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GAO Says EPA Needs a More Coordinated Approach to Managing Its Laboratories

The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently issued a report that highlights problems with EPA’s laboratory management approach and offers recommendations for action.  The report also provides an evaluation of the Agency’s response to earlier recommendations.

EPA operates 37 laboratories to provide the scientific foundation for its mission.  Over the past 20 years, independent evaluations have identified problems with the laboratories’ operations and management and called for improved planning, coordination, and leadership, as well as consolidation of laboratories.

GAO was asked to examine the extent to which EPA:  1) has addressed the findings of prior independent evaluations; 2) uses an agency-wide, coordinated approach to manage its laboratory infrastructure and whether its new study will achieve stated cost savings and laboratory improvement goals; and 3) uses a comprehensive planning process to manage its laboratory workforce.

Based on recommendations going back as far as 1992, GAO has found that EPA has yet to implement an overarching issue-based planning process; consolidated or realigned its laboratory facilities and workforce; or appointed a top science official with responsibility and authority over all of the Agency’s research, science, and technical activities, including integrating and coordinating the science activities conducted by its laboratories.

As a result of these findings, GAO recommends, among other things that EPA develop a coordinated planning process for its scientific activities and appoint a top-level official with authority over all the laboratories, improve physical and real property planning decisions, and develop a workforce planning process for all laboratories that reflects current and future needs of laboratory facilities.  EPA generally agreed with the findings and recommendations.  You can review the full report which includes specific findings and detailed recommendations at http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-347.