Requirements for the Twenty-first Century
Reclamation’s facility and infrastructure requirements derive from its mission. The bureau presents its mission in two ways. The first, “Delivering water and generating power, and whatever it takes to do these,” was relayed to the committee at briefings and meetings. The second, as posted on Reclamation’s Web site is this: “The Bureau of Reclamation manages, develops and protects water and related resources in an environmentally and economically sound manner in the interest of the American public” (USBR, 2005a). The first characterization focuses on the bureau’s output and seems to be oriented to breaking through the barriers to delivering water and generating power. This statement of mission would have been applicable in the twentieth century, when the barriers were mountains and river valleys and the problem was how to build big dams that were safe, effective, and efficient. The second version recognizes the twenty-first century tasks and processes that the bureau needs to engage in to accomplish its desired outcomes, which are quite different than they were in Reclamation’s earlier years. Delivering water and power today includes negotiating American Indian water rights, working with environmental groups to agree on reasonable ways to protect the environment and endangered species, and finding ways to promote water conservation. The second mission statement better portrays what Reclamation actually does.
A Web-based orientation to the Department of the Interior presents Reclamation’s evolving mission as the following (DOI, 2005):
Reclamation’s evolving mission places greater emphasis on water conservation, recycling, and reuse; developing partnerships with our customers, states, and tribes; finding ways to bring competing interests together to address everyone’s needs; transferring title and operation of some facilities to local beneficiaries who might more efficiently operate them and achieving a higher level of responsibility to the taxpayer.
This statement does not, however, elaborate the role that Reclamation plays in water conservation, developing partnerships, managing assets, and so forth. As the statement suggests, the role is evolving, and changes in asset management processes, workload, and organization will be needed.
In the twentieth century Reclamation’s goals were about developing facilities and infrastructure and the resources to foster development of the West. Today, its goals are about sustaining its facilities, infrastructure, and resources, as well as responsibly managing the environment. This shift was addressed to some degree in the bureau’s reorganizations in the 1980s and 1990s, and Reclamation continues to adapt to evolving goals and shifting obstacles.
FACILITY AND INFRASTRUCTURE ASSETS
Ownership of Assets
Since the creation of the Bureau of Reclamation in 1902, the organization has designed and constructed a wide variety of physical facilities to manage water resources and generate electric power in 17 western states. Reclamation’s inventory of facilities and infrastructure is large and diverse in both size and type. The inventory is the result of the water and power projects that have been authorized by Congress. Using the number of projects as a measure can be somewhat misleading, because they vary in size and complexity from a single canal distribution system, such as the Avondale Project, near Hayden Lake, Idaho, to large, complex, multifeature projects, such as the Colorado–Big Thompson (CBT) in Colorado, which consists of 17 facilities, including dams, hydroelectric plants, canals, tunnels, and pumping plants. One feature of the CBT, the Horsetooth Dams, is considered to be a single facility but consists of four dams and a dike.
Depending on definitions and counting procedures, Reclamation’s inventory includes about 673 facilities that have been constructed as part of 178 major projects. Included in this inventory are 471 dams and dikes, 58 hydroelectric plants, and more than 300 associated features such as canal systems, pumping plants, pipeline systems, fish protection facilities, diversion and drainage facilities, structures, and buildings (Keys,
2005; USBR, 2000, 2005a). Although difficult to count, the number of facilities currently owned by Reclamation appears to be relatively stable, requiring an effective management strategy and a focus on operations, maintenance, repair, and modernization rather than development.
Reclamation’s objective is to transfer ownership of as many noncritical or low-risk assets as possible to the beneficiaries of the resources. Since 1995, Reclamation has transferred title to 18 projects and parts of projects, and it is finalizing the transfer of 5 more that were authorized for transfer by Congress. Of the 18, four were entire projects (Middle Loup in Nebraska, Palmetto Bend in Texas, and Sly Park and Sugar Pine in California) and the rest were distribution facilities and associated lands. However, it appears that very few additional assets currently owned by the bureau will ever be transferred. The issues of dam safety, security, and reliability of power generation make it difficult to transfer the hydroelectric facilities or the other large dams. In addition, the costs associated with operations and maintenance (O&M) are prohibitive for small irrigation districts, and it is expected that they will continue to resist incurring the responsibilities, liabilities, and costs that would be associated with ownership. Even large, self-sustaining districts like the Central Utah Project see a benefit in continued federal ownership of the facilities. Therefore, unless funding mechanisms are changed, Reclamation will continue to be responsible for many facilities and a large infrastructure for the foreseeable future.
Management of Assets
Reclamation’s assets are managed by 24 area offices organized on a regional basis, with each of the five regional offices having full responsibility for operating and maintaining the assets in its region. In most cases this means that all the assets in a single watershed are operated and maintained by the same regional office. However, two regional offices are responsible for the operation of the facilities in some basins, such as the Colorado River, Canadian River, and Rio Grande River basins, necessitating an additional level of coordination.
The committee discussed the advantages and disadvantages of watershed management and project management. Because Reclamation is one of many organizations, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and state agencies, that have decision-making authority for water use and distribution in the watersheds where Reclamation operates, the committee concluded that it would not be possible for Reclamation to manage its assets strictly on a watershed basis. It would probably be more efficient to have the water managed on a basinwide basis, but the current
set of water laws and diverse management agendas and stakeholder interests pose challenges for such an approach.
