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Statement of Patricia W. Lattimore Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management / Chief Information Officer



Before the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education
Committee on Appropriations
United States House of Representatives
March 28, 2000


Mr. Chairman, distinguished members of the Subcommittee:

Thank you for the opportunity to meet with you today, along with my esteemed colleagues from the Social Security Administration and the Departments of Health and Human Services and Education, and the Railroad Retirement Board, to focus on the Department of Labor's (DOL's) management accomplishments, issues and plans.

We have made great strides during the past year in unifying the Department with the clear objectives of delivering services of the highest quality to meet the needs of America's workers, retirees and their families, while continuing to improve our productivity and our stewardship over the resources provided to us.

Overview

A primary catalyst in the Department's efforts toward rejuvenating our management practices is the framework established by the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA). The Results Act spurred the Department to examine our core purpose and mission in the Nation's rapidly changing economy and labor environment, uniting the energies of our agencies and programs around the Secretary's three strategic goals - a prepared workforce, a secure workforce and quality workplaces. To clearly focus the Department on managing for maximum program results and to monitor our on-going progress in reaching our strategic goals, we have introduced and continue to strengthen new management processes. The effectiveness of these management processes is evidenced by the accomplishment of 73 percent of our GPRA performance goals for FY 1999, and the advances the Department has made in further implementing the Results Act.

Two of the strategic goals that guide the Department's services to our external constituents -- a secure workforce and quality workplaces -- form the foundation of our internal management initiatives, in conjunction with the cross-cutting management goals that support all of the Department's endeavors. For example, the life-long learning initiatives we have introduced enhance career opportunities and workforce security for DOL employees as their responsibilities demand increasing technical skills and current knowledge in a variety of fields. Our human resources strategies, including our employee friendly programs, diversity initiatives, and safety and health programs, are directed towards achieving a quality DOL workplace which will enable us to continue to recruit and retain a highly talented and motivated workforce. Among our cross-cutting management goals, we are devoting particular attention to establishing a modern information technology infrastructure, consistent with the principles of the Clinger-Cohen Act, to increase efficiency and productivity, strengthen the security features protecting our critical computer assets, improve the quality of services to internal customers, and enhance the usefulness of electronic information about DOL programs and services available to the Department's key constituents.

While the Department has built a strong management foundation and framework for achieving our strategic goals on behalf of our key constituents and our internal DOL customers, and the past year has been marked by noteworthy achievements, we also recognize that the year ahead will hold continuing challenges.

Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA)

The Department adopted the strategic management and results oriented focus of the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) as a dynamic, core approach to ensuring that our constituents receive program services of the highest quality at the most efficient cost. During the past year, we have made substantial progress, but full implementation of GPRA continues to present challenges to the Department with its diverse agencies, partners and constituents. The formulation of the Department's three strategic goals - a prepared workforce, a secure workforce and quality workplaces - which cut across traditional program lines has provided a unifying focus for our strategic, results oriented, management efforts.

Consistent with GPRA's framework of establishing a strategic or long-range plan to formulate a vision for the future and the path to accomplish that vision, the Department prepared and submitted an initial Departmental Strategic Plan for FYs 1997 through 2002. This Strategic Plan has been revised and updated, with the draft Strategic Plan for FYs 1999 through 2004 representing our most refined presentation of the Department's key service commitments to our constituents. GPRA's strategic planning requirements have served as the impetus for reexamining the Department's mission in the twenty-first century, and uniting our agencies, service partners and stakeholders around our (redefined) vision and strategic goals.

The Departmental and agencies' Annual Performance Plans, which identify the performance goals to be undertaken in support of the Department's five-year strategic goals, have improved significantly as the Department has gained experience in planning and managing more effectively for results. The FY 2000 and FY 2001 Annual Performance Plans reflect the Department's appreciation that improving the outcome orientation of our performance goals is vital to meaningful progress in accomplishing DOL's strategic objectives. Working in close collaboration with the Office of Inspector General (OIG), the Department reassessed the 42 performance goals in the draft FY 2000 plan, and revised 28 (66 percent) of these goals to better direct the Department's resources toward the accomplishment of quantifiable outcomes in our core programs and services. Working with the Congress, the General Accounting Office, and the Office of Management and Budget has assisted the Department in improving the Annual Performance Plans, as we have incorporated better measures for gauging performance.

