oversight

Department of Energy: Actions Necessary to Improve DOE's Training Program

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1999-02-12.

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

                 United States General Accounting Office

GAO              Report to the Subcommittee on Energy
                 and Water Development, Committee on
                 Appropriations, House of
                 Representatives

February 1999
                 DEPARTMENT OF
                 ENERGY
                 Actions Necessary to
                 Improve DOE’s
                 Training Program




GAO/RCED-99-56
      United States
GAO   General Accounting Office
      Washington, D.C. 20548

      Resources, Community, and
      Economic Development Division

      B-281789

      February 12, 1999

      The Honorable Ron Packard
      Chairman, Subcommittee on Energy
        and Water Development
      Committee on Appropriations
      House of Representatives

      Dear Mr. Chairman:

      As requested, we examined the problems in the Department of Energy’s training program and
      the changes that are needed to address those problems.

      As arranged with your office, unless you publicly announce its contents earlier, we plan no
      further distribution of this report until 30 days from the date of this letter. At that time, we will
      send copies of this report to the appropriate congressional committees; the Secretary of Energy;
      and the Director, Office of Management and Budget. We will also make copies available to
      others upon request.

      Please contact me on (202) 512-3841 if you or your staff have any questions about this report.
      Major contributors to this report are listed in appendix II.

      Sincerely yours,




      Victor S. Rezendes
      Director, Energy, Resources,
        and Science Issues
Executive Summary


                   The Department of Energy (DOE) spent a total of about $379 million in
Purpose            fiscal year 1997— the most recent year for which cost data are
                   available—on training (about $57 million for federal employees and about
                   $322 million for contractor employees). This total represents a reduction
                   of about $175 million in the amount DOE spent on training in fiscal year
                   1995. However, GAO reports issued in 1997 and 1998 on DOE’s training
                   program showed that further cost reductions and management
                   improvements are achievable. As a result, the Chairman, Subcommittee on
                   Energy and Water Development, House Committee on Appropriations,
                   asked GAO to determine the problems in DOE’s training program and the
                   changes that are needed to address those problems. Specifically, this
                   report (1) discusses DOE’s current process for setting its training budget,
                   (2) identifies opportunities to reduce the costs associated with DOE’s
                   training program, and (3) evaluates DOE’s draft plan for training its
                   employees in the future.


                   Within DOE, federal and contractor training is provided through a
Background         decentralized training structure. DOE’s headquarters offices, field offices,
                   and contractors all have their own training programs and budgets and
                   dedicated staffs. The decentralization of DOE training has led to the
                   identification of certain problems, which the Department documented in a
                   1995 training review. Those problems included duplication and waste
                   associated with the development and delivery of both federal and
                   contractor training and a lack of consistency in the training provided
                   across the Department. The review concluded, among other things, that if
                   a DOE-wide training program were developed, tens of millions of dollars in
                   annual training costs could be avoided. During 1995, DOE developed a
                   strategic plan to correct its training problems. According to DOE officials,
                   however, the plan was not entirely successful because of a lack of funding.
                   In November 1997, DOE started drafting a new training plan that it hopes
                   will be made final early in calendar year 1999. The draft training plan lays
                   out a strategy for training DOE employees over 3 fiscal years (1999 through
                   2001).


                   DOE has not completed any of the critical steps identified in the Office of
Results in Brief   Personnel Management’s and its own guidance that lead to the
                   development of a sound and defensible training budget. For instance, DOE
                   has not defined the training needs for various occupations, including
                   program managers and contractor oversight specialists. In addition, DOE




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                      Executive Summary




                      employees have generally not completed individual development plans,
                      and DOE offices have generally not prepared annual training plans.

                      DOE could reduce its training costs by eliminating certain nonmandatory
                      training and reducing duplicative and nonstandardized training across the
                      Department. About 90 percent of DOE’s training, according to a
                      departmental estimate, is not mandated by laws and/or regulations, but
                      DOE has not developed criteria on the type of nonmandatory training that is
                      appropriate. As a result, DOE offers a wide range of nonmandatory training
                      courses, such as a course on determining social styles in the workplace
                      and one on employees facing mid-life questions. Furthermore, because DOE
                      and its contractors independently develop and deliver training, duplicate
                      courses exist and nonstandardized training occurs across the Department.

                      DOE’s draft training plan has several shortcomings that may preclude it
                      from improving departmental training over fiscal years 1999 through 2001,
                      as intended. For example, the draft plan does not realistically estimate
                      what overall costs and overall savings will result from the plan; how the
                      plan will be financed, given DOE’s decentralized training resources; and
                      how DOE’s training centers of excellence will eliminate duplicative training,
                      as intended.1 Moreover, even though DOE spent about 85 percent of its
                      fiscal year 1997 training expenditures on contractor employees, the draft
                      training plan does not address the steps necessary to improve contractor
                      training. DOE officials stated that they are aware of these shortcomings and
                      intend to address them in the final plan.



Principal Findings

DOE’s Budgeting for   Office of Personnel Management and DOE guidance establish specific
Training Could Be     critical steps to be followed in developing a training budget. GAO found
Improved              that DOE has not completed any of these critical steps. The first step is to
                      complete an assessment of occupational training needs. Occupational
                      needs refer to the training needs of groups of individuals, such as program
                      managers and contractor oversight specialists. GAO found that such an
                      assessment had not been conducted throughout DOE primarily because the
                      applicable departmental order on federal employee training contained no
                      provision for doing one. GAO believes that certain groups within DOE would
                      benefit from such an assessment because of the important nature of their

                      1
                       The mission of the centers of excellence is to provide high-quality training on topical areas that cut
                      across the entire Department.



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                            Executive Summary




                            work. Those groups include those involved in program management,
                            project management, and contractor oversight. Managers throughout DOE
                            told GAO that the lack of skilled staff in those groups is one of the
                            Department’s most fundamental problems.

                            After training needs have been established, individual employee
                            development plans should be completed, according to DOE training
                            officials. Collectively, these plans define the total training needs of
                            individuals within the Department and are to be used in developing DOE
                            offices’ annual training plans. GAO found, however, in reviewing six DOE
                            offices, that only about 33 percent of employees had completed a
                            development plan. Recognizing that few employee development plans
                            were being completed, DOE training officials established a goal in
                            November 1998 of having 90 percent of DOE employees complete such a
                            plan by December 31, 1999. Some DOE training managers interviewed were
                            not aware that the Department’s order on federal employee training
                            requires the completion of a development plan, with certain exceptions,
                            for 100 percent of its employees until so informed by GAO.2

                            On the basis, in part, of the information in employee development plans,
                            DOE offices should prepare annual training plans. According to DOE, the
                            offices’ annual training plans provide the basis for any request for budget
                            funds. GAO found that training plans had not been completed for five of the
                            six offices it reviewed. For the sixth office, the plan did not contain certain
                            relevant information, including the estimated number of employees to be
                            trained, the type of training necessary, and the resources required to
                            provide that training.


DOE’s Spending on           GAO identified two opportunities for reducing the costs associated with
Training Could Be Reduced   training DOE and contractor employees. First, some nonmandatory training
                            could be reduced or eliminated. According to a departmental estimate,
                            about 90 percent of the training offered by DOE offices is not mandated by
                            laws and/or regulations, and DOE has not developed criteria on what type
                            of nonmandatory training is appropriate. Some nonmandatory training is
                            beneficial for career growth and professional development, such as
                            courses on effective writing and oral presentation skills. However, the
                            benefits of other nonmandatory training, such as (1) determining social
                            styles in the workplace, (2) employees facing mid-life questions, and
                            (3) defensive driving, seemed less clear.

                            2
                             The exceptions identified in the DOE order on federal employee training include temporary
                            employees and others for whom, by the nature of their position, training and development would result
                            in minimal benefit to the Department.



                            Page 4                                                 GAO/RCED-99-56 DOE’s Training Program
                            Executive Summary




                            Second, DOE’s headquarters offices, field offices, and contractors have
                            developed and delivered duplicative courses and nonstandardized training
                            across the Department. In an era of employee downsizing and reduced
                            budgets, it seems inefficient to permit DOE’s headquarters offices, field
                            offices, and contractors to develop and deliver courses such as project
                            management, hazardous worker training, and occupational safety and
                            health independently. Rather than develop a course once and deliver it
                            departmentwide, DOE’s decentralized training structure permits a generally
                            applicable course to be developed many times over and delivered in
                            different ways.