Within the regions, the facilities tend to be managed on a portfolio basis, with each project competing with the others in the region for funding and personnel. The main driver for decision making appears to be the budgeting process. In addition, the bureau also oversees O&M activities at facilities where the O&M responsibilities have been transferred to local beneficiary organizations. The committee discussed the possible benefits of additional transfer of O&M responsibilities to users, with proper oversight by Reclamation. In most of these cases, however, it would be difficult to do so, partly because there is no way for Reclamation to help to build an O&M capacity within the user organizations. Such capacity depends on resources and initiative: Organizations that have the will and resources have generally built the capacity and those that do not continue to rely on Reclamation. However, this does not preclude outsourcing O&M activities.
Adaptive Management of Resources
Demands on water management agencies have increased in complexity, fervor, and emotion, and Reclamation has worked to adapt its management strategies to deal with this changing landscape. As the availability of water stays steady or decreases due to weather patterns in the West and as the demand for water—from existing users as well as new users such as urban systems and environmental enhancement—increases, better methods will be needed for decision making, communication, and engaging stakeholders. Reclamation uses adaptive strategies to satisfy as many of the demands as possible. This approach uses scientific information to improve procedures and enhance fish habitat and survival. Reclamation has also begun to apply these adaptive strategies to mitigation activities not directly associated with Reclamation projects, and the demand for such services is expected to increase (NRC, 2004).
Identification of Needs
Since the assets managed by Reclamation have an average age of more than 50 years and require almost constant review and upgrading, the area and regional offices have ongoing procedures for identifying needs. In his testimony before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Water and Power, Commissioner Keys noted as follows (Keys, 2005, p. 1):
Some components and replaceable equipment have well-defined design and service lives while many of the larger structures do not. In many cases the estimated service lives have been and continue to be exceeded.
Reclamation attributes its success in lengthening these service lives to a commitment to preventive maintenance that has guided our O&M practices over the years.
However, there is inconsistency in the way these processes operate and in how the beneficiaries are engaged in decision making and review. Some beneficiaries noted that the rules seem to differ within regions and across regions with respect to who must pay, how much must be paid, and how design and construction activities are carried out. The quality and consistency of assessment and planning documents, except those associated with the larger power facilities, also vary from region to region.
Availability of funding is an important factor in setting priorities. This can create constructive tension in the prioritization process, but when resources are too limited, the process can be distorted. Several regions rely on a bottom-up process from the area offices, driven by the core mission to deliver water and power, using a variety of teams and review processes to finalize priorities on a regional basis. One region reported using a 10-year resource plan as a part of its priority-setting process.
Reclamation’s facility inventory drives its technical workload, which includes the planning, design, and construction of dams, hydroelectric plants, and related infrastructure. The tasks involve O&M, replacement and modernization, modification to improve dam safety and meet environmental requirements, and new construction. This workload is made more complex by the need to interact with an expanding and increasingly diverse set of stakeholders with growing environmental and social expectations.
Design and Construction of Dams
For 86 years, from the passage of the Reclamation Act in 1902 until 1988, the work of the bureau was dominated by the design and construction of new dams, hydroelectric plants, and irrigation infrastructure (see Figure 2-1).1 The last large construction authorization was the Colorado River Basin Projects Act in 1968, which also included facilities in the Central Arizona Project, the Central Utah Project, and the Central Valley Project in California. From 1969 through 1988, Reclamation continued to
have a heavy construction workload, bringing the total number of completed projects to 178.2 The year 1988 marked the end of Reclamation’s traditional role as a major designer and constructor of new dams. Since 1988, the bureau has continued to design and build new dams, but at a much reduced scale.
In 1976, the failure of the Teton Dam sparked new interest in dam safety. The Reclamation Safety of Dams Act (P.L. 95-578) was passed in 1978 and amended in 1984. This Act authorized and funded modifications to preserve the structural safety of Reclamation’s dams and related facilities. In response to the Teton Dam failure, Reclamation instituted the Safety of Dams Program (SOD) and an extensive safety inspection process for dams determined to pose high and significant hazards (USBR, 1998). The safety evaluation of existing dams (SEED) is the overall process for
identifying and evaluating potential risks and determining whether action needs to be taken to reduce risk to the public. The process includes in-depth periodic facility reviews (PFRs) and comprehensive facility reviews (CFRs), which are conducted alternately on 3- and 6-year cycles and supplement the annual O&M inspections. Severe deficiencies and important maintenance needs are tracked through the Dam Safety Information System (DSIS). To date, approximately 3,600 SOD deficiencies have been corrected. Modifications have been made to 69 dams at a cost of $868 million.3,4
SOD has become a significant component of the technical workload of the bureau. From FY 1996 through FY 2005, funding for SOD averaged $66 million per year. Many of these projects are as complex as the design of a new dam. In addition, stakeholder and public interest group involvement has increased significantly, much of it concerning environmental issues.
It is realistic to expect that within the foreseeable future, major renovations will be required to address dam safety issues. Currently, 12 additional dams needing modification have been identified, with preliminary cost estimates totaling $350 million. There are also more than 400 incomplete SOD recommendations requiring additional field investigations or engineering analysis to determine if risks are such that action is needed. Most of these recommendations indicate that a dam modification may be necessary to reduce the risk.
