SUBCOMMITTEE ON INTEGRATION OF SCIENCE, ENGINEERING, AND HEALTH IN PROGRAM IMPLEMENTATION
VICTORIA J. TSCHINKEL (Chair), Senior Consultant on Environmental Issues, Landers & Parsons
BETSY ANCKER-JOHNSON, Vice President of Environmental Activities (retired), General Motors Corporation
PHILIP H. BRODSKY, Director, Corporate Research and Environmental Technology, Monsanto Company
DAVID S.C. CHU, Director, Washington Research Department, RAND
BENJAMIN COSGROVE, Senior Vice President (retired), Boeing Commercial Airplane Group
BRIAN COSTNER, Director, Energy Research Foundation
ROBERT C. FORNEY, Executive Vice President (retired), E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company
JAMES H. JOHNSON, JR., Professor and Acting Dean, School of Engineering, Howard University
MILDRED MCCLAIN, Executive Director, Citizens for Environmental Justice
BERNICE K. MCINTYRE, President, B.K.McIntyre & Associates, Inc.
MAXINE L. SAVITZ, General Manager, Ceramic Components, Allied Signal Aerospace Company
Tamae Maeda Wong, Senior Program Officer
Helen Chin, Administrative Assistant
The subcommittee held a 1.5-day workshop on August 29 and 30, 1995, to meet with representatives of industry, Department of Energy (DOE) Environmental Management (EM) Program officials, Department of Defense (DOD) officials, and personnel from Department of Energy contractors. The subcommittee was impressed by the degree to which the Department of Energy has recognized many of the key issues inhibiting the success of the EM Program. The Subcommittee identified and directed its attention to four subjects which would be most helpful in improving the integration of science, technology, and engineering into the EM Program:
The Department's management system, including its relationship to contractors and regulators. The subcommittee noted that the organizational structure of DOE bifurcates responsibility for environmental management; thus decision-making and incentive-system processes are not optimally designed to help the EM Program meet its stated goals.
The management of remediation-related research and development and its relationship to the Department of Energy's field activities. Needs-based research should be well coordinated and integrated into activities in the EM Program.
Environmental practices in industry. Several subcommittee members have experience in this regard, and the subcommittee heard from industrial representatives. For most companies, cleanup is a necessary sideline: they must do it well, finish the job, and let the rest of the company focus on its core business. Industrial cleanup has a well-defined objective. In the Department, the EM Program faces many long-term challenges and the
program could easily be plagued by inefficiency if it becomes a self-perpetuating entity that is not managed carefully to attain its many independent goals (with completion of site remediation being just one among many).
The relationship between scientific and technical information and effective public participation. Better communication and more meaningful, timely opportunities for public involvement are needed.
As the subcommittee focused on those subjects, it kept in mind the Department of Energy's stated goals of protection of public health and the environment, compliance with all regulatory requirements, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness. The subcommittee was struck by the difficulty faced by the Department in trying to establish and manage a program that must operate over several decades, especially in light of changing political leadership and congressional decisions. It also recognized the crucial inter-relationship between good management practices and the ability to integrate science and technology into decision-making. That led it to several recommendations for identifying the best business practices to create a climate for integration. In developing the recommendations, it acknowledged several factors that distinguish the Department's EM Program from private industry and therefore affect the agency's ability to adopt a business model fully, including the expectations of and demands on a public agency, the Department's history of self-regulation and poor management practices, and especially the unique challenges posed by radioactive waste and fissile materials.
The subcommittee was impressed with the degree to which the Department 's leadership recognizes the need for improvement. The Department is currently in an active, transitional state, attempting to instill cultural and organizational change in the EM Program. Specifically, the EM Program is realigning its activities to meet the six goals set forth by Assistant Secretary Thomas Grumbly:
Eliminate and manage urgent risks in the system.
Emphasize health and safety for workers and the public.
Establish a system that is managerially and financially in control.
Demonstrate tangible results.
Focus technology development on identifying and overcoming obstacles to progress.
Establish a stronger partnership between the Department and its stakeholders.
One example of how the program is attempting to achieve its goals is the introduction of contract reform. Several basic elements of this reform are increased competition; renewed focus on the protection of workers, the public, and the environment; a results-oriented focus; and performance-based incentives.
In recent months, a performance based integrated contract adopting these elements of contract reform has been introduced and implemented at the Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site in Colorado (Independent Technical Review of Rocky Flats Program, June 1995). Some workshop participants emphasized that it is too early to predict the effectiveness of the new contract, but subcommittee members strongly supported the intentions and direction of the contract-reform effort. The contract for the Savannah River Site in South Carolina is also being re-bid with several of the reform elements, but only the current contractor has opted to bid.