DOE’s Training Plan Could   In 1997 and 1998, DOE drafted a new training plan that lays out a strategy
Be Improved                 for training federal employees over fiscal years 1999 through 2001. The
                            plan contains 18 performance expectations to be accomplished. Those
                            expectations include, for instance, that (1) DOE’s average training
                            expenditures per employee will be in alignment with similar federal
                            agencies and the private sector by December 31, 1999, and (2) six training
                            centers of excellence will be established by December 31, 2000.

                            However, the new plan, as currently drafted, has several shortcomings.
                            First, GAO found that the plan’s estimate of the overall costs to implement
                            the plan and the overall savings to be achieved from it were not realistic.
                            According to DOE training officials, it is important that a realistic estimate
                            be included in the plan to solicit the support needed from senior DOE
                            management and the funding needed from the Congress. GAO found,
                            however, that the plan provides a limited projection of the overall costs to
                            implement the plan and overstates the overall savings to be realized from
                            it. For example, DOE attributed about $1.7 million in cost savings in the
                            plan to one of the Department’s two existing centers of excellence but did
                            not offset that cost savings against the approximately $1.9 million in costs
                            to operate the center. Thus, it is unclear whether the plan’s savings will
                            exceed the plan’s costs.

                            Second, the plan does not explain how DOE’s decentralized training
                            resources will be committed to finance the plan. At present, few DOE
                            offices have actively participated in developing the performance
                            expectations contained in the plan. Whether other DOE offices that have
                            not been actively involved in the plan will financially support it, when
                            completed, remains to be seen. For the plan to be successful, full support
                            from offices throughout DOE will be necessary.




                            Page 5                                     GAO/RCED-99-56 DOE’s Training Program
                  Executive Summary




                  Third, the plan does not present a policy regarding the use of the
                  Department’s centers of excellence. The centers are a central feature of
                  the training plan. By operating the centers, DOE intends to effectively
                  eliminate duplicative training within the Department. However, the plan
                  does not present a policy on the use of the centers or mandate that the
                  centers will be the sole source for training within the Department on a
                  topical area, such as project management or occupational safety and
                  health. As a result, one center—the National Environmental Training
                  Office—has not eliminated but has actually delivered training courses that
                  already existed within the Department.

                  Fourth, the plan does not identify what steps should be taken to improve
                  contractor employees’ training. DOE has been aware of contractor training
                  problems since as early as 1995. In addition, DOE spent about 85 percent of
                  its fiscal year 1997 training funds on contractor training. However, DOE has
                  not addressed contractor training problems in any of its training plans.
                  Specifically, GAO noted that the new draft training plan does not identify
                  the need for DOE to (1) establish a departmental order on developing
                  contractor training programs and budgets; (2) incorporate a standard set
                  of performance measures into the Department’s performance-based
                  contracts regarding contractor training efficiency and effectiveness; and
                  (3) clarify the roles and responsibilities of DOE’s headquarters offices for
                  the oversight of contractor training departmentwide. DOE officials stated
                  that they are aware of the shortcomings in its training plan and now intend
                  to address them in the final plan.


                  In order to improve DOE’s training program, reduce training costs, and
Recommendations   improve the draft training plan, GAO is making a series of
                  recommendations in this report, including having the Secretary
                  (1) expeditiously conduct a comprehensive assessment of occupational
                  training needs throughout the Department; (2) establish criteria on the
                  type of nonmandatory training that is appropriate and review and
                  eliminate nonmandatory training courses given across DOE that do not
                  meet those criteria; (3) standardize the development and delivery of
                  training that is generally applicable across DOE; (4) realistically estimate
                  the overall costs to implement and the overall savings to be achieved from
                  the Department’s new training plan; and (5) identify in the new training
                  plan the steps necessary to improve contractor training performance. At a
                  minimum, those steps should include incorporating a standard set of
                  performance measures for training into the Department’s
                  performance-based contracts.



                  Page 6                                   GAO/RCED-99-56 DOE’s Training Program
                  Executive Summary




                  GAO provided copies of a draft of this report to DOE for its review and
Agency Comments   comment. DOE agreed with the report’s recommendations, except for GAO’s
                  recommendation that the Department expeditiously complete a
                  comprehensive assessment of occupational training needs. DOE indicated
                  that it had already completed an assessment of occupational training
                  needs for certain occupational groups and had initiated a new program to
                  train research and development program managers. DOE also stated,
                  however, it will only continue conducting these assessments as funding
                  constraints and departmental priorities allow. While GAO is encouraged by
                  the actions that DOE has already taken, GAO is concerned that funding
                  constraints and/or other departmental priorities may, in some way, hinder
                  the completion of a comprehensive assessment of occupational needs. As
                  pointed out in this report, a lack of skilled staff is one of the most
                  fundamental problems in the Department. Accordingly, GAO continues to
                  believe that DOE should expeditiously complete a comprehensive
                  assessment of occupational training needs. DOE’s complete response is
                  presented in appendix I.




                  Page 7                                  GAO/RCED-99-56 DOE’s Training Program
Contents



Executive Summary                                                                              2


Chapter 1                                                                                     10
                      DOE’s System of Training                                                10
Perspective on DOE    DOE’s Annual Expenditures on Training                                   11
Training              DOE’s Training Expenditures Could Be Lower                              11
                      Agency Comments                                                         13
                      Objectives, Scope, and Methodology                                      13


Chapter 2                                                                                     16
                      DOE’s Budget Process for Training Could Be Improved                     16
DOE’s Management of   DOE’s Spending for Training Could Be Reduced                            20
Training Could Be     Conclusions                                                             23
                      Recommendations                                                         24
Improved              Agency Comments                                                         25


Chapter 3                                                                                     26
                      DOE’s Plans to Improve Departmental Training Have Evolved               26
DOE’s New Training    Overall Costs and Overall Savings From the Plan Have Not Been           27
Plan Could Be           Realistically Estimated
                      DOE Has Not Determined How the Department’s Decentralized               28
Improved                Training Resources Will Be Committed to Finance the Plan
                      A Policy Regarding the Use of the Department’s Centers of               29
                        Excellence Has Not Been Developed
                      The Steps Necessary to Improve Contractor Employee Training             30
                        Performance Have Not Been Identified
                      Conclusions                                                             32
                      Recommendations                                                         33
                      Agency Comments                                                         33


Appendixes            Appendix I: Comments From the Department of Energy                      36
                      Appendix II: Major Contributors to This Report                          40


Tables                Table 1.1: DOE Expenditures on Training, Fiscal Years 1995-97           11
                      Table 1.2: Comparison of Federal Agency Training Data, Fiscal           12
                        Year 1997
                      Table 2.1: Percentage of Employees in Selected DOE                      19
                        Headquarters Offices Who Have Completed an IDP, Fiscal Year
                        1998




                      Page 8                                GAO/RCED-99-56 DOE’s Training Program
Contents




Table 2.2: Examples of Cost per Employee for DOE Contractor                22
  Training Courses, Fiscal Year 1997




Abbreviations

DOE        Department of Energy
IDP        Individual Development Plan


Page 9                                   GAO/RCED-99-56 DOE’s Training Program
Chapter 1

Perspective on DOE Training


                  Within the Department of Energy (DOE), federal and contractor employee
                  training is provided through a decentralized training structure. DOE’s
                  headquarters offices, field offices, and contractors all have their own
                  training programs and budgets and dedicated staffs. These programs
                  provide training to federal and contractor employees on a wide variety of
                  subjects. Comparing fiscal year 1995 and fiscal year 1997, DOE’s
                  expenditures on training decreased by about $175 million, or about
                  32 percent. A comparison of DOE’s training expenditures with other federal
                  agencies and with the private sector indicates that DOE’s training
                  expenditures could be lower. DOE has also recognized this.


                  Because DOE emphasizes decentralized management, it assigns the main
DOE’s System of   responsibility for employee training to individual DOE offices and
Training          contractors. These organizations, in turn, have established their own
                  training programs and budgets with dedicated staffs to provide employee
                  training. At DOE’s headquarters, the Office of Management and
                  Administration has the main responsibility for DOE-wide training issues.
                  This office is responsible, for instance, for establishing DOE’s training
                  policies, procedures, and management plans.