Operations and Maintenance of Bureau-Operated Facilities
As the number of completed projects in Reclamation’s inventory has risen, so has the O&M workload. Today, O&M is the primary technical workload of the bureau and is likely to remain so because of the aging infrastructure and the need for rehabilitation and modernization of facilities. The average age of completed projects (see Figure 2-1) is approximately 50 years. Some individual facilities are 90 years old. The age of the facilities also means that most embody out-of-date design, engineering practices, and materials. It is estimated that 90 percent of the dams are in this category (Achterberg, 1999).
The maintenance workload and backlog of needs are tracked by a number of methods. In power facilities, Maximo-based computerized
maintenance management systems are used. Critical maintenance problems receive immediate attention. Less-than-critical needs are prioritized and scheduled as funds become available. At nonpower facilities, needs beyond the scope of normal day-to-day maintenance are tracked through DSIS and replacement, addition, and exceptional maintenance (RAX) lists. The RAX lists are also used to prioritize maintenance needs and funds through the budget formulation process. Budget proposals are generated by the area offices and consolidated at the regional and headquarters levels.
Technical Workload and the Technical Service Center
The technical workload is distributed among the various project, area, and regional offices, and the Technical Service Center (TSC) in Denver. The more routine engineering for O&M and repair are undertaken by the area and regional offices, while TSC provides centralized engineering and scientific services that are typically beyond the capability of the areas and regions.5 In FY 2004 its workload was distributed among clients approximately as follows: support to regions and areas, 46 percent; safety of dams support, 21 percent; research and development, 7 percent; other Reclamation organizations, 11 percent; and non-Reclamation organizations, 15 percent.
The size and composition of TSC depend on many factors, some interrelated:
Type of work anticipated,
Activities deemed to be inherently governmental,
Areas where outsourcing may not be practical,
Particular expertise needed to fulfill the government’s oversight and liability role,
Turnover factors that could affect retention of expertise, and
The need to maintain institutional capability.
At present, TSC employs more than 600 people (down from 800 in 1994) and is funded on a fee-for-service basis. It is essentially a very large service unit without a line-management function. As there is no annual funding for TSC, all salary and overhead costs not directly chargeable to a specific project have to be absorbed by all projects that use TSC services.
The committee does not question the need for a technical service unit of this nature within Reclamation, but it does question the size. Reclamation, in its role as an owner, needs to determine which activities performed by TSC are inherently governmental and should not be performed by outsourcing and the quantity and type of engineering that needs to be performed in house in order to maintain the competencies of a smart owner. A smart owner “retains core competences to establish project definitions, establish project metrics, monitor project progress, and ensure commitment, stability, and leadership” (NRC, 2000). By assessing these matters, the bureau can ensure a long-term and stable structure for TSC and its critical support to Reclamation’s missions.
A strict reading of Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-76, Performance of Commercial Activities (OMB, 2003), would likely find that only a limited number of the technical activities performed by TSC are inherently governmental functions. (A process for identifying essentially governmental functions is discussed in Chapter 3.) The same would apply to similar activities performed at the regional or area levels. However, other factors warrant consideration. Foremost, it has to be recognized that Reclamation owns a large number of structures and facilities that pose a potential risk to public safety, the national economy, and the environment should one of them fail. As the owner, Reclamation cannot escape liability for any negative consequences if a facility malfunctions no matter who may have designed, constructed, or maintained it. To ensure that these risks are minimized, Reclamation needs to exercise a certain level of oversight and control.
Cost savings are one of the many benefits that might be gained from outsourcing, but they can be the most difficult to assess. Many state governments have found that the cost-benefits of outsourcing are not always clear (Moore, 2000). This might be due to the specialized nature of infrastructure projects, project-to-project variations, and/or the considerable oversight necessary to ensure compliance with agency standards. The cost of oversight and of preparing addenda and change orders to bring engineering designs into compliance with agency standards can cancel out any cost savings realized by using consultants. Design costs are generally lowest when states use a mix of private and public sector work.
Exercising oversight is more than a perfunctory matter and requires particular expertise and knowledge of Reclamation’s facilities and infrastructure. Such expertise is derived from the actual performance of the scientific and technical functions inherent in the projects. To develop and maintain the necessary cadre, a certain amount of work must be performed in-house. It would be appropriate for TSC to perform the following kinds of work:
Development of design standards,
Cost estimating in the early planning stages,
Cost estimating for very large or complex facilities,
Environmental planning, permitting, and mitigation strategy,
Power plant design and rehabilitation,
Major dam design and rehabilitation,
Major pumping plant, tunnel, and canal design and rehabilitation,
Risk assessment, and
Determining the optimum size for TSC is a challenge that needs to be addressed by Reclamation. The challenge today is different from that faced after World War II, when major water resource projects were being developed. In that era, much of the expertise in dams and hydraulic structures resided within federal agencies. That is not true today, when private and semipublic organizations have the expertise required to perform many of the functions carried out by Reclamation in the past. The committee foresees the possibility of TSC becoming more involved in oversight and the establishment of standards than in design and construction document development. It appears to the committee that TSC might be able to provide its services for oversight, highly technical design in critical areas, and a limited quantity of design in noncritical areas—and at the same time maintain its core competencies—with a smaller workforce.
Operation and Maintenance of User-Operated Facilities
Some of the facilities and infrastructure inventory are transferred works that are owned by Reclamation but user-operated and -maintained with oversight by Reclamation. Transferred works are generally irrigation-system-related facilities, including smaller dams, dikes, pumping plants, and canals.
The resources and sophistication of the water districts vary. The committee observed that some districts are willing and able to perform a larger role. Some districts feel that they can perform the O&M functions and more complex repair and modernization projects at lower cost than Reclamation by using local staff and contractors.
