                           require corresponding adjustments in the civil service as well. Rightsizing government,
                                           for example, will move strategic workforce planning to the forefront of civil service issues;
                                           staffing levels, productivity, and mission goals must be met while maintaining fairness to
                                           federal employees, minimizing disruption and expense to the agencies, and ensuring a
                                           workforce that reflects the American population.

Managing for results and accountability:   In crafting the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA), Congress’ intent was to
How can agencies and their employees       shift the focus of federal management, accountability, and oversight away from agencies’
better focus on achieving results and      activities and products and toward the results they achieve. Under the act, agencies are
ensuring accountability?                   to develop their first strategic and annual performance plans in the fall of 1997. The
                                           planning and decisionmaking process used to generate these documents is to be the
                                           foundation for results-oriented management within agencies. In the human resource
                                           management (HRM) area, the means of creating corresponding performance
                                           management and accountability requirements at the team or individual employee level
                                           are just beginning to be explored. Private sector models may also prove useful, as may
                                           the experiences of National Performance Review (NPR) labs, GPRA pilots, and other
                                           government entities in the forefront of the shift toward results-oriented management.

Reevaluating the merit system: How can     The emerging emphasis on a results-oriented government—as evidenced in particular by
the merit system effectively integrate     the passage of GPRA—raises the challenge of creating a federal workforce equipped to
emerging principles of results-oriented    operate in an environment focused on mission accomplishment. Decisions over what sort
management?                                of civil service can respond to these changing demands will determine the eventual
                                           direction of civil service reform. Deliberations over broad-based civil service reform will
                                           entail reexamining the rationales underlying the current system; determining areas in
                                           which the system is outdated or ineffective; examining alternative models, both from the
                                           private sector, other government entities (such as the new Federal Aviation
                                           Administration (FAA) personnel system), NPR labs, and GPRA initiatives; helping identify
                                           key principles to guide federal HRM in the future; and addressing the issues of
                                           delegation, decentralization, oversight, and accountability.

                                           Page 4                                                                         GAO/IAP-97-5
                                                  Table I: Key Issues

Objectives                                                              Focus of work
(1) Assess issues affecting agencies’ ability to cost effectively       • Determine downsizing’s impact on employee skill levels.
deliver services in a downsized environment.
                                                                      • Identify opportunities to achieve cost savings in specific
(2) Identify opportunities to achieve savings, while ensuring quality government functions through managed competition.
services, by adjusting the public/private sector mix used to provide
federal services to the public.                                       • Align HRM systems with broader management goals.

(3) Review strategies to align HRM systems with goals and mission       • Identify implementation actions needed to capture anticipated
accomplishment.                                                         savings from reorganizations and dismantlements.

(4) Contribute to effective implementation of agency                    • Evaluate specific PBO proposals.

(5) Assess the strengths and limitations of the PBO concept.

(1) Identify changes needed in congressional decisionmaking in a        • Assist selected congressional committees in applying
results-oriented environment.                                           information on program results to the legislative process.

(2) Examine the feasibility and utility of results-oriented             • Assess federal experiences with results-oriented management
management in a broad array of federal activities.                      in such areas as intergovernmental programs, defense, regulatory
                                                                        programs, business-like operations, and science and research
(3) Identify alternatives to the federal government’s performance       and development (R&D).
management system.
                                                                        • Assess the applicability to the civil service of private sector
(4) Identify opportunities for reforming the administrative redress     incentive and rewards systems.
                                                                        • Identify and evaluate options and legislative proposals for
(5) Assess the changing role of leadership positions within the         streamlining and/or consolidating the administrative appeal
federal workplace.                                                      process, and making effective use of alternative dispute resolution

                                                                        • Examine the development of the Senior Executive Service (SES)
                                                                        since passage of the Civil Service Reform Act (CSRA).
(1) Analyze need and alternative strategies for fundamentally           • Work with sources in government, industry, and academia to
reshaping the public service.                                           explore alternatives to the current civil service system.

(2) Examine the role of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM)        • Determine how OPM and agency oversight could be
and its oversight of agency HRM systems in a results-oriented           accomplished in a more decentralized, results-oriented
environment.                                                            environment.

(3) Identify alternatives for streamlining and decentralizing federal   • Assess applicability of private sector HRM models to the civil
HRM.                                                                    service.

                                                                        • Assess the implementation of FAA’s new decentralized
                                                                        personnel system.

                                                                        • Assess methods and measurements that could be used to
                                                                        ensure agency accountability.

                                                  Page 5                                                                        GAO/IAP-97-5
                                              Table I: Key Issues

Issue                                         Significance
Redesigning compensation and benefits:        In fiscal year 1998, the executive branch (excluding the Postal Service) expects to spend
What employee compensation and benefit        over $117 billion on current employee compensation and benefits and more than $48
programs will best serve the changing         billion in payments to retirees. To maintain a quality workforce and compete for talent with
needs of the workforce?                       private sector employers while keeping such costs under control, the civil service will
                                              need to examine its compensation and benefits package as a whole. The concept of a
                                              career government workforce is being called into question by rapid change in
                                              government responsibilities and the skills needed to carry them out. In addition, issues of
                                              fairness and cutting costs in the federal employee retirement, workers’ compensation,
                                              and health benefits programs will be of special concern. These programs are expected
                                              to be considered by Congress in the coming sessions.