                  The administration of training, however, largely falls within the purview of
                  DOE’s individual offices and contractors. Specifically, these organizations
                  are responsible for planning, providing resources for, developing and
                  delivering, and reporting on the training given to their employees. In
                  addition, these organizations are responsible for ensuring the efficient and
                  effective management of their training programs.

                  Generally, these organizations offer their employees three types of
                  training: general, career development, and performance development.
                  General training, which applies to all employees within the Department,
                  includes courses on such subjects as equal employment opportunity,
                  ethics, and security. Career development training, which supports the
                  career growth of employees, includes courses on such subjects as time
                  and stress management. Performance development training, which
                  supports the acquisition or improvement of work-related skills, includes a
                  wide range of courses, from technical courses on subjects such as nuclear
                  physics and chemistry to nontechnical courses on back care and hearing
                  conservation.




                  Page 10                                  GAO/RCED-99-56 DOE’s Training Program
                                 Chapter 1
                                 Perspective on DOE Training




                                 The Department spends hundreds of millions of dollars annually training
DOE’s Annual                     federal and contractor employees. According to DOE data, there has been a
Expenditures on                  significant reduction in DOE’s training expenditures—about
Training                         32 percent—comparing fiscal years 1995, and 1997 (see table 1.1).

Table 1.1: DOE Expenditures on
Training, Fiscal Years 1995-97   Dollars in millions
                                                                                      Training expenditures by fiscal year
                                 Type of employee                                          1995                 1996               1997
                                 Federal                                                  $93.4                 $93.5              $57.2
                                 Contractor                                               461.0                 382.3              322.2
                                 Total expenditures                                      $554.4               $475.8             $379.4
                                 Note: The figures in the table include the costs of providing the training in-house or contracting
                                 out for training. These figures also include the cost of employees’ salaries and, for the most part,
                                 travel costs to attend training.

                                 Source: DOE.



                                 The reduction in DOE’s annual training expenditures from fiscal year 1995
                                 through fiscal year 1997 can be attributed to several factors. Those factors
                                 include (1) about a 13-percent decrease in the number of DOE and
                                 contractor employees; (2) greater use of advanced training technologies,
                                 such as computer-based learning; and (3) congressionally mandated
                                 reductions in training funds.


                                 DOE’s training expenditures could be lower, according to fiscal year 1997
DOE’s Training                   data.3 First, the amount spent on employee training varied widely among
Expenditures Could               DOE field offices that perform similar functions. For example, according to

Be Lower                         DOE, the Department’s Richland and Savannah River Operations Offices
                                 offered similar training, including courses on radiological worker training.
                                 However, the Savannah River Operations Office spent less than $2,300 on
                                 training per federal employee while the Richland Operations Office spent
                                 over $4,500 per employee. Second, DOE’s average training expenditure per
                                 federal employee was higher than most other federal agencies or major
                                 private sector companies reviewed by the American Society for Training
                                 and Development’s Benchmarking Forum.4 Specifically, the Society’s
                                 Benchmarking Forum collected and analyzed fiscal year 1997 training cost
                                 data from numerous organizations, including DOE, several other federal

                                 3
                                  Information on training costs for fiscal year 1997 was the latest data available.
                                 4
                                  The Forum is a private consortium of organizations with a strong commitment to sharing training cost
                                 information and seeking best training practices.



                                 Page 11                                                   GAO/RCED-99-56 DOE’s Training Program
                                         Chapter 1
                                         Perspective on DOE Training




                                         agencies, and nearly 60 companies in the private sector. The data showed
                                         that DOE’s average training expenditure of $1,808 per federal employee was
                                         higher than most other federal agencies reviewed (see table 1.2). The data
                                         also showed that DOE’s average training expenditure per federal employee
                                         was about $300 higher than the private sector average. The private sector
                                         companies included businesses of various types, including American
                                         Telephone and Telegraph and the Dow Chemical Company.

Table 1.2: Comparison of Federal
Agency Training Data, Fiscal Year 1997                                                              Training data
                                                                                                                           Total training
                                                                                                                        expenditures per
                                         Agency                                  Number of employees                          employee
                                         Department of Energy                                      15,290                            $1,808
                                         Centers for Disease Control
                                         and Prevention                                              7,490                             $689
                                         Federal Aviation
                                         Administration                                            48,000                            $2,378
                                         Food and Drug Administration                                9,097                           $1,387
                                         National Institutes of Health                             16,500                              $537
                                         Tennessee Valley Authority                                15,211                            $1,485
                                         Source: GAO obtained the data from the agencies listed.



                                         Similarly, for contractor employees, DOE’s training expenditures could be
                                         lower, according to fiscal year 1997 data. First, the amount spent on
                                         contractor employee training varied widely at DOE locations that perform
                                         similar functions. For instance, the contractor supporting DOE’s Richland
                                         Operations Office spent an average of about $1,510 per employee while the
                                         contractor supporting the Savannah River Operations Office spent an
                                         average of about $3,500 per employee. Second, the average training
                                         expenditure per DOE contractor employee during fiscal year 1997 was
                                         about $130 higher than the private sector average.5

                                         DOE has also analyzed its training costs relative to these other
                                         organizations and believes the analysis represents a good comparison of
                                         training data. According to a DOE training official, the analysis shows, for
                                         instance, that DOE’s costs per training day are still too high compared with
                                         those of private sector companies.



                                         5
                                          A training expenditure of $130 per employee multiplied by 105,297 (the number of DOE contractor
                                         employees in fiscal year 1997) equals a training cost of about $13.7 million.



                                         Page 12                                               GAO/RCED-99-56 DOE’s Training Program
                     Chapter 1
                     Perspective on DOE Training




                     In commenting on a draft of this report, DOE indicated that its current
Agency Comments      training expenditure level of 2.5 percent to 3.0 percent of payroll was
                     comparable to similar, technology-intensive, large, private companies. We
                     noted, however, that DOE’s average training expenditure per federal
                     employee was higher than most other federal agencies or major private
                     sector companies reviewed by the American Society for Training and
                     Development’s Benchmarking Forum. DOE did not dispute that
                     information.


                     As agreed with the Chairman, Subcommittee on Energy and Water
Objectives, Scope,   Development, House Committee on Appropriations, we determined the
and Methodology      problems that exist with DOE’s training program and the changes that are
                     needed to address those problems. Specifically, this report (1) discusses
                     DOE’s current process for setting its training budget, (2) identifies
                     opportunities to reduce the costs associated with DOE’s training program,
                     and (3) evaluates DOE’s draft plan for training the Department’s employees
                     in the future.

                     To review the current process for setting the training budget, we contacted
                     both DOE headquarters and field office officials. At DOE headquarters, we
                     held extensive discussions with officials within the Office of Training and
                     Human Resource Development. This office has the lead responsibility for
                     drafting a new training plan that, when completed in early calendar year
                     1999, will lay out a strategy for improving DOE employee training over
                     fiscal years 1999 through 2001. We also held discussions with officials on
                     the Department’s Training and Development Management Council. This
                     council is responsible for overseeing the efforts to improve DOE’s training
                     program. In addition, we interviewed officials and reviewed training
                     activities of six DOE headquarters offices—the Offices of Defense
                     Programs; Environment, Safety, and Health; Energy Information
                     Administration; Environmental Management; Science (formerly Energy
                     Research); and Fossil Energy. These offices were selected because,
                     according to their staffing levels, they are some of the largest offices
                     within DOE headquarters. We further held discussions with officials at
                     selected DOE field locations, including officials at the Department’s two
                     training centers of excellence—the Nonproliferation and National Security
                     Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the National Environmental
                     Training Office in Aiken, South Carolina.6 Generally, a center of excellence

                     6
                      The Nonproliferation and National Security Institute’s mission is to provide tactical training to DOE
                     contractors’ protective forces throughout the nation. The National Environmental Training Office’s
                     mission is to provide high-quality technical environmental training to federal and contractor
                     employees across DOE.