The FY 1999 Annual Report, which will be submitted to Congress later this week, demonstrates that the Department, in its first full year of performance under GPRA, built a solid foundation for managing for program results. As a basis for assessing the Department's effectiveness in providing core services to our constituents, 48 key performance goals were selected from over 200 goals included in DOL agencies' performance plans to form the Departmental FY 1999 Annual Performance Plan. By the end of the fiscal year, the Department had exceeded or fully achieved 35, or 73 percent, of these goals. Achievement levels varied during this initial year of GPRA implementation, ranging from a high of 93 percent of our secure workforce goals, to 50 percent of the performance goals related to promoting a prepared workforce. In addition to the Department's core program missions, several goals are directed toward improving the effectiveness of essential, cross-cutting management services. The Department achieved 88 percent of these management goals, by providing more effective and efficient financial management, information technology and human resource services to support the delivery of DOL programs.

Coordination of the Department's strategic management efforts has been strengthened by the establishment of a dedicated GPRA staff and an inter-agency working group which meet regularly throughout the year to facilitate GPRA implementation. The Department has initiated systems to ensure routine assessment of progress against our performance goals, and the Acting Deputy Secretary and agency executives jointly review performance results several times each year.

While the Department has made substantial progress in implementing GPRA, many challenges remain. The availability of reliable data to assess the accomplishment of key performance goals in a timely manner is a continuing concern for the Department and its program partners, and several initiatives are in progress to improve the quality of performance information. For example, the Department has recently published proposed regulations requiring quarterly reporting of program results by States and other job training grantees. Improving our goals and performance measures will help position the Department to establish linkages between budget requests, program results and costs.

A Secure Workforce

As the abilities required to retain workers' current positions and the competencies expected for career advancement change rapidly in today's labor market, acquiring new skills and knowledge throughout an employee's work life is an increasingly important element in job security. The Department's strategic and performance plans for the Nation's workers recognize the importance of continually upgrading skills to prevent job displacements, and we are applying these principles internally with a vital, multi-faceted initiative to upgrade our employees' existing skills, expand their opportunities for the future, and ensure superior service for our constituents.

Lifelong Learning

Foremost in our efforts to make DOL a model workplace is the Secretary's initiative of lifelong learning opportunities for all of our employees. Through this important initiative, our employees will be able to keep current the knowledge and skills required to effectively perform their jobs, prepare for the changing nature of their work in the future, and expand opportunities for advancement. The Department's three-pronged approach targets essential skills, job-based competencies, and career development opportunities.

We launched web-based training to provide employees the opportunity to improve their technological skills and commonly needed job-based competencies. Over 250 courses are available to our employees twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Our employees are accessing courses that range from basic word processing to advanced level software training and systems programming. In addition, we are addressing the essential skills needs of our employees to assure that they possess college level reading, writing, mathematics and problem-solving in addition to other requisite job-based competencies. This web-based training complements on-site classroom training and the multitude of ways in which training is being delivered such as self-studies, desk aids and learning labs so that the training will be accessible to employees regardless of their geographic location. Headquarters and regional office employees are using the service to assist them in pursuing a wide array of degree programs ranging from Associates to post-graduate degrees.

Our employees have been extremely receptive to this multifaceted approach of using web-based training, classroom training and other delivery methods for training as well as increased career development programs, career and academic counseling services and access to colleges and universities. We have seen a significant increase in usage of the services and employee feedback has been very positive, especially from regional and remote locations where employees have lauded our efforts for reaching out to them.

To further grow the organization for the future, we have launched a Management Development Program and a Departmental Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Program. In addition to sound human resource management planning, these efforts also provide our employees with increased career growth opportunities.

Quality Workplaces

The Department has a clear responsibility to model the goals and values we espouse to our Nation's employers, and we have initiated a wide array of programs to provide DOL employees with high-quality workplace environments. I appreciate this opportunity to focus on a few of these initiatives which enable the Department to recruit and retain a highly-skilled and diverse workforce.