Other initiatives are rapidly introducing additional change into a system that was established during the Cold War. Some of the more notable efforts as previously discussed include integration of risk and long-term cost data into the budget process, addressing land-use planning at several Department sites, and realigning internal organizations. Although it is too early to assess how effective and long-lasting these efforts will be, the principles and general direction of reform are encouraging.
Internal Management and Contractor Relations
Some fundamental concepts must be addressed by any organization if it is to accomplish its stated goals. First, there must be effective leadership and a clear understanding by all involved about the goals of the organization, including its immediate and longer-term plans for accomplishing them. Next, an organizational structure must be established and management tools implemented to execute the plans and accomplish the goals. The subcommittee approached its discussion of the integration of science, engineering, and health in the internal management and organization of the EM Program, by addressing the framework for management and contractor relations, namely: leadership, goals, products and services, management tools, management structure, and incentives and disincentives.
Issue: The EM Program must have strong leadership and, when necessary, attention from the Secretary of Energy.
The key to good leadership is the empowerment of those within an organization to make and be responsible for decisions in a way that promotes the accomplishment of the organization's goals.
The EM Program uses more than one-third of the Department of Energy budget. The importance of the environmental activities and the high degree of community concern over the safety of Department facilities dictate that
the Secretary of Energy take a leadership role, through personal involvement, on select issues for the EM Program. The present Secretary initiated such activities early in her term through active involvement with affected communities. It will be important, as the Department focuses on facility management policies, for the Secretary to lead the way in pursuing and maintaining active progress.
The Secretary, through her emphasis on total quality management, has sought to clearly assign responsibility for performance. However, the current reporting structure through two different lines of authority involving both the offices of Environmental Management and Field Management (see Management Structure section) makes it difficult to implement the necessary accountability within the Department. Clarification of lines of responsibility will promote identification of responsible managers and minimize the phenomenon known as “stovepiping ” where different organizational units within the EM Program share responsibility yet have little communication. It should lead to improvements in the mechanisms for raising, considering, and resolving EM issues that cross organizational units and will help develop a more focused agenda for the EM Program.
Clearly, one of the principal roles of the Secretary is in setting the Department's major environmental goals. She also has the responsibility for empowering Department staff to accomplish those goals, making cross-program decisions, and taking decisions that require coordination with other departments to the appropriate interagency forum or to the President. There is a need for continued and strengthened leadership by the Secretary.
An organizational structure that places responsibility for deciding and executing programmatic priorities as discussed under “Management Structure” would facilitate EM Program efforts to integrate its science, technology, and engineering needs and missions with those of the rest of the Department. DOE is making efforts in this direction. This organization chart should be structured to serve operational needs and should, when necessary, create functional teams to address cross-organizational issues. All operational activities should be within the control of line managers. (See also sections on Management Structure, subsection B, and Lessons from Industrial Management Programs, section IV.)
Issue: Bifurcated responsibility for EM activities unnecessarily complicate the reporting structure.
The lines of responsibility for the conduct of the EM Program are diffuse within the Department. The organization chart divides the responsibility for
conducting the EM Program between the Associate Deputy Secretary for Field Management, who reports to the Deputy Secretary, and the Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management, who reports to the Undersecretary. Contract management and procurement is the responsibility of the Associate Deputy Secretary, and programmatic direction and budgeting is the responsibility of the Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management.
The field offices are at eight sites, including the five that consume 70% of the budget of the EM Program. According to the August 3, 1995, issue of the EM Alignment Initiative Newsletter, the Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management stated, “We are responsible for program development and program direction. ” The field is responsible for program execution. There are few mechanisms for the Assistant Secretary to hold the field accountable for implementing the EM Program's goals. Those who instigate an operation, such as the remediation of the high-level nuclear waste tanks at Hanford or a cleanup design, generally do not have responsibility to oversee the actual cleanup operation, because the contract operators do not report to the Assistant Secretary for EM. The responsibility loop apparently never closes in the existing structure until it reaches the Secretary's level.
The line of responsibility for all environmental activities should be in one reporting structure within the Department with authority following the responsibility lines. This change would clarify accountability and facilitate integrated consideration of environmental activities. If the Department substituted a carefully crafted matrix organization, common in many corporations, bifurcation of management responsibility might work, although admittedly it is one of the most difficult organizational structures to make effective and must never be a substitute for clear lines of authority and responsibility.
Issue: The present organizational structure in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for EM has demarcations that prevents consideration of optimal system-wide solutions.