                     Page 13                                                  GAO/RCED-99-56 DOE’s Training Program
Chapter 1
Perspective on DOE Training




is a DOE organization that has been selected for its training, development,
and technical expertise in a topical area that cuts across the entire
Department.7

To identify opportunities to reduce the costs associated with DOE’s training
program, we reviewed various departmental documents. These included,
but were not limited to, (1) a DOE memorandum documenting the results of
the Department’s 1995 training review; (2) DOE’s 1995 and 1996 strategic
training implementation plans; (3) DOE’s 1998 draft training plan; and
(4) the minutes of the Training and Development Management Council. We
also relied on the GAO work done under three previous assignments:
(1) Department of Energy: Training Cost Data for Fiscal Years 1995
Through 1997 (GAO/RCED-97-140R, May 6, 1997); (2) Department of Energy:
Status of DOE’s Efforts to Improve Training (GAO/RCED-97-178R, June 27,
1997); and (3) Department of Energy: DOE Contractor Employee Training
(GAO/RCED-98-155R, May 8, 1998).

To further identify opportunities to reduce DOE’s training costs, we
compared DOE’s training costs with those of other federal agencies and the
private sector. Specifically, we contacted training officials both inside and
outside the federal government. Within the federal government, these
contacts included training officials with the Department of Health and
Human Services, the Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation
Administration, and the Tennessee Valley Authority. These agencies, as
well as DOE, voluntarily provided training cost information to us and a
private organization, the American Society for Training and Development’s
Benchmarking Forum. Outside the federal government, we contacted an
official with the American Society for Training and Development’s
Benchmarking Forum, which had collected training cost information from
nearly 60 private sector companies. From the contacts made, training cost
information was obtained, analyzed, and compared with training cost
information we had obtained from DOE. Generally, comparing training cost
information from DOE and other federal agencies and the private sector
appeared appropriate. All organizations, for instance, offer their
employees a certain amount of technical skills training.8 The training cost
information we obtained was for fiscal year 1997 and was the latest data
available.

7
 Examples of topical area training include environmental management; safeguards and security;
project management; occupational safety and health; and hazardous worker training.
8
 The American Society for Training and Development’s Benchmarking Forum defined technical skills
training as job-specific training that focuses on procedures, including the use of technology, to create
products, deliver services, or engage in processes. Technical skills training is provided to workers who
use technology or machinery in their jobs.



Page 14                                                 GAO/RCED-99-56 DOE’s Training Program
Chapter 1
Perspective on DOE Training




To evaluate DOE’s draft plan for training the Department’s employees in the
future, we contacted federal training officials both inside and outside of
the Department. Externally, these contacts included training officials with
the Office of Personnel Management; Defense Information Systems
Agency; Federal Emergency Management Agency; and Nuclear Regulatory
Commission. Within DOE headquarters, these contacts included officials
with the Offices of Science; Environmental Management; Environment,
Safety, and Health; Field Management; Procurement and Assistance
Management; and Human Resources Management. At DOE field locations,
these contacts included officials at the Nonproliferation and National
Security Institute; National Environmental Training Office; Richland
Operations Office; Rocky Flats Field Office; and Savannah River
Operations Office. In all cases, these officials were contacted to obtain
their views on the types of training problems DOE should be addressing in
its draft training plan.

We also reviewed various reports that have dealt with improving federal
employee training. These included, among others, Getting Results Through
Learning, Human Resource Development Council, June 1997; Leadership
for Change: Human Resource Development in the Federal Government, U.
S. Merit Systems Protection Board, July 1995; and Leadership for America:
Rebuilding the Public Service, The National Commission on the Public
Service, 1989.

We provided a draft of this report to DOE for its review and comment. DOE’s
comments are included as appendix I and are discussed in the chapters
where appropriate.

We conducted our work from June 1998 through January 1999 in
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.




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                            Two important aspects associated with the management of DOE training
                            could be improved. Those two are how DOE develops its training budgets
                            and how it spends its training funds. We found that DOE has not
                            successfully completed any of the critical steps necessary to develop a
                            sound and defensible training budget. Specifically, we noted that
                            occupational training needs have not been defined throughout the
                            Department and incorporated into employees’ individual development
                            plans (IDP); IDPs have generally not been prepared and used to support DOE
                            offices’ annual training plans; and annual training plans have generally not
                            been prepared and used to support DOE’s annual training budgets. With
                            respect to how DOE spends its training funds, we identified two factors that
                            account for the high costs associated with DOE training. Those factors are
                            that DOE offices and contractors offer a high percentage of training that is
                            not mandated by laws and/or regulations and that DOE’s offices and
                            contractors independently develop and deliver training. DOE, for its part, is
                            aware of the problems associated with its budgeting for and expenditure
                            of funds on training and is considering corrective actions. However, our
                            review raised questions regarding the direction and/or pace of DOE’s
                            actions.


                            According to the Office of Personnel Management and DOE guidance,
DOE’s Budget Process        certain steps are critical in developing a training budget. First, training
for Training Could Be       needs should be defined. Second, the training needs should be
Improved                    incorporated into employees’ IDPs. Third, the IDPs should be used to
                            prepare annual training plans. The successful completion of these steps
                            supports the development of sound and defensible training budgets. We
                            found, however, that DOE has not successfully completed any of these
                            steps. Specifically, we found the following:

                        •   Occupational training needs9 have not been defined throughout the
                            Department and incorporated into employees’ IDPs;
                        •   IDPs have generally not been prepared and used to support DOE’s annual
                            training plans; and
                        •   Annual training plans have generally not been prepared and used to
                            support DOE’s annual training budgets.

                            As a result, DOE’s annual training budgets are not directly tied to the
                            training needs of the Department. Instead, DOE’s annual training budgets



                            9
                             Occupational needs are the training needs of groups of individuals, such as program managers and
                            contractor oversight specialists.



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                          have generally been based on the amount of funding received in previous
                          fiscal years.


Training Needs Have Not   A training needs assessment is a critical initial step in developing a training
Been Defined              budget. According to Office of Personnel Management regulations, an
                          agency needs to assess its occupational training needs periodically.10 The
                          assessment evaluates what performance is desired within an agency and
                          what performance presently exists. When a gap exists, the assessment
                          identifies the training necessary to elevate performance to the level
                          desired. We found that DOE has not conducted a comprehensive
                          assessment of occupational needs throughout the Department.11

                          The primary reason that a comprehensive assessment has not been
                          conducted throughout DOE is that the Department’s order on federal
                          employee training contains no provision for doing one. Specifically, the
                          training order outlines the objectives and responsibilities for federal
                          employee training throughout the Department. It also outlines the
                          components essential to the administration of employee training. The
                          order does not, however, require that occupational training needs be
                          assessed.12 DOE training officials indicated that such an assessment had
                          been included in the preceding DOE order on employee training but was
                          deleted from the current order under the Department’s paperwork
                          reduction program.

                          During this and previous reviews of DOE activities, we have identified
                          several departmental occupational groups that would most likely benefit
                          from an assessment of occupational training needs. For instance, we
                          believe that property managers may not be adequately trained. Supporting
                          that view, we found that DOE recently surveyed 145 property managers and
                          determined that 65 (or about 45 percent) had received no formal property
                          management training. DOE also recently surveyed its field locations to
                          determine if project managers are being properly trained. DOE guidance
                          requires that employees who are project managers must be certified as
                          possessing certain skills and receiving certain training. However,


                          10
                           5 C.F.R. 410.203. This regulation is nonspecific on the frequency of an occupational training needs
                          assessment but suggests that such an assessment could be done as often as annually.
                          11
                           DOE’s National Environmental Training Office has conducted an occupational needs assessment for
                          environmental management training for fiscal years 1997 and 1998.
                          12
                           DOE Order 360.1 specifies that personnel involved in the safe operation of defense nuclear facilities
                          will have their technical skills assessed and will receive continuing training to maintain certain
                          necessary skills.



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                     preliminary data show that many project managers have not received
                     certification. For instance, DOE’s Savannah River Operations Office
                     reported that only 2 of its 33 project managers had been certified. We
                     further reported that managers throughout DOE believe that the lack of
                     skilled staff in program, project, and contractor oversight positions is one
                     of the Department’s most fundamental problems.13

                     Recognizing that certain occupational groups should have their training
                     needs assessed, DOE, in November 1998, proposed a revised order and
                     manual on federal employee training. The proposed manual states that an
                     occupational needs assessment must be completed at least every 5 years
                     once the revised order and manual are made final.14 In addition, the
                     manual notes that such an assessment must include, but not be limited to,
                     scientific and technical, acquisition, project management, and financial
                     management functions. The DOE training official responsible for drafting
                     the revised order and manual advised us that the 5-year assessment cycle
                     was arbitrarily chosen. Furthermore, the sequence in which various
                     occupational groups will be assessed has not yet been decided. DOE
                     officials expect the revised order to be made final in the spring of 1999.