Balancing Work and Family

The Department continues to enhance its commitment to becoming a model workplace by offering a full menu of "employee-friendly" programs and services. There are 13 different programs available to federal employees that meet the Office of Personnel Management's criteria of "employee-friendly" programs and DOL offers all 13. A very well received one, since its inception last year, is the Dependent Care Connection resource and referral services. All employees have access, either through a toll-free number or through LaborNet, the Department's intranet, to services and tools geared to helping employees manage their family life in areas such as prenatal planning, adoption, child care, and adult dependent care. We also continue to offer other workplace flexibilities such as flexitime, flexi-place, part-time and job-sharing programs, as well as the widely used Leave Transfer and Leave Bank Programs. Our employees can further benefit from fare subsidies, on-site child care and fitness centers, and from Employee Express, a service by which employees can secure immediate telephone or web-based access to their own human resource information.

The Department's Worklife Center serves as a "One Stop" source of information for all the family-friendly programs available. The Center uses the LaborNet as one of the means by which to disseminate and market these services. In addition, the LaborNet has proven to be an effective tool for keeping our employees fully informed, regardless of their location, by daily updates of Secretarial initiatives, policy issuances, and current events.

Our plan is to continue providing family-friendly programs and services for the DOL workforce, as we recognize the importance of these measures for the Department to be competitive in recruiting and retaining a highly skilled, diverse workforce.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

In support of the our goal to promote and establish the Department as a quality workplace, we plan to expand the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution to solve internal workplace concerns. This program allows the Department to utilize external neutral mediators for those matters now resolved through use of the formal grievance procedures, adversarial third-party arbitrations, or unfair labor practice procedures before the Federal Labor Relations Authority.

Assistive Devices

The Department continues to focus on increasing the representation of people with disabilities within the DOL employment pool. In so doing, we must assure that we that we achieve a barrier--free environment for people with disabilities by providing services and support so that these employees are able to fully participate and contribute to the DOL mission, and have access to training and professional development on an equal footing with other DOL employees.

The Departments's Central Office for Assistive Services and Technology (COAST) serves the needs of individuals with disabilities. Our managers, employees and applicants receive services and technical support regarding access and reasonable accommodation issues at this "One Stop Shop." Employees in the national office as well as in the field have access to the services and technical expertise of the COAST staff.

During FY 2001, DOL plans to centrally procure commonly-used assistive devices and circulate this equipment throughout the Department to meet the needs of disabled employees so that the financial burden does not fall on any one agency and the equipment is available for redistribution in the event the employee leaves DOL. The initiative will allow DOL to meet the ever increasing demands for interpreter services and reader assistance, as well as convert necessary materials into alternative formats such as braille and audio tapes. Finally, we will provide technical assistance to managers on best strategies to accommodate the needs of disabled employees and work with the disabled community to develop training initiatives and programs to continue to sensitize the DOL workforce to disability related issues.

Safety and Health

The Department continues its commitment to assuring safe and healthful workplaces for DOL employees and Job Corps students and to reducing the human costs associated with workplace injuries and illnesses when they occur. This is accomplished through an integrated nationwide program consisting of a safety and health program, a workers' compensation program, and an employee health and wellness program.

During FY 1999, we completed safety and health program evaluations at every Job Corps Center, and from this information base, we fashioned a program of targeted reviews and technical assistance to improve the safety and health environment in which Corps members work and learn. Through implementation of the Secretary's safety and health initiative and an aggressive return-to-work effort, DOL realized a reduction in workers' compensation costs of 3 percent or $560 thousand. These declining trends in workers' compensation costs and accident and injuries have continued into FY 2000. The first quarter FY 2000 data indicates that DOL has experienced 43 lost-time accidents compared to an average of 57 per quarter during FY 1999. Similarly, off-duty hours required by DOL employees to recover from workplace injuries and illnesses decreased by over 3,000 hours. We will continue to offer a nationwide program to promote and maintain the health and fitness of DOL employees to reduce the rate of lost production days due to workplace injuries.