A waste tank and its contents, for example, might involve every major EM office, as well as other DOE offices. The waste could be generated by DOE's Office of Defense Programs or Nuclear Energy; EM's Office of Waste Management, Facility Transition, or Environmental Remediation; or another office entirely. The tank contents and its treatment, storage, and disposal would be managed by EM's Office of Waste Management. Response to a spill or leak could be handled by the site's emergency response team which might be operated out of different offices at various DOE sites. Disposition of the tank itself after emptying would likely be the responsibility of EM's Office of Environmental Remediation or Facility Transition. Any contaminated soil or groundwater associated with the tank and its contents would be the
responsibility of EM's Office of Environmental Remediation. There are, unfortunately, few incentives or mechanisms to encourage systematic approaches involving multi-program teams, to manage the waste tank, its contents, and the surrounding environment.
Environmental activities should be handled by teams that are organized around functional needs and site-specific programs. The introduction of organizational barriers that inhibit the application of good scientific principles should be avoided. A paradigm for consideration is the team approach used by industry. For example, teams may be composed of technical, legal, and financial managers. Depending on the stage of a project, the lead person for the project could be any one of those. The team can be supplemented by R&D, state government-relations, public-relations, real-estate, and construction personnel. That approach ensures a coordinated legal, technical, and financial strategy. The Office of Technology Development in DOE has recently established five Focus Areas in which to manage technology development and research on a team basis. That effort, in its initial stages, might demonstrate the utility of such a management approach, and lessons learned from it should be applied to the broad team concept suggested here.
Often in government, middle- and lower-level staff lack a clear understanding of the ultimate purposes of the programs for whose execution they are responsible; a result is that outdated programs continue or dubious practices are continued on the feeble grounds that “we're just following orders” (from Congress, from higher officials, etc.). If the staff does understand the purposes of the programs at the outset, their understanding sometimes attenuates with time leading to similar results. To overcome that problem, the leadership of a department must constantly emphasize the importance of the department's goals. Successful departments ensure that discussions of work plans begin with a review of the goals that they serve. They encourage challenges to constraints that preclude achievement of those goals, including political constraints, and recognize that the political leadership within the department bears the responsibility for raising and debating these constraining issues with vigor.
Issue: Some goals of the EM Program are unstated, and these sometimes conflict with the stated goals.
This has complicated and slowed efforts to achieve the Department 's long-term objectives for reducing risks to the public, workers, and the environment.
The stated goal of the cleanup is to reduce risk at the site quickly and
efficiently. However, an often unstated goal is to provide continued employment and funding for the site. Organizational structures and decision-making by contractors and EM employees that would accelerate remediation or reduce the number of people required to carry it out could result in reduced employment or funding. Under the current system, states and local governments want to see rapid action toward achieving safer sites and safer operation of them, but they also want maximal employment at Department sites. Labor unions and contractors also benefit from larger and slower programs.
All goals should be clearly identified, ranked, and communicated in writing, and the organizational structure should facilitate the achievement of those goals. The goals should be sufficiently defined to stand as milestones against which performance can be measured.
New incentive systems (for stakeholders, contractors, and workers) for rewarding better performance as measured against the goals should be explored.
States, tribal, and local governments should continue to be encouraged to participate in the EM planning and budget process so that they can become aware of and adapt to the budget pressures and other realities faced by the program.
PRODUCTS AND SERVICES
Once an organization has established its overall goals and the plans for achieving them, it can determine the activities or “products and services” that it will pursue day by day. Some are obvious and others are harder to define. In the case of the EM Program, remediation and waste-minimization activities are obviously essential for accomplishing the fundamental objective of the program.
Technology development, on the other hand, is an example of a product or service with a less well-defined role. Should the program pursue its own projects for the development of technology or leave decisions on technology development to the contractors that are carrying out the remediation effort? Should decisions about whether to pursue processes and technology for waste minimization throughout the Department 's operations be made by the EM Program or left to the Offices of Energy Research and Defense Programs that operate the facilities? How such questions are answered will be affected by outside circumstances, such as the newly imposed financial restraint on the EM Program. The EM Program now hopes to reduce its expenditures by $10 billion for the period 1995–2000 through improvements in efficiency.
Issue: EM products and services are not fully defined, and changing external forces complicate efforts to define them.