IDPs Have Not Been   After training needs have been established, IDPs should be prepared.
Prepared             According to DOE’s training order, an IDP is required for all employees
                     within 60 days after they join the Department or transfer to a new position,
                     and these IDPs should be reviewed and updated annually.15 The IDPs
                     provide the mechanism to define total individual training needs within the
                     Department and are to be used in preparing DOE offices’ annual training
                     plans. Only a small percentage of the employees in the DOE offices we
                     reviewed have completed an IDP.

                     During 1998, we reviewed the training practices followed by six DOE
                     headquarters offices. Only one office had IDPs completed for more than
                     half of its employees. The six offices provided us with the estimates of
                     completed IDPs shown in table 2.1.



                     13
                      Department of Energy: Opportunity to Improve Management of Major System Acquisitions
                     (GAO/RCED-97-17, Nov. 26, 1996).
                     14
                      The manual also states that each DOE office must identify annually its critical needs that, when met,
                     will be most effective in improving organizational and workplace performance.
                     15
                       DOE’s training order does not require an IDP for temporary employees and for others for whom, by
                     the nature of their position, training and development would result in minimal benefit to the
                     Department.



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Table 2.1: Percentage of Employees in
Selected DOE Headquarters Offices                                                     Percentage of employees who have
Who Have Completed an IDP, Fiscal       Headquarters office                                           completed an IDP
Year 1998                               Defense Programs                                                             18
                                        Environment, Safety, and Health                                              81
                                        Energy Information Administration                                            36
                                        Environmental Management                                                        0
                                        Fossil Energy                                                                30
                                        Science                                                                      40
                                        Source: DOE.



                                        For the six offices combined, only 33 percent of the employees had
                                        completed an IDP.

                                        Recognizing that few of its employees had completed an IDP, DOE training
                                        officials established a goal in November 1998 of having 90 percent of DOE
                                        employees with an approved IDP by December 31, 1999. DOE training
                                        officials explained that the 90-percent goal is based on the belief that that
                                        may be the best percentage achievable. Some DOE training managers
                                        interviewed were not aware that the Department’s order on federal
                                        employee training requires the completion of an IDP, with certain
                                        exceptions, for 100 percent of the Department’s employees until we
                                        informed them.


Annual Training Plans                   Each DOE office should complete an annual training plan that is based in
Have Not Been Developed                 part on the information contained in the IDPs, according to DOE’s training
                                        order. This plan provides the basis for developing training budgets. It
                                        should also contain certain information, such as the estimated number of
                                        employees to be trained, the type of training necessary, and the resources
                                        required to provide that training. We found that the annual training plans
                                        either have not been completed or did not contain the information
                                        necessary to justify a budget request.

                                        Five of the six offices had not completed an annual training plan for fiscal
                                        year 1998. For the one office that had—the Office of Environment, Safety,
                                        and Health—the plan did not contain the information required by DOE’s
                                        training order. For instance, the plan did not estimate the number of
                                        employees to be trained, the type of training necessary, or the resources
                                        required to provide that training. Instead, the plan identified the initiatives
                                        planned for fiscal year 1998, such as the need to continually provide




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                           employees with efficient course registrations and accurate training
                           records. The DOE training official responsible for preparing the annual
                           training plan explained that the plan did not contain certain information
                           because it had been prepared using the previous year’s annual training
                           plan as a guide, and this plan lacked this information.16

                           Recognizing that annual training plans were not being completed or were
                           not being completed properly, DOE, as early as 1996, had attempted to
                           develop a template for the plan. DOE envisioned that the template would
                           include an outline and suggested language. Because this template was
                           subsequently cancelled, DOE training officials in December 1998
                           immediately disseminated a copy of a properly completed fiscal year 1999
                           annual training plan as the model to be followed.


                           We identified two opportunities for reducing the costs associated with DOE
DOE’s Spending for         and contractor employees’ training. First, some nonmandatory training
Training Could Be          could be reduced or eliminated. According to a departmental estimate,
Reduced                    about 90 percent of the training offered by DOE offices and contractors is
                           not mandated by laws and/or regulations. In addition, DOE has not
                           developed criteria on what type of nonmandatory training is appropriate.
                           Some nonmandatory training is beneficial for career growth and
                           professional development, such as courses on effective writing and oral
                           presentation skills. However, the benefits of other nonmandatory training,
                           such as determining social styles in the workplace, seemed less clear.
                           Second, DOE’s headquarters offices, field offices, and contractors have
                           developed and delivered duplicative courses and nonstandardized training
                           across the Department. This problem has occurred because DOE’s
                           decentralized training structure allows generally applicable courses, such
                           as project management, hazardous worker training, and occupational
                           safety and health, to be developed by each office and contractor.


Training Not Mandated by   Federal agencies offer various types of training to their employees,
Laws And/or Regulations    including technical skills, executive development, supervisory skills, and
                           mandatory training. We found that DOE as well as four other federal
                           agencies estimated their fiscal year 1997 training expenditures by course
                           type and provided that data to the American Society for Training and




                           16
                             DOE’s training order was issued in May 1995 and would also have been applicable to any annual
                           training plans prepared in fiscal year 1997.



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Development’s Benchmarking Forum.17 According to these estimates, only
10 percent of DOE’s fiscal year 1997 training funds were spent for federal
employee training mandated by laws and/or regulations.18 In comparison,
two other agencies spent more and two other agencies spent less of their
fiscal year 1997 funding on mandatory training. Specifically, the Federal
Aviation Administration spent about 42 percent and the Tennessee Valley
Authority spent about 17 percent on mandatory training, while the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention spent about 3 percent and the National
Institutes of Health spent about 3 percent.

In addition, some training considered by DOE contractors to be mandated
by laws and/or regulations may not in fact be legally required. For
instance, in a 1998 report of contractor training activities at DOE’s
Savannah River Plant, we found that the contractor’s internal audit office
questioned the legal references for 30 percent of the training courses listed
as mandatory.19 In that report, we pointed out that the contractor could
not provide us with justification for each course it had considered
mandated by regulation.

We also found that DOE has not developed criteria on what type of
nonmandatory training is appropriate. A DOE training official agreed,
saying that there is a lot of “gray area” between what training is
appropriate and not appropriate within the Department.20 Some
nonmandatory training is beneficial for career growth and professional
development, such as courses on effective writing and oral presentation
skills. However, the benefits of other nonmandatory training seemed less
clear. For example, one location offered a course to employees facing
mid-life questions, another offered a course on determining social styles in
the workplace, and a third offered a course on defensive driving.

According to DOE training officials, while the Department estimated that
only 10 percent of its training funds are spent on mandatory training, this
estimate had not been confirmed by a detailed analysis. Furthermore, this
estimate was only an informed estimate and did not include the training

17
 The Benchmarking Forum gathered this information to profile the type of training various
organizations provide to their employees.
18
  The American Society for Training and Development’s Benchmarking Forum defined mandatory
training as instruction that is provided to meet environmental safety and health requirements, equal
employment opportunity and affirmative action requirements, right-to-know, and
government-mandated training.
19
  Department of Energy: DOE Contractor Employee Training (GAO/RCED-98-155R, May 8, 1998).
20
 This DOE training official added that the Department’s proposed revision to its order on federal
employee training will stipulate, however, that training must be mission-related and related to an
employee’s duties to be funded.


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                                       required, for example, by DOE orders. These officials also stated that the
                                       type of nonmandatory training offered is generally left up to DOE’s
                                       individual offices. Accordingly, DOE has no immediate plans to develop a
                                       more accurate estimate or conduct a comprehensive review of
                                       nonmandatory training offered across the Department.


Independent Development                In 1998, we reviewed the training courses that were independently
and Delivery of Training               developed and delivered by DOE contractors at four field locations.21 The
                                       review showed that the cost per employee for these courses varied
                                       considerably among the contractors reviewed. For example, one course on
                                       environmental laws and regulations varied in cost from $72 per employee
                                       at one location to $624 per employee at another location. A second course
                                       on hands-on fire extinguisher use varied in cost from $2.50 per employee
                                       at one location to $102 per employee at another location (see table 2.2).

