Reorganizing and reforming federal agencies is achievable but it is “a major endeavor” that depends on following steps such as the “involvement of the Congress, federal employees, and other key stakeholders,” GAO has said.

“Our prior work has found that at the heart of any serious change management initiative are the people—because people define the organization’s culture, drive its performance, and embody its knowledge base. Experience shows that failure to adequately address—or often even consider—a wide variety of people and cultural issues can lead to unsuccessful change,” a report said.

The report comes as the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is set to hold hearings this week on the Trump administration’s recently issued government reorganization plan. As at a recent hearing in the counterpart House hearing, one likely focus will be on the potential for eliminating jobs. Administration officials likely will reiterate their position that job-cutting is not an explicit goal although in some cases it would result; even then, they argue, normal attrition and retraining of displaced employees will lessen the impact. Federal employee unions and some Democrats in Congress, however, view the plan as an explicit attempt to downsize the federal workforce and the government in general.

The GAO report also advocates consulting with employees, individually and through their organizations, in the development of reform plans—another area where unions and Democrats in Congress have said the administration already has fallen short.

“Strategic workforce planning should precede any staff realignments or downsizing, so that changed staff levels do not inadvertently produce skills gaps or other adverse effects that could result in increased use of overtime and contracting,” it said.

It added: “Before implementing workforce reduction strategies, it is critical that agencies carefully consider how to strategically downsize the workforce and maintain the staff resources to carry out its mission. Agencies should consider long-term staffing plans and associated personnel costs, organizational design and position structures and the appropriateness of backfilling positions as they become vacant.”