Department of Interior

Recommendations and Actions

DOI09: Establish a System of Personnel Exchanges in DOI


Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt has identified as a major priority the need to develop cooperative approaches to departmental issues within the Department of the Interior (DOI). Many of the emerging issues in the department, including ecosystem management and science-based management, will require coordinated departmentwide policies. A system of in-house contracts and personnel exchanges across bureau boundaries offers a novel approach to accomplish these goals.

DOI has a very rigid organizational structure consisting of 10 bureaus with separate missions and strong internal cultures. The bureau structure, which was designed to execute large, long-term programs, has become static and slow to adapt to changing mission requirements. Talented employees with skills which would be applicable to emerging priorities are not being effectively used within the department. The current system often results in poor allocation of human resources and low employee morale.

DOI's rigid bureau structure inhibits effective approaches to cross-cutting problems. For instance, the department is currently addressing the problems of acid mine drainage in the eastern United States and metallic contaminants from mines in the western United States. The Bureau of Mines has world-class inorganic chemists on its staff who could apply their expertise to these and other environmental problems. However, they are limited by bureaucratic obstacles.

One way to address bureaucratic barriers is with a top-down approach, such as creation of a new bureau. In contrast, a bottom-up approach involving employees at the grassroots level may be more effective. In- house contracts and personnel exchanges would provide incentives for innovation, encourage employee movement, and foster competition across the department. A system of in-house contracts would allow individuals to work as consultants on specialized problems within the department. A program of personnel exchanges would involve temporary assignments of employees between bureaus.

DOI's field offices are geographically dispersed and employees are often unaware of the activities of other bureaus. To successfully implement a policy of employee movement and flexibility, an improvement in DOI's internal communication system will be necessary. The department needs to develop an internal communication system that informs employees of opportunities and needs across the department.


1. DOI should implement a system of in-house contracts in early 1994. The in-house contracts should assign individuals with special skills to work as consultants to other bureaus.

Participation on an in-house contract should usually be on a full-time basis for a specified length of time (one to six months). The program should have a target participation rate of 2 to 5 percent per year of each bureau's total permanent work force. The following steps are recommended to implement an in- house contract program:

--Designate a mobility coordinator at the departmental level to implement a system for inter- bureau sharing of human resources. The mobility coordinator should develop a brief format for advertising positions and a similarly brief format for employees to apply for these positions. An Intra- Departmental Personnel Agreement form, modeled after the Office of Personnel Management Form OF-69, should be developed to document the specific terms of each approved in-house contract.

--Each bureau should designate an in-house contract coordinator (preferably a line or program manager) who should have program responsibility for monitoring compliance, program quality, and effectiveness. Specifically, the coordinator would provide oversight of project proposals, further define the statement of work, and clarify the skills needed for special projects to be carried out through the program. Each bureau should submit an annual compliance report to the Secretary of Interior.

--The in-house contract program should operate under a matrix-management concept. Employees would remain under their traditional line organization configurations; however, employees would be under the technical and administrative supervision of the project manager for the duration of the contract. Project managers should generate contract positions, review applications, and make tentative selections of participants for particular contracts.

2. DOI should implement a system of temporary inter- bureau details and personnel exchanges in early 1994.

General participation in a detail/exchange effort should not be limited to upper-management levels, but should include all specialties, job series, and grade levels. This program would encourage cooperation across bureau boundaries and broaden opportunities for employee training and development. The detail/exchange program should include the following elements:

--A mandatory program of developmental assignments of six to eight weeks duration should be included in all management and supervisory development programs. The required developmental assignments should be included as part of an approved individual development plan as described in Personnel Management Letter No. 93-8 (410).

--A voluntary program of details/exchanges of one to six months duration should be established for all non-management staff and technical positions. The program should have a target participation rate of 5 percent annually of each bureau's total permanent work force. Each bureau should designate an exchange coordinator who will have program responsibility for monitoring compliance, program quality, and effectiveness. The departmental mobility coordinator should assist the bureaus in implementing the program. Each bureau should submit an annual compliance report to the Secretary of the Interior.

3. DOI should facilitate personnel exchanges and inter-bureau cooperation through an improved internal communication system.

In-house contracting opportunities and detail/exchange opportunities should be advertised and promoted actively throughout the department. The system should include the following elements:

--Computer bulletin boards and local area network systems which are currently under development will provide a cost-effective means of distributing project bulletins and detail/exchange information.

--One departmentwide newsletter will replace the existing 10 separate bureau newsletters. This will improve the lines of communication and provide information to employees about other bureau activities.

--DOI's Automated Vacancy Announcement Distribution System (AVADS) will create and distribute project opportunity bulletins.


The recommendations have several implications for the work force and work environment at DOI. The voluntary nature of these programs will naturally attract motivated or higher-level employees within the department. Limited resources, especially for travel and per diem, would focus mobility within geographic areas (e.g., within Denver offices of different bureaus). In addition, the bottom-up approach of creating assignments would emphasize temporary, individual, mission-oriented tasks.

Under the system of in-house contracts and details/exchanges described above, the department would have at least 4,900 employees serving, learning, and contributing to different bureaus each year. Over a five-year period, the program would result in 35-50 percent of DOI employees benefitting this experience.

Through better use of electronic mail, a consolidated newsletter, and AVADS, DOI could distribute information about personnel details and contracting opportunities and improve communication across bureau boundaries.


This program would be budget-neutral. The in-house contract coordinators and exchange coordinators would assume project functions as an additional duty. No additional positions, space, supplies, or equipment would be required. Travel and per diem expenses can be minimized by encouraging details/exchanges and contracts within common geographic areas. Expenses would be the responsibility of the bureau sponsoring the project and would be handled like a reimbursable detail. The accounting and reporting can be accommodated within current systems. Replacing the 10 bureau newsletters with a single departmental newsletter would result in modest savings.

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