The EM Program is still defining the less-obvious products that it should be producing (e.g., its technology development process). The EM Program is being forced to change its approach to its long-term goals because of appropriate demands for fiscal restraint and the ever-increasing pressure to accomplish its goals faster and more cost-effectively, and there is confusion as to what the near-term objectives of the program should be. For instance, does the technology development program exist to do basic research or to develop market-oriented technologies? The Department recognizes the need to identify technology gaps so that R&D can begin, but what constitutes a “gap” is not clear. Is the EM Program seeking to develop technology only as necessary for a particular waste minimization activity or environmental problem that currently has no solution? Is the goal to develop only technology that will reduce the cost or increase the speed of remediation activities? Or is it to reduce worker risks? Efforts to identify technology gaps in a coordinated agency-wide manner have resulted in a proliferation of reports, most of which have not provided a totally acceptable road map for action; e.g., Hanford Integrated Planning Process: 1993 Hanford Site Specific Science and Technology Plan (DOE, 1993a) and the Technology Needs Crosswalk Report (DOE, 1993b) were used only superficially after their publication.
A further problem that arises from the confusion is that without a clear understanding of what the Environmental Management Program needs to produce to meet its long-term goals, it is very difficult to determine program or employee productivity.
EM, in revisiting its goal-setting process, should determine what services or products it must deliver, and establish goals that reflect the new budget pressures. The goals must be sufficiently detailed to lessen confusion about how to design products and services to attain them.
To that end, the EM Program should continue to “benchmark” itself against industry. It might want to benchmark against the electric-utility and telephone industries which are in the midst of redefining services in a more cost-conscious environment.
Former Secretary of Energy James Watkins wrote to the subcommittee that “there are as many philosophies of organization and management as there are managers.” Similarly, there are many tools for implementing a given management scheme. The subcommittee has focused on a few tools that could be helpful to the EM Program. Some are already being used. EM recognizes that its costs and time to reach milestones are excessive and is
to be commended for beginning a process of benchmarking and using privatesector advisers to review its activities (see, for example, DOE February Benchmarking Meeting and Independent Technical Review of Three Waste Minimization and Management Programs, August 1995).
Issue: New Roles for EM staff require new skills.
In the past, the Department has relied on a system of relatively independent national laboratories and defense production facilities to accomplish its research and defense missions. With the new challenge of technically difficult and expensive environmental activities, the Department has begun to look at new models for managing this effort. The EM Program is rebidding over $27 billion in contracts and renegotiating another $13.5 billion. Federal employees in the EM Program will need new technical and managerial skills, especially in the oversight of performance-based contracts, in contrast with the older cost-plus contracts.
The managerial and technical needs of the EM Program should be analyzed to ensure that the Department and its current management and site operators have personnel skilled in negotiations to oversee their contracts. It might also be necessary for the EM Program to define and educate program and project managers about their roles in the administration of EM activities.
As discussed at the workshop, the Department might need to become more assertive in its dealings with contractors. A good institution for comparison might be the Department of Defense, where new contract and management activities for environmental programs have been implemented.
Issue: EM should complete the establishment of a priority-setting system.
EM's priority-setting system must consider a wide range of factors, including risk. Elements that should be evaluated when considering risk include
Immediacy of risk.
Extent of risk to human health and the environment.
Cost, availability, and effectiveness of existing technology.
Likelihood of success, timing, cost, and effectiveness of new technologies.
Community pressures for immediate actions.
The 1994 National Research Council Report Ranking Hazardous-Waste Sites for Remedial Action (NRC, 1994b) called for a unified national process of hazardous-waste site ranking to replace the current multiple approaches. In summarizing the report, the committee chair, Perry L. McCarty, said that “a single national process could provide a better basis for decisions about
priority setting, how much cleanup or containment should be undertaken at each site, and when.” Any well-defined and substantiated process could assist EM in making such decisions within the Department complex, although admittedly, challenges will remain. EM should play a leadership role in developing a unified national process, but the implementation of such a procedure should not delay its own decision-making. Having said this, the subcommittee believes that many decisions, such as how much cleanup or containment should be undertaken at each site, should be the subject of interactive communications with the local stakeholders and regulators and consider site-specific information.
Issue: Unwieldy and irrelevant Department procedures often hamper potentially cost-effective and timely cleanup.
For example, samples collected during cleanup of a non-nuclear chemical spill at a nuclear production facility could not be shipped to an outside laboratory that did not have Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing to handle uranium, even after measurements showed that the soil was not radioactive.
More flexibility is warranted in the adoption of internal safety procedures that properly address the risks of particular operations and do not require use of “one size fits all” procedures that were designed for more-hazardous conditions.
The Department of Energy has correctly undertaken an extensive review of its internal regulatory orders; this review should continue. Similarly, the Secretary's establishment of the Advisory Committee on External Regulation of Department of Energy Nuclear Safety was an excellent step, and the findings of this group should be closely scrutinized by the administration and Congress.