As Reclamation moves further along the transition announced in 1993 from a water and power construction organization to a water and power management organization, the responsibilities, duties, and activities of the workforce are changing significantly. The workload change is driven by a number of factors, including the following:
Aging infrastructure. Many of the dams and associated conveyance and distribution facilities are over 50 years old, and their maintenance needs are growing as the structures and equipment reach or pass the design lifetimes.
Increasing competition for declining resources. Since water availability continues to decline in many parts of the West, existing water users continue to demand reliable systems to provide the water they have historically used, while new users would like to obtain access to the water or, in some cases, to the land adjacent to the facilities that provide the water services.
Increased regulatory requirements. Water rights regulations, Endangered Species Act (ESA) requirements, environmental impact assessment (EIA) requirements, and expectation for increased openness and public involvement in decision making place additional demands on project managers, operators, and decision makers.
Security. Security reviews and ongoing security management at the existing facilities add to the workload at many of the large facilities operated by Reclamation. Several of these sites are considered national critical infrastructure.
Maintenance activities will grow in complexity and costs as the facilities age, so the depth and breadth of expertise in the areas of project design, cost estimating, and project management will need to be maintained even with increased outsourcing of many activities. However, there will also be an increasing need for expertise in stakeholder engagement, communications, endangered species and environmental requirements, and data collection, as well as for expertise in conducting negotiations among stakeholders with divergent expectations associated with the facilities and the services that Reclamation provides. Reclamation representatives are increasingly expected to take a more active role in the negotiation processes that typically occur when complex water issues are addressed by multiple stakeholders. The complexity of these interactions and the time-consuming processes employed to achieve agreement among the many stakeholders and regulators will burden Reclamation with additional work. Some of the additional responsibilities can be met through the use
of outside expertise, but there will remain the need to have enough management and oversight capabilities within Reclamation to ensure that the issues are being addressed properly.
Reclamation has developed some specialized expertise for its internal needs that is also needed by other agencies, state and local governments, and industry. The bureau is moving in the direction of providing services to others for projects not directly related to it own facilities, such as dam removals and environmental mitigation programs. The broader scope of Reclamation’s services can be one way of attracting and keeping good employees, but it adds to the agency workload.
MANAGEMENT POLICIES AND PROCEDURES
Prior to 1993, Reclamation had a massive body of policy and procedural directives referred to as the Reclamation Instructions. The Instructions were prescriptive in nature, centralized in origin, and generally reflective of the organizational and management philosophy governing the bureau. However, they contradicted popular management models used by the government in the early 1990s.
Public management reforms widely known as “the new public management” have taken a variety of forms.6 In New Zealand and Great Britain, what goes by this name emphasizes the proper construction of incentive structures to “make managers manage” and is deemed to be the key to government performance. The American version of new public management, by contrast, supports greater management flexibility. Its advocates argue that we should “let managers manage.” They believe that the work of government would be vastly improved if managers in the public sector had the same flexibility as managers in the private sector so that they would perceive their work in terms of goals such as the “creation of public value” or the pursuit of continuous improvement. Reclamation was one of many federal agencies that adopted these principles of change as part of the 1990s efforts to reinvent government.
Commissioner Beard endorsed the recommendations of a team he had appointed to examine the need for change. He noted that Reclamation was moving forward with the exciting challenges awaiting its water resource managers.7 The Commissioner’s Program and Organization Review Team (CPORT) report was cited as critical in identifying “changes
needed in Reclamation’s programs in order to successfully complete the transition from a water resources development agency to a water resources management agency.”8 The commissioner’s Blueprint for Reform criticized the policy process directives then in use as too detailed and inflexible. He also criticized the required multiple stages of “prior review and approval processes.” His plan for reform included the following changes (USBR, 1993b):
Policy directives will be limited to broad, agency-wide applications that set goals and objectives and establish broad parameters for execution. They will generally require the Commissioner’s personal approval before issuance.
Instructions and standards will intentionally allow responsible line managers an appropriate degree of discretion and judgment in accomplishing their duties.
Use of the procedures, processes, and methodologies set forth in such manuals and handbooks will not be mandatory.
In order to ensure that this approach to implementing instructions and technical standards is followed, all existing guidance will be sunset at the end of fiscal year 1995 unless affirmatively retained, or revised and reissued prior to then.
Reclamation undertook substantial—one might even say massive—reorganization and change. Centralized oversight was loosened dramatically as senior management positions were eliminated. Services were centralized for efficiency and economy, but operational authority was delegated downward on the organization chart. The absence of mandatory policy and procedural guidelines resulted in every region developing a unique character.9 The organization and functions of the regional, area, and project offices began to vary widely. Responding to the Clinton administration’s directives for reinventing government, staffing was reduced about 10 percent and 40 project offices were consolidated into 24 area offices.10
When committee members visited regional and area offices, they were told that bureau policy decisions lack consistency. User associations such as the National Water Resources Association (NWRA) and the Family Farm Alliance told the committee that Reclamation stakeholders communicate with one another and compare Reclamation policy decisions, and
from these discussions they concluded that the stakeholders are not being treated equally. The NWRA, in its most recent position paper on the bureau, writes: “However, direct and sudden reversals of program direction and organizational philosophy have had a profoundly negative effect on the organization.”11 When they were invited to recommend constructive changes for the bureau, Reclamation employees from several of the regions spoke of the obvious inconsistency affecting many of the bureau’s decisions. The Family Farm Alliance noted an inconsistent Reclamation policy on use of TSC.12 Other stakeholders reported serious inconsistencies in Reclamation reports on the Animas–La Plata project.13
Reclamation leadership appears sensitive to the need to promulgate formal policy directives, and a new manual has been issued (USBR, 2005c). The manual is a Web-based collection of policies and directives that is continually being updated and revised. However, as reported to the committee, this process has been slow and inadequate to date. There is disagreement among stakeholders and Reclamation employees as to just what to do and how far to go in reestablishing published policy documents. Some field personnel admit that they have kept copies of the old Reclamation Instructions, which they routinely, but selectively, use in their area of responsibility. Some Reclamation personnel would welcome reinstatement of Reclamation Instructions in their entirety. Others see the need for selective reinstatement.
