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Reassignment of Senior Executives at the U.S. Department of the Interior

Report Information

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External Entity

We reviewed the process the DOI’s Executive Resources Board (ERB) used to reassign senior executives to determine whether the ERB complied with Federal legal requirements and U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) guidance. Although the Deputy Solicitor expressed his belief that the process met all legal requirements, absent documentation, we could not independently determine whether or not the ERB complied with the Federal legal requirements governing the administration of the Senior Executive Service (SES). In addition, we found that the ERB did not follow OPM’s guidance for organizing and operating an ERB.

The ERB—which was established to oversee the management of SES resources, to include position establishment, performance appraisals, executive development, and reassignments—reassigned 27 of its approximately 227 members of the SES between June 15, 2017, and October 29, 2017. We found that the ERB did not document its plan for selecting senior executives for reassignment, nor did it consistently apply the reasons it stated it used to select senior executives for reassignment. We also found that the ERB did not gather the information needed to make informed decisions about the reassignments, nor did it effectively communicate with the SES members or with most managers affected by the reassignments.

As a result, many of the affected senior executives questioned whether these reassignments were political or punitive, based on a prior conflict with DOI leadership, or on the senior executive’s nearness to retirement. Many executives speculated that multiple reasons applied or believed their reassignment may have been related to their prior work assignments, including climate change, energy, or conservation.

We made four recommendations that, if implemented, will improve the process for future reassignments. The Deputy Secretary concurred with all four recommendations. We considered one recommendation resolved and implemented, and three recommendations resolved but not implemented. We requested that the Deputy Secretary provide specific information to the Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget to track resolution and implementation.

Joint Report
Agency Wide