Issue: The Department of Energy needs a sound, credible base of scientific and technical information.
Integration of science, engineering, and health in the implementation of the EM Program depends on the availability of scientific and technical information. Considerable attention has been paid to the need for more-complete, higher-quality, and independent scientific and technical information in other subcommittees' reports and in many reviews of the EM Program conducted since its inception in 1989 (NRC, 1994; OTA, 1991). The Department of Energy has attempted to respond by increasing the independence and credibility of, for example, radiation-related health research and risk assessment. In both of these areas, however, further improvements are needed. An example of this kind of an effort is the creation of the Consortium on
Risk Evaluation with Stakeholder Participation (CRESP), which resulted from recommendations of an earlier National Research Council report (NRC, 1994b), and has so far been successful.
Responsibility, including funding, for research on the health effects of operations in the nuclear weapons complex was held by the Department and its predecessor agencies until December 1990, when Secretary of Energy James Watkins signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). That MOU transferred much of the responsibility for radiation-related health research to the DHHS and was widely hailed as an important step toward improving the quality and credibility of this research.
The importance of this effort to the EM Program is primarily that (1) providing independent answers to many questions about the consequences of past operations through dose-reconstruction projects, worker-health studies, and other health research is necessary to address public concerns, and (2) information about the extent of contamination, pathways, health effects, and other factors gleaned through these studies will become part of the information base on which future EM decisions rest.
Successful conduct of the research agenda depends on DOE funding and cooperation. Through the MOU cited above, DOE requests funds for studies and then transfers the funds to DHHS. DOE remains responsible for collecting most of the data used in the health research. Continuity of funding has been hindered by restraints on DOE: During the summer of 1995 when DOE responded to proposed cuts in its FY 1996 budget by substantially reducing the amount of money that it proposed to transfer. In response, DHHS put a several-month hold on much of the research program while it attempted to secure funding commitments from DOE. The existing MOU expires in December 1995, and details of an extension are being worked out.
Regarding risk assessment, after publication of the National Research Council report Building Consensus Through Risk Assessment and Management of the Department of Energy's Environmental Remediation Program (NRC, 1994a), DOE expanded its efforts to involve independent scientists from universities and private industry in efforts to evaluate risks within the EM Program. The two principal initial methods selected by DOE were a grant to the Consortium for Environmental Risk Evaluation, led by Tulane University and Xavier University, and the request for assistance through publication of a Notice of Program Interest, which resulted in an award to the Consortium for Risk Evaluation with Stakeholder Participation (CRESP) and four additional, smaller and shorter-term awards (UNLV, ASI, Cadmus, Phoenix). CRESP is mandated to lead the coordination effort among these awardees. Both methods reveal weaknesses in the EM Program's study of risk, such as data gaps, inconsistencies, and difficulties in comparing risks across
programs (e.g., environmental remediation and nuclear-materials stabilization). Addressing those weaknesses will not be a simple or quick task.
DOE should continue efforts to improve the independence, quality, and credibility of its scientific and technical information. That can be aided by providing greater assurance that DHHS will be able to continue to direct the radiation-related health research agenda by extending the MOU with provisions that try to guarantee stable funding. It can also be helped by further involvement of the public and independent scientists in reviews of risk and other information.
INCENTIVES AND DISINCENTIVES
Issue: Incentives for good performance by the Department are weak.
The internal operations of and the effectiveness of the integration of science and engineering into the EM Program are hampered by conflicting incentives that are unwritten but understood by employees. For instance, employees are instructed by their superiors that projects need to be completed within definite periods, but their experience tells them that a finished project can result in decreased funding for the program. Therefore, employees might try to ensure the survival of the program by being lax about deadlines. Their understanding of the political appointment process also can cause employees to ignore the chain of command because their civil service loyalties are more important for ensuring employment longevity. Such phenomena are generally parts of the culture of all organizations. However, it is necessary for the culture to support the stated goals of an organization to avoid employees' conflicting incentives that undermine management objectives.
Indeed, to the extent that budgets are allocated according to the extent and seriousness of the environmental problems faced by a site, in a perverse way liabilities become an asset. Likewise, with budgets tied to continuing containment and remediation processes, there is not as strong an incentive to complete projects as might be desired.
The poor incentive structure within the Department carried over to its major contracts until very recently. The Department of Energy is to be congratulated for moving toward performance-based contracts whenever it can, although additional measures will be needed to spur efficiency and to reward success, for both projects and individuals.
