Reinventing the Bureau of Reclamation

Stephen Magnussen

Bureau of Reclamation

The Bureau's Historical Mission

I am glad for the opportunity to tell you a little about the re-invention of the Bureau of Reclamation. We are very proud of our internally generated effort, which has been carried out over the last few years.

In 1902, Congress passed the Reclamation Act to bring water to the and West and to facilitate settlement of the western states. The Bureau of Reclamation was created and structured as a civil works construction agency, and built such magnificent projects as the Hoover Dam, Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River, which has recently been in the news, Shasta Dam on the Sacramento River, and Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River.

Today the bureau is the largest wholesaler of water supply utility in the nation and the sixth largest electric power generator. We supply water to 40 million people and 240,000 farms in the 17 western states. We have a budget of $836 million and 6,200 employees.

While we had a glorious past, the dam-building era is over, and a new mission had to be adopted. In early 1993, in keeping with the recommendations of the National Performance Review, the President, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, and former Bureau Commissioner Daniel Beard made public their commitment to transform the bureau from a civil works agency with a primary focus on dam construction, to a leading water



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--> Reinventing the Bureau of Reclamation Stephen Magnussen Bureau of Reclamation The Bureau's Historical Mission I am glad for the opportunity to tell you a little about the re-invention of the Bureau of Reclamation. We are very proud of our internally generated effort, which has been carried out over the last few years. In 1902, Congress passed the Reclamation Act to bring water to the and West and to facilitate settlement of the western states. The Bureau of Reclamation was created and structured as a civil works construction agency, and built such magnificent projects as the Hoover Dam, Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River, which has recently been in the news, Shasta Dam on the Sacramento River, and Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River. Today the bureau is the largest wholesaler of water supply utility in the nation and the sixth largest electric power generator. We supply water to 40 million people and 240,000 farms in the 17 western states. We have a budget of $836 million and 6,200 employees. While we had a glorious past, the dam-building era is over, and a new mission had to be adopted. In early 1993, in keeping with the recommendations of the National Performance Review, the President, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, and former Bureau Commissioner Daniel Beard made public their commitment to transform the bureau from a civil works agency with a primary focus on dam construction, to a leading water

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--> resource management agency. Implementation of the bureau's new structure was authorized by Secretary Babbitt's order in April 1994. New Bureau Directions The new program emphasis is being placed on water conservation and reuse, environmental protection and restoration, expansion of the customer base beyond agricultural interests to include rural and urban water users, Native American tribes, and environmental and recreational communities. Our new mission is to manage, develop, and protect water and related resources in an environmentally and economically sound manner in the interests of the American public. The Bureau of Reclamation has moved quickly in reinventing itself. Its progress led to the receipt of the Vice President's Hammer Award in 1994, the Innovations in American Government Award, and a $100,000 grant from the Ford Foundation and John F. Kennedy School of Government in late 1995. The first of our nationwide reinvention conferences was held in Sacramento in May 1996. We will be talking to a number of private and public agencies about our reinvention efforts, in the hope our experiences might be of help. Two additional conferences will be held, in Denver and San Antonio the summer and fall of 1996. Success Factors in Agency Reengineering Five critical elements allowed us to transform our mission, reengineer our processes, streamline the organization, and improve efficiency within an 18-month period. They were: forceful leadership and a direction clearly articulated by the organization's head legitimate and responsible participation of all employees a strong focus on benefits for the organization's customers a commitment to implementing a mission consistent with contemporary values, and encouraging innovation and challenging fears of risk taking.

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--> In May 1993, former Commissioner Beard informed all employees of the appointment of seven employees from various disciplines, grade levels, and geographic distribution, to study and recommend within 90 days what actions needed to be taken to successfully complete the transition to a water resource management agency. This group was named the Commissioner's Program and Organization Review Team (CPORT). The Commissioner also informed employees that no actions would be taken before they all could review and comment on CPORT's findings and recommendations. CPORT adopted a charter and requested early input from all employees. The team's work was conducted independently from management. With the help of teams and individual interviews CPORT: reviewed all programmatic and organizational documents; examined the bureau's activities for consistency with the new organizational goals; examined its business processes and organizational relationships; and made recommendations on how the organization could eliminate inefficiencies and otherwise improve. In August 1993, the CPORT report was distributed to all employees, who returned roughly 1,000 written comments and recommendations. Numerous employee meetings were held in the field with the Commissioner or other management officials, to verify that employee input was reflected accurately in the final agency response to the CPORT report. In August and September of 1993, a manager's conference formulated implementation strategies and assigned another team to draft the final strategic plan. In November 1993, the "blueprint for reform," including total restructuring of the organization, was issued. Subsequently, specific implementation plans were developed for Denver, Washington, and regional organizations; they were adopted by the Secretary's order in April 1994. The Positive Results I will describe only a few of the significant results. Corporate headquarters in Denver previously had 2,000 employees. This force has