Table 2.2: Examples of Cost Per
Employee for DOE Contractor Training                                                           Contractor at
Courses, Fiscal Year 1997                          Course                                                                 Savannah
                                       Course                              Oak Ridge        Richland    Rocky Flats           River
                                       Back Injury Prevention                  $28.50            $108             $84               $50
                                       Environmental Laws and
                                       Regulations                               $624            $152           $192                $72
                                       Hands-on Fire Extinguisher
                                       Use                                      $2.50            $102     Not offered               $48
                                       Hoisting and Rigging                      $592            $328             $72              $240
                                       Occurrence Reporting                       $84             $62             $44               $36
                                       Source: DOE.



                                       Various factors account for the cost differences shown in the table,
                                       including the length of the course and the labor rate used for the instructor
                                       who provided the training. For instance, the course on environmental laws
                                       and regulations varied in length from 4 to 24 hours, and the course on
                                       hands-on fire extinguisher use varied in length from 15 minutes to 3 hours.
                                       Consequently, employees attending these courses received a dissimilar
                                       level of training, depending on the location. For some courses, for
                                       instance, Rocky Flats used an outside vendor to provide its training at a
                                       very favorable labor rate.




                                       21
                                         Department of Energy: DOE Contractor Employee Training (GAO/RCED-98-155R, May 8, 1998).



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              In response to the problems associated with the independent development
              and delivery of training, DOE has been working since 1995 to standardize
              training courses that are generally applicable across the Department. DOE
              foresaw a number of benefits to be derived from standardization, including
              an overall reduction in training costs and staff, the establishment of a
              consistent knowledge base among employees, and the elimination of
              redundant training.

              In 1997, however, DOE abandoned its proposal to standardize training. At
              that time, DOE officials indicated that such a standardization effort was too
              comprehensive in scope in view of the more than 21,000 training courses
              in the DOE training community.22 DOE officials said the Department will
              continue efforts to standardize training by developing a listing of all DOE
              courses, called the Universal Catalog, and establishing centers of
              excellence on selected topics. As of December 1998, neither effort has
              been successful in standardizing training. The Universal Catalog was only
              35-percent complete and more than 1 year behind schedule for
              completion. In addition, only two centers of excellence had been
              established, although DOE had planned to designate four centers of
              excellence by the end of the year. According to a DOE training official,
              competing DOE priorities precluded the Department from fully funding and
              making greater progress on both efforts.


              DOE can improve budgeting and reduce spending on training. In the
Conclusions   budgetary area, DOE has not successfully completed any of the critical
              steps needed to develop sound and defensible training budgets. Because
              DOE has not completed these steps, its training budgets are not directly tied
              to the training needs of the Department. DOE also has not taken a number
              of actions to reduce its training expenditures. It has not developed criteria
              on what type of nonmandatory training is appropriate within the
              Department, which has led to a wide range of nonmandatory training
              courses being offered. DOE’s decentralized training structure has also led to
              the independent development and delivery of training courses by DOE’s
              headquarters offices, field offices, and contractors.

              In regard to budgeting, DOE has not conducted a comprehensive
              assessment of occupational training needs throughout the Department to
              better understand its training needs. Certain occupational groups would
              benefit from such an assessment, most notably those involved in program

              22
               DOE added that with the Department facing many challenges, including the downsizing of training
              personnel and decreases in the training budget, it is limited in accomplishing what was intended.



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                      management, property management, and contractor oversight tasks. In
                      addition, DOE has not completed an IDP for all employees required to have
                      one by DOE order. DOE training officials have established a goal of
                      completing IDPs for 90 percent of DOE employees by December 31, 1999.
                      However, without some other impetus, such as holding managers
                      accountable for ensuring that their staff complete IDPs, it is difficult to see
                      how establishing a goal will have any more success than the requirements
                      already contained in a DOE order. Finally, DOE offices have either not
                      completed annual training plans or not completed them properly.
                      According to DOE, the annual training plan provides the basis for any
                      request for budget funds.

                      Opportunities also exist for DOE to reduce its training costs. Specifically,
                      DOE  has not developed criteria on what type of nonmandatory training is
                      appropriate nor reviewed the thousands of nonmandatory training courses
                      offered using such criteria. In addition, DOE has not standardized the
                      development and delivery of training courses that have general application
                      across the Department. This has produced unnecessary and duplicative
                      training courses throughout DOE.


                      To improve the process for setting the training budget, we recommend
Recommendations       that the Secretary of Energy require

                  •   the expeditious completion of a comprehensive occupational training
                      needs assessment throughout the Department. Where the assessment
                      process cannot be expedited, priorities should be set for the order in
                      which occupational groups will be assessed;
                  •   the completion of IDPs for all departmental employees required to have one
                      by DOE order; and
                  •   the completion of annual training plans as required by DOE order.

                      To reduce spending on DOE training, we recommend that the Secretary of
                      Energy require

                  •   the establishment of criteria for what type of nonmandatory training is
                      appropriate and a review and elimination of nonmandatory training
                      courses given across DOE that do not meet those criteria; and
                  •   the standardization of the development and delivery of training that has
                      general application across DOE.




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                  DOE agreed with our recommendations, except for the one that the
Agency Comments   Department expeditiously complete a comprehensive assessment of
                  occupational training needs. In this regard, DOE indicated that it had
                  already completed such an assessment for certain occupational groups
                  and initiated a new program to rebuild a talented and well-trained corps of
                  research and development program managers. Furthermore, DOE stated it
                  will continue conducting these assessments as funding constraints and
                  departmental priorities allow. While we are encouraged by the actions that
                  DOE has already taken, we are concerned that funding constraints and/or
                  other departmental priorities may, in some way, hinder the completion of
                  a comprehensive occupational needs assessment. As we pointed out in
                  this report, the lack of skilled staff is one of the most fundamental
                  problems in the Department. Accordingly, we continue to believe that DOE
                  should expeditiously complete a comprehensive assessment of
                  occupational training needs.

                  In addition, the Department disagreed with our use of the concept of
                  nonmandatory training and with our discussion of whether excessive
                  nonmandatory training takes place in the Department. DOE indicated that
                  internal DOE directives as well as professional and international standards
                  also impose significant training requirements upon the Department. DOE
                  commented that, while this training is not normally defined as
                  “mandatory” by externally imposed laws or regulations, it is required and
                  does promote efficient as well as safe work practices. Nonetheless, DOE
                  concurred in the benefits of reviewing training courses periodically and
                  stated it is in the process of revising internal guidelines to better assess
                  training, including the nonmandatory training that is given.




                  Page 25                                   GAO/RCED-99-56 DOE’s Training Program
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Improved

                            DOE’s November 1998 draft training plan represents the Department’s most
                            recent attempt to improve its training. The plan lays out a strategy for
                            training DOE employees over 3 fiscal years (1999 through 2001). However,
                            it has several shortcomings. Specifically, the plan does not

                        •   realistically estimate the overall costs to implement the plan and the
                            overall savings to be achieved from it;
                        •   explain how DOE’s decentralized training resources will be committed to
                            finance the plan;
                        •   present a DOE policy regarding the use of the Department’s centers of
                            excellence; and
                        •   identify the steps necessary to improve contractor training performance.

                            DOE training officials told us they were aware of these shortcomings and
                            intend to address each of them before a final training plan is issued.


                            In May 1995, the Department reviewed its training program and found a
DOE’s Plans to              number of problems. The problems cited by the review included
Improve                     duplication and waste associated with the development and delivery of
Departmental Training       both federal and contractor training and a lack of consistency in the
                            training provided across the Department. The review concluded, among
Have Evolved                other things, that if a DOE-wide training program were developed, tens of
                            millions of dollars in annual training costs could be avoided.

                            In response to the 1995 DOE review, the Department issued a strategic plan
                            in July 1995 to improve federal employee training. DOE indicated that it
                            intended to eventually develop a similar document to improve training for
                            its contractors. Since its issuance, the strategic plan has had some success.
                            For instance, DOE has established a new training structure that includes,
                            for example, the Training and Development Management Council, which is
                            responsible for overseeing the efforts to improve DOE’s training program.
                            In addition, DOE has established two training centers of excellence.

                            On the other hand, DOE has not achieved many of the goals established by
                            the strategic plan. For instance, DOE had intended to reduce by 50 percent
                            the number of duplicate training courses offered by it and its contractors.
                            According to DOE officials, the Department must first enter all training
                            courses into a central database before it can analyze courses and reduce
                            redundancy.23

                            23
                             According to a DOE training official, the schedule for entering all training courses into the central
                            database has not yet been determined.