Disincentives within the EM Program should be identified and eliminated so that EM goals and objectives can be reached.
Issue: Incentives for civil-service employees are inadequate.
Many people believe that civil-service regulations prohibit promotions without the addition of supervisory responsibilities, make it difficult to remove employees from positions for poor performance, and do not adequately reward employees for good performance.
It is possible to create a civil-service program that provides more incentives for good performance. Pilot programs of up to 5 years can be initiated by government agencies or units within the government. The National Institute for Standards and Technology had trouble in recruiting new scientists several years ago. It prepared and implemented the Personnel Demonstration Program to remove strict civil-service levels, offered some incentives, and was able to compete with industry for new employees. EM could pilot test a program that explores a different promotion, reward, and firing system. It could be modeled after successful industry and utility models. For example, in Allied Signal's Functional Excellence Review, employees within the bottom 5% for two appraisals are terminated. Employees performing well are reviewed on a regular basis and attempts are made to increase their responsibilities and mobility.
EM should propose to the Office of Personnel Management and implement a pilot promotion, reward, and firing system.
Issue: New contracting methods will require a new structure.
Most major contracts in the EM Program have had the traditional Department cost-plus format. To its credit, DOE is implementing performance-based contracts. Well-defined, carefully negotiated performance-based contracts can confidently be expected to be much more cost-effective than cost-plus contracts.
The movement toward performance-based contracts, rather than costplus contracts, is to be encouraged. However, as the Department moves toward performance-based contracting, lines of authority in the field will become further blurred between the Assistant Secretary for EM and the Associate Deputy Secretary for Field Management, compared with the previous practice of contracting for work on a cost-reimbursal basis. Responsibility for EM contracts let by DOE should reside fully within the EM Program. That would ensure closure of the open management loop described above in the Management Structure section. Experience shows that control under one line of management of all aspects of an operating contract for its duration is much more cost-effective than administration of contracts by multiple parallel lines of management. Using performance-based contracts should
require fewer Department of Energy personnel during the operating phase than are now employed.
Prior performance should be a key element in new contract awards.
Issue: EM must create incentives for contractors.
The Department of Energy should become a leader in using incentives to motivate its constituent elements. It should consider the early implementation of the Government Performance and Results Act to emphasize performance metrics focused on outcomes and results.
The internal budgeting process and its administration should be revamped to reward site contractors that complete projects early and well. Where feasible, full funding of projects at their start should be considered as a reward for good performance (rather than basing budgets on estimated expenditures for the next fiscal year). Other examples of incentives may be to allow site contractors to retain at least some of whatever savings they achieve. Also, rewarding high-performing sites with new high-priority projects, rather than reducing funding upon successful completion of a project in a timely and cost-effective fashion, might increase productivity.
Integration of Science and Technology into the EM Program
Science and technology play a key role in virtually all the activities of EM. They help to determine priorities for site cleanup by providing the basis for sound risk assessments, provide the tools for achieving remediation goals, and provide the scientific rationale that reassures stakeholders that the priorities and actions of the Department are in their best interest. It is critical that the management structure of the Department be designed to identify and gain access to available technology in a timely and cost-effective fashion. The subcommittee believes that some specific advice on the management of technology development and the scientific research supporting the EM Program is in order.
For EM problems that lack good solutions, EM needs an effective way to bring its resources to bear by developing technologies. Good solutions must also be affordable relative to budget limits, and cost reduction should be an important criteria in new technology development. EM must also ensure that the technologies that have been developed are used and implemented effectively.
Issue: Scientific research and technology development for the EM Program must be tightly linked to the goals of those engaged in remediation and other waste and environmental management activities.
In the past, managers responsible for addressing unique problems have not had the authority to specify and acquire necessary technology rapidly,
and managers responsible for handling common challenges have not had a forum to share resources and expertise fully. The current effort to remedy those situations through the formation of five “Focus Areas ”—contaminant plume containment and remediation; mixed waste characterization, treatment, and disposal; high-level waste tank remediation; landfill stabilization; and decontamination and decommissioning—to address the most pressing problems is laudable. The focus group structure uses an implementation team for each subject to recommend the allocation of resources and to carry out research and development activities. Each team includes Department field representatives, stakeholders, regulators, and, most important, technology users.
The focus groups or any future organizational entities designed to bring users of science and technology closer to researchers and technology developers should have the ability to influence strongly the allocation of funds for EM research and technology development. That would align the budget more closely to the needs of field managers charged with execution of program activities to ensure that site-specific problems are solved.
Issue: The new Office of Science and Technology (OST) can contribute greatly to the accomplishment of EM goals, as can the DOE's Office of Energy Research (OER).