The scope of the 1993 organizational changes and availability of policies and guidance had a significant effect on the decision-making process within Reclamation. The Reclamation Decision Process Team submitted a report in October 2004 (USBR, 2004). On page 1 the team noted as follows:
The majority of the decision-making problems they [Reclamation personnel who were surveyed as part of the study] identified were due to unclear roles and responsibilities, the lack of a defined decision-making process, or a combination of both. Interviewees were concerned that failure to acknowledge and correct these problems could result in significant consequences to Reclamation, including loss of agency credibility; increased employee frustrations and a decline in morale; poor account-
ability for decisions and implementation; inefficient use of time, personnel, and financial resources; and loss of control of the decision to others (e.g., Congress, courts, etc.).
The team found that the abandonment of formal decision and planning processes and decentralization of the organizational structure has had a mixed impact. It noted that the best managers profited from the flexibility offered by the new organization; others, however, experienced procedural problems and were challenged by the absence of a formal structure and decision processes.
Reclamation personnel interviewed by the committee generally rated the bureau as having a high level of technical skills, but they were more critical of the bureau’s managerial abilities. Some thought that a more focused assignment of responsibility—that is, a shift away from the decision-by-committee approach—is needed. The decentralized organization and the absence of coherent, comprehensive centralized policy and procedures has led to divergent decisions and the complaint by user groups about inconsistency.
The committee is concerned that Reclamation’s decentralized and collaborative decision process seems to be missing a clear assignment of responsibility, which is essential for effective decision making. It appears especially elusive when more than one Reclamation element is involved, such as TSC, a regional office, and an area office. Thus, the committee commends Reclamation for taking steps to analyze the decision-making process and develop constructive measures that should improve performance.
This section addresses the organizational structure employed by Reclamation to construct and maintain its facilities and infrastructure and execute its mission, as well as what this structure may be in the near future. Reclamation is organized to undertake the following facility and infrastructure functions:
Managing and maintaining existing assets.
Ensuring dam safety.
Planning and developing projects to meet future resource needs.
Developing alternative means of supplying water.
Managing a program to enhance water conservation.
Designing and constructing authorized projects.
Implementing a water and hydroelectric engineering research program.
Providing environmental benefits through conservation and environmental remediation and enhancement.
This review of Reclamation’s organization is developed with the bureau’s changing goals and work requirements in mind.
Present Organization for Managing Facilities and Infrastructure
In the present Reclamation organization most of the activity pertaining to water and power management is centered in two directorates under the commissioner: the Directorate of Policy, Management, and Technical Services (PMTS), which functions primarily as a staff service element, and the Directorate of Operations, which functions as a line-management element. Another unit with facilities and infrastructure functions is the Dam Safety Office, a line-type element under the Directorate for Security, Safety, and Law Enforcement.14
The lines of authority for construction projects in Reclamation are somewhat unclear because projects are not structured under a single project manager or integrated project team from inception through completion. Management responsibilities shift as the project progresses through various phases, in part because of the way federal civil works projects are planned and authorized. This has the effect of diffusing responsibility and accountability. Maintaining continuity of personnel on a long-term project is difficult and would likely require additional investment in human resources. Reclamation appears to operate on the principle of collaborative or shared management centering on the regional directors. Although shared management can tend to prolong decision making, it can also function fairly well.
Centralized versus Decentralized Authority and Responsibility
Organizations can and do take on many forms, with varying degrees of success. Some will function successfully despite the form; others will falter under the best of theoretical forms. The internal culture and history of the organization play a significant role in determining the appropriate
structure and the ultimate outcome. Additionally, as is the case for Reclamation, pressures to reduce the federal workforce and increase the proportion of outsourced activities will continue to dictate changes in the structure and functioning of federal organizations.
The issue at the center of Reclamation’s potential organizational changes involves centralization versus decentralization of authority, responsibility, and resources. As mentioned above, in the mid-1990s, Reclamation undertook a major reorganization to create a more decentralized structure (USBR, 1993). The effort was driven by, among other things, a change in the nature and quantity of the work, reductions in personnel and funding, and the goals of streamlining the organization, reducing administrative layers, and focusing the effort nearer to the site of the projects and Reclamation’s customers. There is no question that benefits have been derived from this decentralization; however, there are also indications that problems have emerged. Over time, many organizations (private and government) having responsibility for facilities and infrastructure management have shifted from predominantly centralized, top-down management styles to various degrees and forms of decentralization. Some organizations have found their decentralization efforts to be either too extensive or carried too far down the chain of command, with the consequent loss of owner control. As a result, there has been some retrenchment from the belief that decentralization, in and of itself, is a panacea for producing efficiencies or satisfying customers and sponsors. Decentralization is plagued by a tendency to narrow the focus of the participants and to devalue legitimate organization-wide interests.