Collecting and disseminating information: Decisionmakers in the public and private sectors rely on federal statistics to understand
How can accurate statistical data be        current economic and social conditions, estimate the likely effects of their decisions, and
gathered and disseminated cost-effectively? forecast future trends. Inaccurate or incomplete data limit the ability of decisionmakers to
                                            plan, evaluate, and improve programs. The implementation of GPRA will increase the
                                            demand for statistical agencies to produce the data needed to assess the outcomes of
                                            federal programs. However, the government’s ability to produce needed information in a
                                            cost-effective manner has been the subject of considerable concern. In this regard, we
                                            have designated the 2000 census as being at high-risk for high cost and unsatisfactory
                                            results. Furthermore, emerging electronic technologies have generated debate over the
                                            cost-effectiveness of traditional methods for disseminating government information of all

Improving federal regulatory               Regulation, along with taxing and spending, is a principal tool used by the federal
management: What improvements are          government to achieve federal goals. Both Congress and the executive branch have
possible in federal regulatory management? expressed renewed interest in regulatory management issues to better ensure that (1)
                                           the federal government only promulgates regulations for which a clear need exists and
                                           that do not go beyond congressional intent in the underlying statute; (2) once a decision
                                           is made to regulate, the regulation minimizes the cost and other burdens in relation to the
                                           anticipated benefits; and (3) all reasonable alternatives to the regulatory action have
                                           been considered. Prominent regulatory management initiatives under consideration or in
                                           implementation include mandatory cost/benefit analyses and risk assessments, burden
                                           reduction, enhancements to regulatory flexibility, and regulations that are focused on
                                           desired outcomes as opposed to mandated processes or actions. Also, Congress now
                                           receives a copy of each regulation and may formally disapprove those it believes are
                                           inappropriate. As part of this process, GAO provides Congress with information on each
                                           major rule’s compliance with regulatory procedural requirements.

                                              Page 6                                                                        GAO/IAP-97-5
                                                Table I: Key Issues

Objectives                                                               Focus of work
(1) Examine the implications for the compensation and benefits of a • Evaluate alternative approaches to providing federal benefits in
more transient federal workforce.                                   an environment with more transition to and from the private sector.

(2) Assess alternatives in providing workers compensation benefits. • Review options for restructuring federal workers’ compensation
(3) Inform Congress of ways to improve the efficiency and integrity
of federal retirement programs.                                      • Identify opportunities for budgetary savings in the design and
                                                                     operations of federal pension programs.
(4) Identify ways to improve the integrity and efficiency of federal
benefits programs.                                                   • Review financing and operations of federal retirement programs.

                                                                         • Analyze and compare the financing and cost/benefit features of
                                                                         federal and nonfederal retirement programs.

                                                                         • Explore alternatives for controlling costs in the Federal
                                                                         Employees Health Benefits Program.
(1) Assist Congress in determining how the structure of the U.S.         • Work with government, business, academia, and other countries
statistical system can best serve the nation’s domestic and              to identify improvements that can be made to the current
international need for relevant, accurate, and timely statistical data   fragmented system and opportunities and alternatives for
in the most cost-effective manner.                                       privatizing appropriate parts of the U.S. statistical system.

(2) Identify measures Congress and the Bureau of the Census can          • Advise Congress on the importance of its timely involvement in
take to improve the accuracy and reduce the cost of, and                 decisionmaking, suggest ways to improve accuracy and reduce
effectively implement, the 2000 census.                                  costs of the decennial census, and monitor implementation.

(3) Improve the quality of economic, sociodemographic, and               • Assess the quality of federal statistics and the processes used
lobbying registration statistics used to formulate and assess public     to make improvements once problems are identified.
policy implementation and effectiveness.
                                                                  • Suggest ways the government can publish, archive, and
(4) Assist Congress and the executive branch in developing a      disseminate information more effectively and economically.
framework for publishing, archiving, and disseminating government
(1) Assist Congress in reviewing its approach to regulatory              • Assess the applicability of a results/outcome orientation to the
oversight.                                                               federal agencies’ regulatory approaches.

(2) Examine alternatives to regulatory emphasis on procedural            • Examine how agencies (1) proactively inform and (2) respond to
compliance.                                                              inquiries from businesses and others in the regulated community
                                                                         on the regulations with which they are to comply and the way in
(3) Evaluate agencies’ actions to provide information on regulatory      which they must comply.
requirements and compliance strategies.
                                                                         • Assess the merits of alternative processes to determine that the
(4) Review methods used to determine the appropriateness of the          regulations federal agencies issue are needed and minimize
regulations federal agencies promulgate.                                 regulatory burdens.

                                                                         • Evaluate how cost-benefit information is used in regulatory

                                                Page 7                                                                           GAO/IAP-97-5
Table II: Planned Major Work

Issue                      Planned major job starts
Managing a government in   • Review the impacts of federal downsizing on agencies’ ability to deliver services and oversee
transition                 contracts.