Basic research might produce novel and cost-effective EM solutions.
The Assistant Secretary for EM should continue to work with the heads of OST and OER to identify technologies and longer-term research for solving EM problems in a holistic fashion. We applaud current efforts of OST to set aside a portion of its R&D budget for the use of OER for exploratory basic research.
Issue: Researchers and technology developers must not only be closely linked with the users of their work, but also be part of an overall systems approach to EM.
Some processes and technologies that might adequately resolve a “crisis of the moment” might make remediation actions in the future far more difficult to implement. For example, in-situ vitrification of wastes could make further waste-reduction efforts more complex, and removal of liquids from buried tanks could make later slurrying of sediments more difficult.
All technical solutions should be evaluated in the light of further action that might be warranted at the site and in the context of a systems approach to the achievement of the Department's overall objectives.
Lessons from Industrial Environmental Management Programs
Progress in environmental management has been achieved by industrial corporations, as well as federal agencies. Some federal agencies are now comparing their processes for achieving environmental goals with those of industry, using, for example, benchmarking. To determine “best practices” and define “conduct of business,” several industrial models were examined at the subcommittee's workshop.
Issue: Best business practices are not always being applied to the EM Program.
The EM Program has identified places where the effectiveness of its efforts could be improved by the use of management practices developed and used in the private sector. The subcommittee applauds that approach, and it is a useful and appropriate course for the Department and the EM Program in general to follow to ensure that science, technology, and engineering are integrated into its goals for protecting human health and the environment. In particular, the Department is beginning to use performance-based contracting and is even considering complete privatization of waste-remediation processes and technologies.
In general, the subcommittee strongly supports these efforts. Fully implement best business practices to achieve substantial cost, schedule, and technologic benefits.
Issue: Industry manages its contracts intensively; the Department seems ambivalent about whether it is a “customer” or a “manager.”
Some of the comments of EM managers who spoke to the subcommittee indicated that the Department must focus on becoming a better customer of services provided by its contractors or other external entities, rather than on managing the process. The belief that there is a choice is probably naive. It is more accurate to say that the EM Program needs to shift its emphasis away from micromanagement and toward negotiation and management of performance-based contracts that hold contractors accountable for their performance, not their process.
The Department should be an informed consumer. Contractors should be selected with assurance that the best people will be assigned, that contacts and line-of-command are clear, and that negotiated prices are fair to the government and to the contractor.
Contracts should be carefully written with milestones that are appropriately selected at key points in the effort, and the Department should be vigilant to ensure that interventions between the milestones are kept to a minimum to prevent cost overruns.
Issue: Some constraints that industry does not face will continue to apply to the government.
The application of private-sector models to public-sector mandates is limited. For instance, if privatization as it is being considered is adopted by EM for portions of the Hanford remediation projects, the financial markets might be unwilling to shift the magnitude of risk involved to the private sector. That could mean that there would be no private-sector bidders to EM to take on the privatized program. If there are no bidders, smaller increments of the task—such as design, construction, or operation—should be put out for bids. Some tasks for privatization might have to be fully government financed or be the recipient of loan guarantees. Furthermore, even if the financial markets are willing to fund these undertakings, the public might challenge the privatized entities' solutions to remediation problems and hamper or stop implementation.
As stated earlier, the Department needs to learn to be a wise contract manager and not micromanage. However, the subcommittee recognizes that the Department will have to continue to take an active position to involve the public and respond to community concerns.
In general, the Department's EM Program should use private-sector models and privatization to meet its objective. However, the models must
be carefully adapted to suit the public-sector mandates. For instance, if privatization is selected by the EM Program to accomplish its goals, the Department must recognize that it might have to supply mechanisms to encourage privatization, for example, guaranteeing in part a stream of revenue or permitting non-DOE customers to use the services of the selected contractor in order to obtain bidders.
The EM Program might have to create mechanisms to be responsive to the public, regardless of contractual relationships. That does not have to lead to micromanagement; it might require clearer performance standards or different contractual terms that do not depend on normal contractual remedies for breach of contract.
Issue: Industry is motivated to have an efficient cleanup operation.
Cleanup operations lie outside industries' core business and are paid for from the profits of that business. Therefore, their programs are designed to be very cost-effective. For example, entire technology strategies have been designed to minimize costs and risks at industrial sites by employing conventional technologies, ex situ processes, in situ processes, and natural restoration. Incentives can be offered to work units that perform effectively and efficiently. It can be argued that the EM Program, principally in its cleanup business, might not have incentives to be out of business quickly and efficiently.