A major factor in achieving the desired balance between decentralized and centralized authority and responsibility is the quality and quantity of communication—particularly face-to-face communication. A lot can be achieved if managers at the area, regional, and headquarters levels know and trust each other. This trust is the product of consistent and open lines of communication. Without good communication, suspicions will grow and the organization will not function well. This means that for Reclamation to operate as a decentralized organization it needs to plan and budget for frequent meetings to exchange ideas on management and technical issues. It may be tempting to label such meetings as “unnecessary travel” and to cut the funds for them, but they may be among the most necessary activities in the travel budget. Absent a commitment of time and resources, the desired level of communication is not likely to take place.
Reclamation, like other customer-oriented agencies, needs to consider several factors that affect the optimum balance between centralized and decentralized operations:
Retention of a close and continuous working relationship with local water users and other stakeholders in the project area.
Customer and stakeholder preference for a strong, empowered area office.
Stakeholder and contract partner concern for the cost of Reclamation services and decisions that affect their interests.
Budgetary pressures that require ever-increasing efficiency in administrative and support functions.
Younger employee expectations about empowerment and aversion to centralized control.
Customer and stakeholder demand for agency consistency.
Availability of expertise in critical technical fields and specialties at appropriate levels of the organization.
Ability to effectively outsource nongovernmental activities.
Personnel recruiting and development and the retention of core competencies.
Effective and unequivocal delegation of authority and responsibility for key technical and administrative decisions.
The pattern best suited to administrative support may not be best for customer relations in the field. Close and continuing contact between local water users and Reclamation representatives in the field is essential to cooperative relations and in some instances to an adaptive-management approach to decision making. While a decentralized approach appears to address this need, unrestrained decentralization may lead to inconsistency. Decentralized responsibility accompanied by commensurate authority, defined and constrained by centralized policy, would therefore appear to be best suited to this scenario.
Administrative and technical support, unlike customer relations, would be amenable to a much stronger degree of centralization. In this time of instant electronic communication, there is little reason to expect problems with carefully managed centralized administrative support for many common functions. However, determination of the appropriate functions and the degree to which they are centralized requires judgment. Bureauwide centralization may well be justified in some cases, while regionwide concentration of activity might be more appropriate in others. On principle, administrative and technical support should be considered for centralization at the highest level that assures timely and effective response to field needs.
The committee believes that the following broad assignment of functions addresses the centralization versus decentralization question appropriately. The roles of the Commissioner’s Office, deputy commissioners’ offices, and PMTS are combined because all have a bureauwide focus.
Commissioner’s Office, Deputy Commissioners’ Offices, and PMTS
Assume responsibility for communicating the bureau’s mission and establishing strategies to accomplish it.
Determine and promulgate policy.
Rule on appeals of regional director decisions if necessary.
Maintain contact and liaison with the secretary of the interior, other federal agency heads, and Congress.
Speak for the bureau to the media on broad issues.
Set Reclamation-wide priorities, including budget allocations.
Select and supervise key personnel at the headquarters staff and regional director’s level.
Oversee major acquisition and high-risk projects.
Determine core competencies for bureauwide activities.
Assume principal responsibility for facility engineering and resource management within the region.
Assume principal responsibility for the construction processes and support to area and project offices on contract administration.
Represent the bureau to state and local government officials, regional directors of other federal agencies, local media representatives, and user group officials, as appropriate.
Rule on appeals of area and project manager decisions if necessary.
Select and supervise key personnel at the regional, area, and project levels.
Formulate and submit regional budget and recommend priorities.
Serve as the principal point of contact with local water users, contract partners, local officials, and other stakeholders.
Collect and submit field-derived engineering data.
Recommend budget and priorities applicable to the area.
Supervise O&M-related construction projects not assigned to a separate project office, including quality assurance, and ensure that contractors execute their quality control responsibility.
Select and supervise area office personnel.
Exercise delegated authority of the contracting officer’s technical representative.
Project offices should exercise the same responsibilities and authority as area offices, but only for their own project. They should report to the regional director but coordinate with appropriate area managers. They should only have contact with the sponsors and users of their project. The extent to which project offices are self-sufficient administratively and technically will be determined by the regional director based on the stakeholders, scope, location, and duration of the project.
Technical Service Center
TSC, the largest element within the PMTS directorate, is somewhat analogous to a large engineering firm performing facility and infrastructure engineering design. A centralized Reclamation design organization that has a worldwide reputation for excellence in the water resources field has existed in Denver for many years, albeit in different forms. Although the FY 1994 reorganization shifted some work to area and regional offices and resulted in a smaller TSC, the unit has retained most of its technical competencies. At the same time, it has used benchmarking against private sector architecture and engineering organizations of similar type and size to streamline its business and management practices.
Despite TSC’s long history and having been in place in its present form for nearly a decade, the committee heard comments from various stakeholders and to a lesser extent from Reclamation field units about inconsistent performance at TSC. The dissatisfaction centers on the following issues:
A perception that the charges for services rendered exceed those that would be charged by the private sector or Reclamation field units.
Excessive time required to complete projects.
Overly stringent design standards in some cases.
Insufficient responsiveness to customer views.
Inconsistent competency and performance.