The Department's preeminence in the field of safety and health across the Federal sector has been recognized and extended by the selection of the Secretary to serve as the Administration-wide Chairperson of the Presidential Initiative, Federal Worker 2000. This initiative has established goals for all Federal agencies to reduce injuries, speed reports of injuries, and lower the average number of lost production days.

Civil Rights

Our responsibilities to ensure quality workplaces also extend beyond the perimeters of the Department to supporting compliance with civil rights laws to protect those who are employed by or participate in DOL funded programs. During the past year, the Department has issued the interim final regulations which establish the necessary framework required to implement the nondiscrimination provisions of section 188 of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). We have also conducted training throughout the country to educate grant recipients on their responsibilities relative to the nondiscrimination provisions of the WIA, with a particular emphasis on equal access to benefits and services for persons with disabilities. In FY 2000, the Department's compliance reviews will focus on the accessibility of One-Stop centers under WIA and the admissions and placement policy of the Job Corps program, both of which support the President's initiatives to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

Management Goals

To sustain the Department's focus on key initiatives to strengthen protection over our assets, increase productivity and enhance service to internal customers and DOL constituents, we established several cross-cutting management goals. In FY 1999, the Department exceeded or fully achieved 88 percent of these management goals. Of particular importance to the Department are financial and information technology management, and I am pleased to describe our successes and plans for further improvements in these areas.

Financial Management

The Department is pleased to report that the Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued an unqualified opinion on the Department's FY 1999 Consolidated Financial Statements, for the third consecutive year. Furthermore, the OIG concluded that none of the reportable conditions listed in the report was a material weakness. This result represents more than maintaining the status quo. Achievement of this milestone required the coordinated efforts of the Department's program, financial and OIG staffs.

The audit covers the Department's compliance with recent accounting standards issued by the Federal Accounting Standards Board. During FY 2000, work will commence throughout the Department to move toward compliance with the application of the new managerial cost accounting standard. Our goal is to align financial information more closely with program information being reported under the Government Performance and Results Act.

Information Technology (IT)

Year 2000 Conversion

DOL's Year 2000 Conversion project illustrates our approach and our success in managing Information Technology initiatives. We made Year 2000 compliance a top priority at the Department of Labor - and our efforts paid off as we provided uninterrupted services to American workers and their families. The Department and our partners were very successful in managing the Y2K rollover and all of our systems functioned without problems. The few minor "glitches" we experienced were readily addressed by contingency plans, which were developed as part of our Y2K preparations. In addition to successfully meeting the Y2K challenge, we have put that experience to use as we revitalize our systems for the future. For example, we are using the opportunities for improvement identified by our independent Y2K assessments in the Department's documentation practices and management of system changes to institutionalize new practices for effective project management, life cycle and configuration management. These actions provide the guidance each project manager needs to maximize the return from our IT investment projects.

Implementation of Clinger-Cohen

We are continuing to implement and perfect our IT Capital Investment Management program. The key elements are a new IT investment management structure, improved integration with other major management processes, enhanced IT investment criteria, and the benefits of an automated, web-based IT investment management system.

Our investment in IT management and planning paid off last year. We implemented the first phase of our enhanced program, with additional phases scheduled for implementation during FY 2000 and beyond. Through these continuing efforts, we will assure that our IT investments maximize the use of limited resources and promote pragmatic approaches to support our business objectives.

Information Technology Strategic Planning and Initiatives

Last year, we completed a first-of-its-kind IT Strategic Plan to align our resources with the Department's mission, goals, and objectives. The Department will focus its information technology strategic efforts in the areas of Service Delivery, IT Architecture, Standards and Security, and Internal Management.

To implement the plan, twelve specific initiatives were designed and are being managed by the Department's investment review board. Included among these initiatives is the establishment of a unified help desk to provide a single electronic point of entry to expedite service for customers seeking information about any DOL agency or program, and a project to develop the capability for employers and grant applicants to submit regulatory reports or grant applications electronically. Together, these twelve initiatives will ensure the Department acquires, develops, implements, and manages information technologies in a manner that best meets the needs of DOL customers and staff, while demonstrating sound IT investment decision-making.

