The National Weather Service has taken several steps to cope with under-staffing but hasn’t evaluated whether those efforts are effective, GAO has said.

GAO said that the overall rate of NWS vacancies has doubled since 2010 to 11 percent “and these vacancies have often lasted months—forcing managers and staff to work extra shifts and shorten leave to complete necessary work” and at times “led to their inability to complete other key tasks, such as providing severe weather information support to state and local emergency managers.”

Other responses have included adjusting work schedules, combining vacancy announcements for similar jobs to simplify recruiting, and drawing employees from other units temporarily. Meanwhile, the agency is not keeping managers well informed on progress toward filling vacancies, which in some cases can take more than a year, said GAO.

“NWS intends to develop a strategic human capital plan, which officials said could provide a framework for evaluating its hiring actions, but does not have a time frame for its development. In the interim, by evaluating whether its actions are reducing the hiring backlog, NWS would have better assurance that its actions were achieving expected results, and the agency could better determine where to devote resources,” it said.