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                       In July 1997, DOE decided to terminate its strategic training plan,
                       recognizing that it had not been entirely successful, and replace it with a
                       new training plan. DOE began drafting this new training plan in
                       November 1997 and intends to make the plan final early in calendar year
                       1999. With the new training plan, DOE believes that further reductions in
                       training expenditures are possible. In that regard, the plan contains 18
                       performance expectations to be accomplished. Those expectations
                       include, for instance, (1) having DOE’s average training expenditures per
                       employee be in alignment with similar federal agencies and the private
                       sector by December 31, 1999; (2) not having DOE fund the development of
                       duplicate training courses as of December 31, 1999; and (3) establishing
                       six training centers of excellence by December 31, 2000.


                       According to DOE’s new training plan, it is important that DOE estimate the
Overall Costs and      overall dollar savings to be realized from the plan. Such an estimate, DOE
Overall Savings From   training officials believe, is necessary to obtain the support needed from
the Plan Have Not      senior DOE management and the funding needed from the Congress. We
                       found, however, that the plan provides a limited projection of the overall
Been Realistically     costs to implement the plan and no overall estimate of the cost savings to
Estimated              be realized from it. Instead, the plan only provides certain indications of
                       the cost savings that are possible. However, these estimated cost savings
                       are overstated. For that reason, it in unclear whether the plan’s savings
                       will exceed its costs.

                       In the draft plan, DOE estimates that about $2 million will be needed over
                       fiscal years 1999 through 2001 to implement the performance actions
                       contained in the plan. DOE also acknowledges that this overall estimate is
                       understated. It states that cost estimates have not yet been made final for
                       certain key portions of the plan, including the implementation of a
                       DOE-wide training information system and a technology-supported learning
                       program. In a March 1998 submission to the Congress, DOE estimated that
                       the costs for these two portions for fiscal years 1999 through 2001 would
                       be $3.8 million and $3.4 million, respectively. However, no fiscal year 1999
                       funding was appropriated for these two portions.

                       Conversely, DOE provides no overall estimate of cost savings for the 3-year
                       period covered by the plan. Instead, DOE intends to wait and see what cost
                       savings the plan will generate. In the plan, nevertheless, DOE points out
                       that about $3 million in savings were realized during fiscal year 1998 from
                       several initiatives supported by the plan. Our review determined that these
                       savings are overstated. For example, the $3 million savings is based, in



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                       part, on reported cost savings of about $1.7 million by DOE’s National
                       Environmental Training Office in Aiken, South Carolina, for developing
                       training courses that were then used at other DOE locations. We found,
                       however, that the $1.7 million in savings was not offset against the
                       approximately $1.9 million in costs to operate the Training Office in 1998.
                       DOE training officials told us they will reevaluate and validate the cost data
                       before the plan is made final. The director of the Training Office added
                       that it must be recognized that the Training Office is only in its start-up
                       phase and an immediate return on investment cannot be expected.


                       DOE’s headquarters offices, field offices, and contractors all have their own
DOE Has Not            training programs and training budgets. For DOE’s training plan to be
Determined How the     successful, according to DOE, support and funding will be needed from
Department’s           offices throughout the Department. We found, however, that the plan does
                       not explain how or according to what formula these DOE offices will be
Decentralized          asked to commit funds to finance the plan. Moreover, we found that few
Training Resources     DOE offices have actively participated in the development of the
                       performance expectations contained in that plan. Thus, when the plan is
Will Be Committed to   completed, it is unknown whether support and funding will be available
Finance the Plan       throughout the Department for the plan.

                       According to DOE, each office within the Department is responsible for
                       implementing the plan and will be held accountable for carrying out the
                       expectations in it. In addition, each office will commit resources to ensure
                       that the performance expectations in the plan are met. The plan does not
                       specify, however, how, or according to what formula, these offices will be
                       asked to commit resources to finance the plan. Instead, the plan indicates
                       that DOE’s Training and Development Management Council will determine
                       sometime in the future how the plan will be funded.24

                       While each office is responsible for the plan’s implementation, few offices
                       have actively participated in the development of the performance
                       expectations contained in it. According to the minutes of training plan
                       meetings, representatives from only six of DOE’s principal offices have
                       volunteered to take the lead in developing any of these performance
                       expectations. DOE training officials also told us they did not foresee
                       participation from any more offices.




                       24
                        The Training and Development Management Council is responsible for overseeing the efforts to
                       improve DOE’s training program.



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                        Once the training plan is completed, the training and development
                        management council intends to forward the plan to the Secretary of
                        Energy for endorsement. According to DOE training officials, the
                        Secretary’s endorsement may help offices throughout the Department that
                        did not participate in the plan’s development to accept its contents.
                        However, how the plan will be funded is not discussed in the plan.


                        A central feature of DOE’s training plan is the creation of centers of
A Policy Regarding      excellence. The mission of these centers is to provide high-quality training
the Use of the          on a topical area that cuts across the entire Department. By operating the
Department’s Centers    centers of excellence, DOE intends to eliminate the duplication of training.
                        We found, however, that the training plan does not present a policy on the
of Excellence Has Not   centers’ use or mandate that the centers will be the sole source for training
Been Developed          on a topical area. Without that mandate, there is no assurance that
                        duplication of training will be eliminated by the centers.

                        Furthermore, DOE’s draft training plan provides little information on the
                        centers-of-excellence concept. According to the training plan, two centers
                        of excellence were successfully launched in December 1997. On the basis
                        of that success, the plan indicates that further actions are planned. These
                        include (1) forming a panel of experts to review applications to become a
                        center of excellence, (2) recommending topical areas for
                        center-of-excellence designation, and (3) developing general operating
                        principles and means to evaluate the operating centers of excellence. The
                        training plan indicates that four additional centers of excellence will be
                        established by the end of fiscal year 2000.

                        However, the training plan does not articulate a policy on, or mandate the
                        use of, the centers within the Department.25 Absent that mandate, we
                        found that one of the centers has separately delivered training courses on
                        subjects that already existed within the Department. For example, during
                        fiscal year 1998, the National Environmental Training Office delivered a
                        3-day course on Environmental Laws and Regulations. We determined that
                        a similar course of comparable duration already existed elsewhere within
                        DOE. For example, contractors at both DOE’s Oak Ridge Operations Office
                        and Rocky Flats Field Office offer a 3-day course on Environmental Laws
                        and Regulations. In commenting on this matter, the director of the training
                        office said that DOE and DOE/contractor training organizations have
                        historically worked independently. Therefore, it will take some time for

                        25
                         In a January 30, 1998, memorandum, DOE’s Office of Environmental Management advised its
                        employees seeking training related to environmental management to look first to the courses provided
                        by the National Environmental Training Office.



                        Page 29                                               GAO/RCED-99-56 DOE’s Training Program
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                        DOE’s New Training Plan Could Be
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                        these very same organizations to work more closely together. The director
                        added that the training office, nevertheless, has had tremendous success
                        during its first year in forming partnerships with various DOE locations to
                        eliminate duplicate training. Furthermore, the training office’s newer
                        courses are not being duplicated and in fact are being requested
                        throughout DOE.


                        According to DOE data, the Department spent about $322.2 million on
The Steps Necessary     training contractor employees during fiscal year 1997. Despite this large
to Improve Contractor   investment in its contractors and the documented problems in contractor
Employee Training       training identified in DOE’s 1995 review of training, the Department’s draft
                        training plan does not identify the steps necessary to improve contractors’
Performance Have        training performance or reduce costs. Instead, according to DOE training
Not Been Identified     officials, the Department will be working with its contractors to improve
                        contractor training through a subsequent installment of the plan. However,
                        we found that DOE has not (1) established a departmental order on
                        developing contractor training programs and budgets; (2) incorporated a
                        standard set of performance measures into its performance-based
                        contracts regarding contractors’ training efficiency and effectiveness; and
                        (3) clarified the roles and responsibilities of DOE offices for the oversight
                        of contractor training departmentwide. DOE training officials told us they
                        were aware that these issues must be resolved and intend to address them
                        in a subsequent installment of the training plan. However, a date for the
                        subsequent installment to the training plan has not yet been established.

