By Rob Robinson
In the early 1990s, I was part of a Bureau of Land Management reorganization whose objective was intended to downsize the Washington Office (WO). Many program lead positions were moved from the WO to the State Offices. Many incumbents transferred with the positions, and some incumbents took vacancies in the WO and other agencies. At that time, I was hired to fill a vacant position as WO lead for the new Abandoned Mined Land program. My position was housed in the Colorado State Office. I reported to a Branch Chief in the WO who approved plans and budget for the Abandoned Mine Land program, and conducted my performance appraisals. The Colorado State Office provided administrative support.
From my perspective, the downsizing worked fine. The kickoff of the Abandoned Mine Land program went smoothly with the selection of two pilot states, and the inventory of abandoned mines on public lands.
Within a year or two, the downsizing began to unravel in the WO. The old WO program lead positions were refilled, and the downsized staff were assigned to the office where they were housed. I believe that communications were the problem, particularly communications requiring group meetings, cumulative dialogue among staff, or a quick turnaround requests for information from management. For example:
- Annual budget preparations required considerable back and forth communication and negotiation among program leads, budget staff, and management.
- WO staff frequently received requests for information from senior staff that required a short turnaround.
- The downsized staff were left out of daily office dialogue that are background for understanding the issues of the day.
WO management did not have at hand the program leads to fully respond to the budgeting process and information requests, and downsized program leads were not close enough to make informed responses.