Federal Manager's Daily Report

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The move of the Bureau of Land Management headquarters outside of Washington, D.C. left the agency with vacancies that hampered its work but the BLM lacks a strategic workforce plan for countering that problem, the GAO has said.

The report was the latest in a series of looks at the Trump administration’s decision to move BLM headquarters to Grand Junction, Colo., and several other sites. A recent IG report said that all but 41 of the 328 affected employees left their jobs rather than move and 80 of those positions still are vacant, while the new GAO report also notes that even before the move the prior administration had restricted hiring for some positions.

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“Most BLM staff GAO spoke with said vacancies in key headquarters positions caused delays in creating or clarifying guidance or policy. Further, some said an increased reliance on details negatively affected their office’s performance—for example, because state office staff detailed to headquarters reduced capacity in state offices,” the report said.

From 2017 through June of this year, it added, the percentage of employees with at least 25 years of experience fell from 24 to 17, and of employees GAO interviewed “almost all told us that the loss of experienced staff negatively affected their offices’ ability to conduct its duties.”

It further found that the BLM’s mechanism for strategic workforce planning is a 2019 memorandum that generally does not address aligning the human capital program with emerging mission goals or developing long-term strategies for acquiring, developing, and retaining staff. “Without a strategic workforce plan that addresses these needs, BLM lacks reasonable assurance the agency will have the workforce necessary to achieve its goals in managing millions of acres of public lands,” it said.

The Biden administration has said it will reverse the move.

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