Vacancies, COVID safety protections for employees and restructuring work arrangements for the long-term are among the major management challenges facing the Interior Department, an IG report has said.
The report noted that the DoI has the fourth-largest law enforcement components among federal departments, responsible for some 500 million acres of department-controlled land. However, “recruiting, hiring, and retaining law enforcement officers can be challenging and time consuming. As of September 2021, the DOI estimated a vacancy rate as high as 20 percent across its law enforcement programs.”
It said that as the department plans to return more teleworking employees to worksites, “it will face challenges in ensuring a safe environment and healthy workforce . . . and finding the right balance of telework, remote work, and in-person work.”
One component facing particular challenges, it said, is the Bureau of Land Management, which under the Trump administration moved its headquarters components from Washington, D.C. to Grand Junction, Colo., and several other sites. All but 41 of the 328 affected employees left their jobs rather than move and 80 of those positions still are vacant, it said. The Biden administration has said it will reverse that move.
Other major challenges, it said, include addressing the deferred maintenance of some $22 billion on roads, bridges and other infrastructure; wildfire response; IT security; management of energy and mineral resources; management of water and power resources; and addressing the impact of climate change on tribal communities.