                        While DOE’s order on federal employee training contains in-depth
                        information on the administration of federal training, we found that its
                        order on contractors’ human resource management provides considerably
                        less detail on contractor employee training. This latter order only requires
                        that each contractor submit an employee substance abuse and employee
                        assistance program for approval by the appropriate DOE contracting
                        officer. It does not, however, discuss the need for or the contents of an
                        employee training program. The order also does not provide any guidance
                        on developing a contractor’s annual training budget. Because of these
                        omissions, DOE training officials told us the Department intends to issue a
                        new order pertaining to contractor employee training sometime in the
                        future. A DOE timetable for the issuance of that new order has not been
                        established.

                        We also found that DOE has not developed a standard set of performance
                        measures to promote cost reductions in contractor training



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    departmentwide. In May 1998, we reported that, for four contractors we
    reviewed, the applicable DOE field locations used various measures during
    fiscal year 1997 to evaluate contractors’ training performance.26 For
    example, at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, DOE included a
    performance measure in the contract that required the contractor to
    develop a plan to consolidate all training records into an integrated
    database. In addition, at the Rocky Flats Field Office, DOE included a
    performance measure in the contract that required the contractor to fulfill
    95 percent of the special requests for training when more than 3-days’
    notice had been given. Although such measures could improve record
    keeping and course scheduling, they would not, for the most part, help
    eliminate unnecessary costs for contractor training or improve training
    effectiveness.

    In on our review of contractor training, we identified three performance
    measures that were not being used DOE-wide that could reduce contractor
    training costs. Specifically, we noted that DOE has not instituted a standard
    performance measure to take the following actions:

•   Consolidate training operations where multiple DOE contractors or
    multiple contractor training organizations are present. Such consolidation
    can substantially reduce costs by eliminating redundant training
    organizations and redundant training courses. For example, at one
    contractor location contacted, the contractor consolidated training that
    had previously been provided by four separate organizations and reported
    a cost savings of about $3.3 million the following year.
•   Subcontract (i.e., outsource) training courses to qualified vendors.
    Outsourcing can reduce the cost for providing contractor training. For
    example, the contractor at one location contacted outsourced about 65
    percent of its training to a qualified vendor at an estimated savings of more
    than $0.6 million over a 2-year period.
•   Use training course materials from other DOE locations rather than develop
    courses independently. One contractor, for example, advised us it has no
    policy or procedures requiring it to consider using materials from other
    DOE locations before deciding to develop a new training course. We noted
    that this contractor, in fiscal year 1997, spent over $3.9 million
    independently developing contractor training courses at its site.




    26
       Department of Energy: DOE Contractor Employee Training, (GAO/RCED-98-155R, May 8, 1998). The
    four contractors were selected because their annual expenditures for training have been among the
    highest across the DOE complex and, collectively, they accounted for 48 percent of DOE’s contractor
    training expenditures in fiscal year 1997.



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              Only one of the four contractors we reviewed had performance measures
              aimed at reducing training costs.27

              We further found that the roles and responsibilities for overseeing
              contractor training performance departmentwide have not been
              adequately addressed. According to DOE training officials we contacted,
              four DOE headquarters offices have some interface with contractors
              departmentwide—the Office of Human Resources Management, the Office
              of Contract and Resource Management, the Office of Worker and
              Community Transition, and the Office of Field Management. None of these
              offices, however, has responsibility for overseeing contractor training
              performance. According to an official with the Office of Human Resources
              Management, this office collects contractor training cost data but has
              limited contact with contractor training personnel. According to an official
              with the Office of Contract and Resource Management, this office only
              reviews contractor employees’ compensation, pensions, and benefits.
              According to an official with the Office of Worker and Community
              Transition, this office is primarily concerned with contractors’ employee
              displacement and downsizing programs. According to an official with the
              Office of Field Management, this office may deliver training on a particular
              subject to both federal and contractor employees in the field. None of
              these DOE offices indicated, however, that they review the contractor
              training courses offered or the contractor training budgets.

              DOE training officials agreed that the steps outlined above could improve
              contractor training. These officials also told us that the training plan will
              be revised to be applicable to DOE’s contractor workforce. In addition,
              specific performance objectives and measures will be included in the plan.
              Furthermore, the DOE order on contractor employee training will be
              revised to include a chapter that will assign responsibility and provide
              guidance for developing, monitoring, and evaluating training for
              departmental contractors.



              DOE’s new training plan represents the Department’s vision of the
Conclusions   improvements needed in federal employee training for fiscal years 1999
              through 2001. However, as currently drafted, the plan contains
              shortcomings. First, it does not provide a realistic estimate of the overall
              costs and overall savings associated with its new training plan. According

              27
                 The contract for DOE/Richland Operations Office contained performance measures to (1) develop a
              plan to eliminate redundant training functions, (2) evaluate the possibility of consolidating all training
              under one organization, and (3) eliminate redundant training courses.



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                      to DOE training officials, such an estimate is necessary to obtain the
                      support needed from senior DOE management and the funding needed from
                      the Congress. Second, the plan does not explain how DOE’s decentralized
                      training resources will be committed to accomplish the plan. At present,
                      few DOE offices have actively participated in developing the performance
                      expectations contained in the plan. Whether DOE offices that have not been
                      actively involved in the plan will financially support it, when completed,
                      remains to be seen. Third, the plan does not present a policy regarding the
                      use of the Department’s centers of excellence. The centers are a central
                      feature of the training plan. By operating the centers, DOE intends to
                      eliminate the duplication of training within the Department. However, the
                      plan does not present a policy on the use of the centers or mandate that
                      the centers be the sole source for training within the Department on a
                      topical area. Finally, even though DOE spent about 85 percent of its training
                      budget for fiscal year 1997 on training contractor employees, DOE’s training
                      plan does not address what steps should be taken to improve contractor
                      employee training. Because of these shortcomings, the plan will not
                      provide DOE with a reliable roadmap for the future, as intended. DOE
                      officials told us they plan to correct these shortcomings, but it is not clear
                      exactly how they will do this.


                      To improve DOE’s new training plan, we recommend that the Secretary of
Recommendations       Energy require that the plan include

                  •   a realistic estimate of the overall costs to implement the plan and the
                      overall savings to be achieved;
                  •   an explanation of how DOE’s decentralized training resources will be
                      committed to finance the plan;
                  •   a policy regarding the use of the Department’s centers of excellence; and
                  •   an identification of the steps necessary to improve contractor training
                      performance. At a minimum, those steps should include (1) establishing
                      departmental guidance on the development, monitoring, and evaluation of
                      contractor training programs and budgets, (2) incorporating a standard set
                      of performance measures regarding training into its performance-based
                      contracts, and (3) clarifying the roles and responsibilities for the oversight
                      of contractor training performance departmentwide.


                      DOE concurred with the overall direction and intent of these
Agency Comments       recommendations. Among other things, DOE said that , as part of the plan,
                      it will provide estimates of costs and savings in implementing the training



                      Page 33                                   GAO/RCED-99-56 DOE’s Training Program
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DOE’s New Training Plan Could Be
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plan. In addition, DOE said it will develop a policy on the use of the centers
of excellence. Finally, DOE will add a new chapter to an existing DOE order
to clarify DOE’s oversight roles and responsibilities for contractor training
and provide performance-based contractor training objectives and
measures to be incorporated into major contracts as they are renewed and
offered for competitive bidding.




Page 34                                   GAO/RCED-99-56 DOE’s Training Program
Page 35   GAO/RCED-99-56 DOE’s Training Program
Appendix I

Comments From the Department of Energy




             Page 36        GAO/RCED-99-56 DOE’s Training Program
Appendix I
Comments From the Department of Energy




Page 37                                  GAO/RCED-99-56 DOE’s Training Program
Appendix I
Comments From the Department of Energy




Page 38                                  GAO/RCED-99-56 DOE’s Training Program
Appendix I
Comments From the Department of Energy




Page 39                                  GAO/RCED-99-56 DOE’s Training Program
Appendix II

Major Contributors to This Report


                       (Ms.) Gary L. Jones, Associate Director
Resources,             William F. Fenzel, Assistant Director
Community, and         Robert J. Baney, Evaluator-in-Charge
Economic               William M. Seay, Team Member
Development Division
Washington, D.C.




(141214)               Page 40                                   GAO/RCED-99-56 DOE’s Training Program
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