                           • Assess whether program performance and efficiency improved in cases where federal
                           agencies were given greater operational authority.

                           • Assess the effectiveness of federal career transition programs.

                           • Assess the applicability of the PBO approach for specific federal agencies.

                           • Survey issues that need to be addressed as consideration is given to privatizing and
                           contracting out services performed by the government.

                           • Identify opportunities to achieve cost savings in specific government functions through such
                           approaches as privatization or competitive incentives.

                           • Review strategies to align federal HRM systems with organizational goals and missions.

                           • Assess whether restructuring initiatives are achieving anticipated service improvements and
                           cost savings.

                           • Assess the feasibility of applying the PBO concept to specific proposed candidates.

                           • Examine management oversight of contractors and identify possible improvements.

Managing for results and   • Determine whether the strategic plans developed under GPRA are useful documents for
accountability             leading and managing agencies.

                           • Assess the progress agencies have made in linking their strategic goals to daily operations
                           through annual performance plans.

                           • Identify specific challenges and opportunities for Congress’ use of performance information
                           generated under GPRA.

                           • Assess the feasibility of aligning performance management systems with agency missions.

                           • Review private sector approaches to performance management for individuals and groups.

                           • Examine the experience of the SES since the passage of CSRA and identify areas for

                           • Examine the adequacy and completeness of agency data submitted to the Equal Employment
                           Opportunity Commission on Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) system costs.

                           • Assess agencies’ capacity to provide meaningful performance information in a form useful to
                           decisionmakers and the public.

                           • Examine the impact of the Civil Rights Act of 1990 on compensatory damage awards in EEO


                                  Page 8                                                                       GAO/IAP-97-5
                                        Table II: Planned Major Work

Issue                           Planned major job starts
Reevaluating the merit system   • Assess implementation of FAA’s new decentralized personnel system.

                                • Assess the implications of leading private and public sector HRM models for results-oriented

                                • Review conversions and noncompetitive appointments to career positions in the executive

                                • Evaluate OPM’s plans for oversight in a decentralized, results-oriented environment.

                                • Assess ways of measuring performance to ensure agency accountability in the HRM area.

                                • Evaluate the role of labor-management partnerships in federal labor relations.

                                • Examine experiences of OPM research and demonstration projects.

Redesigning compensation and    • Examine workers’ compensation administration and costs.
                                • Identify options for federal pensions based on annuity cost of living adjustment methodologies
                                and practices in private pensions.

                                • Describe lessons learned from states that have adopted or switched to defined
                                contribution-only pension plans.

                                • Identify federal pension reform options by exploring developments in hybrid pension plans that
                                combine features of defined benefit and defined contribution into a single retirement plan.

                                • Identify the reasons for changes in Civil Service Retirement System and Federal Employees
                                Retirement System agency costs.

                                • Identify issues in resumption of federal responsibility for the District of Columbia pension

                                • Examine the administration and costs of federal health benefits.

                                • Examine the role federal benefits play in workforce operations and management.


                                        Page 9                                                                         GAO/IAP-97-5
                                       Table II: Planned Major Work

Issue                          Planned major job starts
Collecting and disseminating   • Assess methodologies used by foreign countries to develop inflation indexes and uses for
information                    these indexes for taxes and payments.

                               • Identify opportunities for improving the methodologies used to develop the Consumer Price

                               • Assess issues associated with proposals to link, consolidate, or privatize statistical agencies.

                               • Analyze the efficiency of the U.S. statistical system.

                               • Compare key dimensions of the U.S. statistical system with those of foreign countries.

                               • Assess the accuracy of immigration statistics and the structure and capacity of the system
                               used to produce such statistics.

                               • Assess statistical agency performance in implementing GPRA.

                               • Monitor progress toward reducing the risk of a failed 2000 census.

                               • Assess cost and operations of the 1998 dress rehearsal for the 2000 census.

                               • Monitor implementation of Lobby Reform law.

                               • Analyze the government’s process for archiving information.

                               • Assess use of Internet for obtaining and disseminating information.

Improving federal regulatory   • Examine the status of agencies’ efforts to move toward results-oriented regulations and
management                     regulatory approaches.

                               • Review the availability of regulatory information that meets “customer” needs.

                               • Review the administration’s enforcement of governmentwide paperwork reduction goals.

                               • Examine the Office of Management and Budget’s report on the costs and benefits of

                               • Review agencies’ compliance with the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act.

                                       Page 10                                                                        GAO/IAP-97-5
Table III: GAO Contacts

Director              Nye Stevens             (202) 512-8676

Associate Directors   Michael Brostek         (202) 512-9039
                      Bernard L. Ungar        (202) 512-4232

Assistant Directors   Stephen E. Altman
                      James H. Burow
                      Richard W. Caradine
                      Curtis W. Copeland
                      Larry H. Endy
                      James M. McDermott
                      J. Christopher Mihm
                      John K. Needham
                      Xavier R. Richardson
                      Norman A. Stubenhofer
                      Steven J. Wozny
                      Margaret T. Wrightson

                      Page 11                                  GAO/IAP-97-5
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