Environmental Protection Agency: Actions Needed to Improve Planning, Coordination, and Leadership of EPA Laboratories

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Testimony issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "This testimony discusses the research and development activities of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the findings of our recent report on the agency's laboratory enterprise. EPA was established in 1970 to consolidate a variety of federal research, monitoring, standard-setting, and enforcement activities into one agency for ensuring the joint protection of environmental quality and human health. Scientific research, knowledge, and technical information are fundamental to EPA's mission and inform its standard-setting, regulatory, compliance, and enforcement functions. The agency's scientific performance is particularly important as complex environmental issues ... continued below

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United States. Government Accountability Office. November 17, 2011.

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Testimony issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "This testimony discusses the research and development activities of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the findings of our recent report on the agency's laboratory enterprise. EPA was established in 1970 to consolidate a variety of federal research, monitoring, standard-setting, and enforcement activities into one agency for ensuring the joint protection of environmental quality and human health. Scientific research, knowledge, and technical information are fundamental to EPA's mission and inform its standard-setting, regulatory, compliance, and enforcement functions. The agency's scientific performance is particularly important as complex environmental issues emerge and evolve, and controversy continues to surround many of the agency's areas of responsibility. Unlike other primarily science-focused federal agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health or the National Science Foundation, EPA's scientific research, technical support, and analytical services underpin the policies and regulations the agency implements. Therefore, the agency operates its own laboratory enterprise. This enterprise is made up of 37 laboratories that are housed in about 170 buildings and facilities located in 30 cities across the nation. Specifically, EPA's Office of Research and Development (ORD) operates 18 laboratories with primary responsibility for research and development. Four of EPA's five national program offices operate nine laboratories with primary responsibility for supporting regulatory implementation, compliance, enforcement, and emergency response. Each of EPA's 10 regional offices operates a laboratory with responsibilities for a variety of applied sciences; analytical services; technical support to federal, state, and local laboratories; monitoring; compliance and enforcement; and emergency response. Over the past 20 years, independent evaluations by the National Research Council and others have addressed planning, coordination, or leadership issues associated with EPA's science activities. The scope of these evaluations varied, but collectively they recognized the need for EPA to improve long-term planning, priority setting, and coordination of laboratory activities; establish leadership for agencywide scientific oversight and decision making; and better manage the laboratories' workforce and infrastructure. When it was established in 1970, EPA inherited 42 laboratories from programs in various federal departments. According to EPA's historian, EPA closed or consolidated some laboratories it inherited and created additional laboratories to support its mission. Nevertheless, EPA's historian reported that the location of most of EPA's present laboratories is largely the same as the location of its original laboratories in part because of political objections to closing facilities and conflicting organizational philosophies, such as operating centralized laboratories for efficiency versus operating decentralized laboratories for flexibility and responsiveness. Other federal agencies face similar challenges with excess and underused property. Because of these challenges, GAO has designated federal real property as an area of high risk. This statement summarizes the findings of our report issued in July of this year that examines the extent to which EPA (1) has addressed the findings of independent evaluations performed by the National Research Council and others regarding long-term planning, coordination, and leadership issues; (2) uses an agencywide, coordinated approach for managing its laboratory physical infrastructure; and (3) uses a comprehensive planning process to manage its laboratory workforce."

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Government Accountability Office Reports

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for the U.S. Congress investigating how the federal government spends taxpayers' money. Its goal is to increase accountability and improve the performance of the federal government. The Government Accountability Office Reports Collection consists of over 13,000 documents on a variety of topics ranging from fiscal issues to international affairs.

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  • November 17, 2011

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  • June 12, 2014, 7:50 p.m.

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United States. Government Accountability Office. Environmental Protection Agency: Actions Needed to Improve Planning, Coordination, and Leadership of EPA Laboratories, text, November 17, 2011; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc298159/: accessed August 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.