Unnecessary personnel charging time to projects and attending project meetings.
Retention of work that could be completed more efficiently by sponsors of transferred works.
The committee is in no position to verify or refute these perceptions without having access to an in-depth analysis of costs, schedules, and design performance. While the complaints may or may not be valid, the committee sees a continued need for a centralized design capability within
Reclamation. To be effective, it needs to have critical mass for efficiency and for sustaining the requisite technical competencies. Also, it is the only unit in Reclamation able to provide independent and consistent technical oversight of work done at the area and regional offices. However, unless there is clearer direction and support from senior management and closer coordination with the regions, TSC risks being considered irrelevant.
There are multiple centers of engineering and design expertise within TSC for various disciplines and specialties that undertake similar types of projects. The committee believes such capabilities should continue to be collocated to provide efficient collaboration rather than dispersed in communities of specialized practice throughout the bureau—that is, TSC should continue to be the source of the highest level of engineering and science expertise, and distributing design expertise to the regional offices would further degrade consistent implementation of policy and oversight of the process. Capabilities for more routine O&M, repair, and modernization projects should continue to reside at the regional or area office.
The committee carried out a high-level review of the TSC structure. It observed that many TSC units have similar functions and could be merged or even eliminated. Others that appear to only intermittently be of service to Reclamation should be reviewed. The TSC organization chart includes 39 functional units in five divisions, which appears to be excessive. Generally, an organization with too many organizational units incurs additional supervisory and administrative costs and keeps individuals from being assigned multiple tasks. The effect is a less productive organization.
Design, Estimating, and Construction Office
The Design, Estimating, and Construction Office (DEC) was recently established within the Operations Office for the purpose of instilling a consistent approach to the design, estimating, and construction functions, an approach that is missing in the present decentralized model. DEC is intended to fulfill some of the functions inherent to an owner’s role in project management, and the committee commends the move in this direction. However, the committee is concerned that DEC appears to have limited authority and that its procedures do not appear to be thoroughly planned. The functioning of this unit should be evaluated as it progresses to ensure that it has the ability and the means to see that its findings and recommendations are given appropriate consideration. The committee believes that locating the office within the PMTS directorate is appropriate. An owner’s role in project management and the role of DEC in improving project management in the bureau are discussed in Chapter 3.
Reclamation conducts a research program to improve its ability to better manage water and power. The Reclamation Web site notes that “Reclamation conducts research to develop and deploy successful solutions for better water and power management—not to merely publish. Research is a vital paradigm for Reclamation, as Reclamation promotes rapid deployment of new innovations to benefit water and power operations” (USBR, 2005a). Research and Development is a unit under the PMTS director and is a parallel unit to TSC. Research activities include science and technology, desalination and water purification, and technology transfer. Research is conducted both in-house and by contract. Most of Reclamation’s in-house research is undertaken by scientists and engineers in TSC and Reclamation’s Water Quality Improvement Center (WQIC) in Yuma, Arizona. The research at the WQIC is focused on desalinization and water treatment.
Reclamation conducts research in the following areas:
Water and power infrastructure reliability and safety,
Water delivery reliability,
Reservoir and river operations decision support,
Water supply technologies, and
Related environmental topics.
The committee supports the goal of expanding interagency research programs and believes that a good model is the Watershed and River System Management Program (WARSMP) sponsored by Reclamation’s Science and Technology Research Program and the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS’s) Water Resource Division (USGS, 1999). This program developed a decision support system framework to assist water managers in making complex decisions. WARSMP included collaborative research with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the Department of Energy’s Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Reclamation’s Water 2025 program is consistent with a cooperative approach to research and development.
Although there are several successful programs, the committee questions the justification for a research and development office separate from the research units within the TSC. While to a certain extent the work of the research office, such as research projects on desalinization, is basic research (as opposed to the research conducted within the TSC, which is more project related), this fact may not justify parallel organizations. Without an exhaustive review, the committee is in no position to make a judg-
ment on this issue, but it does advocate that Reclamation consider conducting such a review to identify opportunities for increased efficiency. As for the larger issue of maintaining a laboratory facility, the committee questions whether such a facility is affordable or whether private, academic, and other governmental facilities could perform the work in a more cost-effective manner. This question becomes a question of whether all or part of the laboratory is necessary to fulfill the foreseeable mission of Reclamation. Further study appears warranted.
Reclamation’s International Affairs Program within PMTS conducts a number of activities, including technology exchange, training, and technical assistance. The program’s objectives are to “(1) further U.S. foreign policy, (2) enhance public health or promote sustainable development in developing countries, (3) support U.S. private sector participation in the international marketplace, and (4) obtain improved technology for the benefit of Reclamation water users and the United States” (USBR, 2005b).
Reclamation and other U.S. water resource agencies (USACE, TVA, USGS), as well as other institutions and companies in the United States, have long been esteemed worldwide for their accomplishments and expertise in this area. Reclamation’s International Affairs Program has been the vehicle for sharing the bureau’s expertise through training and technical assistance. The committee has, however, observed a significant reduction in Reclamation’s international activities. This is due in part to competition for limited resources, but there also appears to be a policy of disengagement. The committee believes that Reclamation’s participation in international organizations dedicated to water resources and hydropower should be continued and that technical exchange with water resource managers in other countries should be encouraged.
