The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) needs to make major changes to the structure and leadership of its “fragmented and largely uncoordinated” scientific activities. This is according to a new report by the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), which found that EPA has not fully implemented recommendations made by past independent assessments. Some of these recommendations were made almost 20 years ago.

Among the recommendations is the need for a coordinated planning process for EPA’s scientific activities and the appointment of a top-level official with authority over all 37 laboratories. Currently, 15 senior officials are charged with managing research and technical activities.

“In light of current efforts to reduce the federal budget deficit, which include significant proposed cuts in the budgets of most departments and agencies, including EPA, the agency will need to more effectively use its scientific and laboratory resources across the agency to ensure the agency is best positioned to fulfill the critical scientific work for its core mission,” states the report.

EPA has also failed to address a recommendation made in 1994 to consolidate or realign its laboratory facilities and workforce. “Although EPA’s laboratory organizational and management structure and footprint have remained largely the same over the past 20 years — in spite of multiple calls for change — in the current budget climate the agency may not be afforded the luxury of maintaining its current number of laboratory facilities,” GAO analysts wrote.

Besides better coordination and a new leadership structure, the GAO recommends that EPA improve physical infrastructure planning and develop a comprehensive workforce planning process for all laboratories. EPA generally agreed with these findings.

To read the report, “To Better Fulfill Its Mission, EPA Needs a More Coordinated Approach to Managing Its Laboratories,” visit http://gao.gov/products/GAO-11-347.

 


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