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--> been reduced by 400 positions. Headquarters has been restructured as a customer-based technical and administrative service center. The technical center is managed by a board of directors made up of regional area office and Washington office staff, that is, by their customers. Project offices, which once numbered 35 and were responsible for construction, operation, and maintenance for a small number of water projects, have been reduced to 26 redesigned regional area offices; each is now responsible for water resource issues within its geographical area. Area managers have been delegated authorities formerly held by the headquarters staff in Denver and have been encouraged to innovate. They were even issued two "forgiveness coupons" by the Commissioner, to inspire greater risk taking—a necessary strategy for improvements to occur. Management layers have been reduced from five to three, and the ratio of supervisors to employees has increased threefold, from 1:5 to 1:15. In some areas, employees were working on self-directed teams. The number of senior executive positions was reduced from 23 to 18. The Commissioner's office provides corporate leadership, policy direction, and program and budget support. But it has been flattened by abolishing two Deputy Commissioner positions and five Assistant Commissioner positions, replacing them with three directors. In October 1993, we had almost 8,000 employees. Now we are at about 6,200, and projected to be under 6,000 by the end of this fiscal year, a 25 percent total reduction. This has all been accomplished through buy-outs, hiring freezes, and some reductions in force. Streamlining and reengineering the organization, the bureau's budget has been reduced by $100 million. The total budget was cut 12 percent over the last 2 years; it is expected to decline further, for a 25 percent total reduction. The decision and review processes for the design of project components have been reduced from 3 years to 6 months, and from roughly 20 review steps to only 8—in large part by simply eliminating layers of management. Funding approvals have also been reduced, from 15 levels of review over 6 months, to 5 levels over 1 week, allowing much faster response to our customers. The levels of review for dam safety checks were reduced from 28 to 8, and evaluation time has been cut from 5 to 2 years. Commissioner Elvid Martinez, who was confirmed in December 1995, has initiated an independent review of our dam safety program; a number of our dams are

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--> aging (40 percent are more than 50 years old), and the health and safety of these facilities should be ensured, while improving our processes. We have also established an enterprise fund, to allow area managers to use a certain amount of savings in special programs, such as those on the environment. The savings will be shared with customers, through reductions in unit costs, and with the taxpayer, who will finance a much lower congressional appropriation. Commissioner Martinez, a former state engineer from New Mexico, has been maintaining the reinvention momentum through other initiatives. In March 1996, he held an informal and open meeting on the bureau's mission and on successes and problems observed. The resulting report is now out for comment. The philosophy—and practice—is to reexamine our goals and performance continually. Commissioner Martinez is also overseeing the bureau's Power Management Laboratory, to benchmark our power facilities against the industry. We are currently pursuing a transfer of title for some of our structures and facilities that are no longer just of national interest. We executed a transfer of title of our Rio Grande project in New Mexico to the Elephant Butte Irrigation District in the El Paso County Water Improvement District just this past February. Another success has been in working better with our external, as well as our internal, customers. In early April 1996 we reoperated Glen Canyon Dam to create a flood in the Grand Canyon for ecological purposes. It was a very successful demonstration project. It also showed that we can broaden our customer base and help large numbers of stakeholders work together. I must admit we also enjoyed the very favorable press we received, given the criticism we have sometimes received. I hope we can have many more such successful experiences. Our goal, so often repeated, is to have a smarter, more efficient organization. Much remains to be done, including further realignment of functions and processes, retraining of our employees, and transformation of our institutional culture. With the enthusiasm and creativity of our employees, we look forward to an interesting and successful future at the Bureau of Reclamation.