Other Elements in the PMTS Directorate
As with TSC, the other five subdirectorates in PMTS operate as service units rather than as line management. The combined staff of the five units is roughly two-thirds that of TSC, with the Management Services Office being the largest. As with TSC, the committee sees value in analyzing the organizational breakdown and the positions allotted to assess opportunities for consolidation and competitive outsourcing. The committee’s interest in consolidation of units stems largely from the belief that corporate control is more easily maintained with a flatter organization.
Dam Safety Office
The Dam Safety Office (DSO), although intimately involved with maintaining infrastructure, is located in Security, Safety, and Law Enforcement (SSLE). The committee views the DSO as a line organization having programmatic authority as well as responsibility and accountability for dam safety. This relatively small unit is essentially a management unit receiving engineering and inspection services from TSC and site data and construction services from the respective field units. Although the location of the unit within SSLE as opposed to PMTS could be questioned, the committee found no indication that the dam safety program was not being discharged appropriately. Also, being located in SSLE might conform more closely with the Federal Guidelines for Dam Safety.
Most of the Reclamation workforce resides within the Operations directorate. This is appropriate as the directorate is responsible for the execution and operation of projects. It is a line-type organization—the five regional directors report to the commissioner through his deputy—and reflects the reorganization implemented in FY 1994.
Delegations of committee members met with personnel in the regional offices as well as with area managers and with user groups and other stakeholders. (Appendix B contains a list of these meetings and the issues discussed.) The committee observed that the regions have different organizational structures, capabilities, and workloads. In general, the regions appear to be functioning well notwithstanding the usual challenges faced in this type of endeavor. The morale of personnel and their loyalty to Reclamation’s mission is commendable. Each of the five regions has responsibility for sustainment of a large portfolio of facilities. The committee saw examples of excellence. However, in general, the regions will need to more aggressively evaluate their asset inventory, manage their assets, and engage in constructive relationships with customers and stakeholders if they wish to accomplish the following:
Build the capacity of customers to accept transferred works where appropriate.
Establish metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of O&M of assets whether managed by Reclamation or the customers.
Develop plans to handle transferred works that have not been properly maintained.
Stakeholders and users were concerned that there is too little decision-making authority at the project level. They would like to see more, if not most, authority at the local level (area and project offices). This desire for decentralization of authority is understandable, but there are some inherent risks. Reclamation needs to ensure that offices being assigned more responsibility have the requisite talent to discharge that responsibility. Depending on the workload and budgetary and personnel constraints, there is a limit to the feasibility of assigning requisite talent to every office.
Another factor in the equation is the need for consistency. A concern of the committee is the design capability extant in the various area offices. The number of engineers in area offices varies, with some offices having only one or two people. Relying on the area engineers to handle all the specialties that may be involved in a project carries some risk. The committee believes it may be more efficient to consolidate planning and design efforts not outsourced or undertaken by TSC in the regional offices. This will become more critical if further retrenchment in workload and workforce occurs or the type of workload changes materially.
Achterberg, David. 1999. Bureau of Reclamation’s Dam Safety Program. USCOLD Lecture Series, Dealing with Aging Dams. Denver, Colo.: U.S. Society on Dams.
Feldman, Martha S., and Anne M. Khademian. 2000. “Management for inclusion: Balancing control with participation.” International Public Management Journal 3(2): 149-168.
Keys, John W. 2005. “Maintaining and upgrading the Bureau of Reclamation’s facilities to improve power generation, enhance water supply, and keep our homeland secure.” Testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Resources, Subcommittee on Water and Power. July 19.
Moore, Adrian T., Geoffrey F. Segal, and John McCormally. 2000. Infrastructure Outsourcing: Leveraging Concrete, Steel, and Asphalt with Public-Private Partnerships. Reason Foundation. Available at http://www.acec.org/advocacy/pdf/fullstudy.pdf. Accessed November 16, 2005.
National Research Council (NRC). 2000. Outsourcing Management Functions for the Acquisition of Federal Facilities. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
NRC. 2004. Adaptive Management for Water Resources: Project Planning. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.
Office of Management and Budget (OMB). 2003. “Performance of commercial activities” (Circular No. A-76). Washington, D.C.: Executive Office of the President.
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR). 1993a. Report of the Commissioner’s Program and Organization Review Team. Washington, D.C.: Department of the Interior.
USBR. 1993. Blueprint for Reform. Washington, D.C.: Department of the Interior.
USBR. I998. “Review/examination program for high- and significant-hazard dams” (FAC 01-07). Reclamation Manual. Available at http://www.usbr.gov/recman/. Accessed August 16, 2005.
USBR. 2000. “A brief history of the Bureau of Reclamation.” Available at http://www.usbr.gov/history/briefhis.pdf. Accessed August 16, 2005.
USBR. 2004. Decision Process Team Report: Review of Decision Making in Reclamation. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
USBR. 2005a. “Bureau of Reclamation—about us.” Available at http://www.usbr.gov/main/about/. Accessed August 16, 2005.
USBR. 2005b. “Bureau of Reclamation—international affairs.” Available at http://www.usbr.gov/international/. Accessed August 16, 2005.
USBR. 2005c. Reclamation Manual. Available at http://www.usbr.gov/recman/. Accessed August 18, 2005.
U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI). 2005. Orientation to the U.S. Department of the Interior. Available online at http://www.doiu.nbc.gov/orientation/bor2.cfm. Accessed August 1, 2005.
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). 1999. The Watershed and River System Management Program. Available at http://wwwbrr.cr.usgs.gov/warsmp/. Accessed August 16, 2005.