By laying the foundation for systematically managing our resources, we are now better able to focus on the Department's IT as a whole. The Department's budget request includes $60 million for a proposal to dramatically improve consistency and coordination among all DOL agencies to implement our IT architecture, expand web services, provide common office automation tools and upgrade security for critical infrastructure protection. This funding request represents the Department's first consolidated submission of IT requirements previously incorporated in individual agency budget requests, enabling the Department to make more sound business decisions that ensure the judicious investment of limited resources. Information technology is an enabler for us to work together, share program information seamlessly across organizational boundaries, and importantly, share information in a safe and secure environment in order to provide better service to the public.

Information Technology Architecture

Last year, the Department completed the bulk of activities needed to establish an IT Architecture. IT architecture provides common solutions for achieving optimal communications between and among local area networks, electronic mail, and commercial off-the-shelf applications. The IT architecture will continue to be updated to reflect market changes and incorporate new technologies, as they become available to improve cross-functionality, consistency, standardization, and cost control throughout all information systems in DOL.

Of the $60 million in funding requested for FY 2001, the largest portion, $39 million, is for IT architecture and web services to modernize and enhance DOL's IT infrastructure. These modernization and enhancement efforts will permit the Department to move forward, away from old legacy systems built upon antiquated platforms which limit our ability to adapt to the information needs of our constituents. The targeted IT architecture will provide the integrated infrastructure envisioned in the Clinger-Cohen Act, improve responsiveness to our constituents through upgraded networks, internet and telecommunications capabilities, and reduce the recurring maintenance and operations costs of the current environment.

Office Automation Tools

As we rebuild our infrastructure, we need a standard desktop environment to support the Department's office automation needs. Currently, the Department's agencies rely on a patchwork of solutions, and multiple products and several versions of a given product have been installed. For example, multiple versions of two word processing packages are in use in the Department, restricting employees' ability to efficiently exchange information and collaborate on Department-wide and inter-agency projects and incurring undue support charges. We are requesting $10 million to implement a Common Office Automation Suite which will provide the integrated word processing, spreadsheet, presentation graphics, database, and electronic mail products needed to create an environment where all agencies of the Department can seamlessly communicate internally and with our customers.

Information Systems' Security

Last year the Department began a concerted effort to improve the security controls used to protect our systems and the information contained within. Computer security was also highlighted by the OIG during its annual financial systems audit, expanding on an in-depth audit of security over the Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) sensitive information systems. Both the BLS and the financial systems' audits identified numerous recommendations for improving the Department's overall security posture. Building on the critical need to ensure we have the strongest security environment practical to protect our valuable information resources, we are working in close coordination with OIG to resolve the findings in these reviews and are nearing the completion of all recommended actions.

The results of the Department's aggressive effort over the past year have been reported in three important documents; (1) a Department-wide Cyber Security Program Plan, (2) a Computer Security Handbook, and (3) a Systems Development Life Cycle guide. The first two documents provide the guidance and procedures necessary for the Department to fulfill the federal security requirements, addressing system security planning, vulnerability assessments, contingency planning, and computer security awareness and training. The Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC) guide provides a structured approach to managing information systems projects, beginning with establishing the justification for initiating a development effort and concluding with system retirement.

Included within the overall IT funding proposal, our request of $11 million for Critical Infrastructure Protection is a pressing need. This security initiative will allow us to continue implementation of a coordinated, risk-based Departmental approach to ensuring our infrastructure, systems, and cyber-based information resources are protected. One only needs to read the newspaper to recognize the importance of this issue - and security issues seem to grow more important everyday.

CONCLUSION

Guided by our strategic goals of attaining a secure workforce and a quality workplace, the Department of Labor has established a solid management infrastructure, with a proven record of success in delivering results for our constituents. We will build with confidence on this foundation to meet the challenges of the future, to continue to improve the effectiveness of the Department's programs and services for America's workers, retirees and their families.

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared statement. I thank the subcommittee for the opportunity to discuss the Department's accomplishments and management initiatives.


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