The government should develop a system to reward effective completion of cleanup projects.
Issue: Industry relies on multifunctional teams to manage cleanup projects.
Teams for projects can supplement the normal organizational structure. In industry, input by a multifunctional team—consisting of a technical project leader, a lawyer, a finance manager, a corporate researcher, government relations personnel, and real-estate and construction personnel—starts at the beginning of a project and continues through completion, with the leadership of the team and its composition changing as needs change. Teams, in many industries, are strongly supported by corporate leadership. Teams are usually most effective if there has been training throughout the organization in the operation and use of teams. The Department has been training some teams, but it is not clear at what level they are being used and whether they are multifunctional.
EM should establish and train multifunctional teams for appropriate projects and empower them to manage the cleanup process. Clear lines of authority and responsibility must be established and maintained for effective team operations.
Integration of Science and Technology into the Community-Relations Process
The Department has made public, or stakeholder, involvement a high priority for the EM Program. Indeed, improving relations with people concerned about environmental activities at Department sites is one of Assistant Secretary Grumbly's six goals for the program. The quantity of available information and the opportunities for public involvement have increased substantially in recent years to meet that goal. In addition, the Department of Energy has put increased emphasis on incorporation of public involvement in the duties of program and project managers.
Public involvement is still evolving, and many of the participants —among the Department and its contractors, as well as within concerned and affected communities—continue to learn and adapt to the changes. One activity in which substantial improvements are needed is the integration of scientific and technical information.
Issue: The Department of Energy needs to communicate information more effectively.
Even high-quality scientific and technical information is of only limited value in EM decision-making if it is not understood and accepted by the Department of Energy's stakeholders. That is because the Department operates in a political environment in which citizen support is essential to obtain funding and, in many cases, to avoid costly and protracted litigation or similar consequences. Moreover, the Department's openness policy and
requirements by many environmental laws compel the Department to make the information on which its decisions are based available for public scrutiny.
In many instances, the Department has failed to communicate the scientific and technical basis of important decisions. An example is a 1991 decision to build an incinerator at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. The public documents initially prepared for the facility used outdated information on waste generation at the site and did not thoroughly discuss issues associated with the incineration of off-site waste. Both those failings attracted public concern and had to be re-addressed by the Department.
The reasons for the Department's lack of successful communication are varied. In some instances, the Department did not internally understand the project and so was unable to explain the rationale clearly. In others, the Department had the technical information but lacked the communication channels to work effectively with the public.
In other cases, however, the Department has been more successful—often with substantial assistance from skilled, independent facilitators or technical experts. A frequently praised example is the evaluation of land-use options at the Fernald Site in Ohio. Citizens reviewed levels of contamination, remediation alternatives, and other factors and came to agreement with the Department about remediation goals. Another example is the storage of special nuclear materials at the Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site in Colorado; the Department at first assumed that citizens would object to a new facility but, after describing the technical issues, discovered that citizens were open to the idea.
The Department of Energy should improve its own abilities, and those of its contractors, to communicate scientific and technical information. The various community-relations personnel in the Department system, as well as program and project managers, need the tools to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and their understanding of program-wide and complex-wide issues needs to be sufficient to ensure that they can discuss matters beyond their immediate concern or expertise.
The Department of Energy should also make better use of outside resources in communicating scientific and technical information. That can include working with independent professionals. Another component of the effort can be providing funds to concerned community groups so that they can develop their own technical understanding and expertise. Indeed, the Department has already provided some such grants. It should, however, further define the selection and performance criteria for the awards. The experience of other federal agencies might be helpful in this regard.
Issue: It is important to meld public concerns and scientific and technical information into decision-making.
Many of the decisions faced by the EM Program cannot be made strictly within a box created by scientific and technical information. Practical factors compel consideration of cost and other resource limitations (including sometimes those of regulatory agencies). Political factors that influence decisions include socioeconomic impacts, cultural demands, such policy issues as nonproliferation, and public concerns.
A decision that is not supported by sound scientific and technical understanding might not succeed or might result in unnecessary costs or risks. The challenge for EM managers is to bring together a variety of factors into a well-balanced, implementable decision. That is inherently a dynamic process in which the elements of individual decisions will vary with the nature of the activity (which can range from groundwater remediation to nuclear-material stabilization) and with local concerns.
The Department of Energy should seek to improve understanding and communication of the role of scientific and technical information relative to other factors in its decision-making. It should identify the role of public participation in the decision-making process. To be useful, public participation should be designed to address well-defined issues, occur early enough to influence outcomes, and have clear mechanisms for considering and responding to public comments.