Fedweek

Drill platform near Grand Junction, CO and territory overseen by the Bureau of Land Management.

In ordering a move of most of its headquarters functions out of Washington, D.C., the BLM addressed only minimally or not all the key practices for agency reorganizations involving input from employees and other stakeholders, GAO has said.

The reorganization involves the relocation by July of 311 positions to Grand Junction, Colo., Denver, Phoenix and various state offices on the argument that the employees will be closer to the resources the agency manages. (Roughly 97 percent of the BLM workforce had already been located in Western states where the agency manages most of the 245 million acres and underground resources in its charge.)

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As of late January, GAO said, 132 of those positions were vacant and 90 employees had accepted reassignment with 89 declining to move, retiring or otherwise separating or planning to do so. The share of employees accepting relocation is consistent with the Agriculture Department’s move last year of two components of about the same size to the Kansas City area.

GAO said that the BLM “partially addressed key practices for effective agency reform efforts in the areas of establishing goals and outcomes, using data and evidence, managing and monitoring the reforms, and strategic workforce planning.”

While executive-level employees were asked for their input before the announcement, it is not clear “what input the executive leadership team provided, whether BLM considered it, or how BLM used it in formulating reorganization plans,” GAO said. Further, it said that agency documents “do not indicate that staff other than the executive leadership team were consulted or engaged with during this formulation process.”

While the parent Interior Department held listening sessions with employees regarding the department-wide reforms, “the documents did not indicate that the BLM relocation was a topic of discussion at these sessions.”

Internal emails regarding the reorganization were sent to employees only after BLM officially announced its plan to Congress and some of the other information released afterward in a press release and online “included conflicting information.”

“Our prior work has shown that it is important for agencies to directly and continuously involve their employees and other key stakeholders in the development of any major reforms and that involving employees and other stakeholders helps facilitate the development of reform goals and objectives, as well as incorporating insights from a frontline perspective, and increases acceptance of any changes,” it said. “Employee involvement strengthens the process and allows them to share their experiences and shape policies. Involving employees also helps gain their ownership for the reform.”

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