FERC will trim its CIO office staff by half

CFO calls changes smart, but IT chief expects reductions will affect agency's services

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is reorganizing its CIO office'trimming the staff by 50 percent and reassigning employees almost exclusively to policy and oversight duties.

Tom Herlihy, FERC's chief financial officer, said the goal is to move 30 government employees out of the CIO organization by March either through early buyouts, transfers within the commission or to other agencies, or through layoffs. He also said FERC would reduce the number of contract employees from 144 to about 92.

'We are not operating efficiently,' Herlihy said. 'We are overstaffed and have more contractor support than we need. This is a good government initiative to make better use of our resources.'

Herlihy has said the reorganization, which was recommended by a consultant, is a necessary evil to improve agency operations. But sources within FERC said agency management is blindly following a report by Integrated Data Systems of Chantilly, Va. IDS conducted the study at FERC's CIO office from February to May. The project cost the agency about $150,000.

Sources within FERC also questioned agency management's handling of the situation.

'There is a need to trim the staff, and that is the case in almost every government agency, but 50 percent of the staff is too much,' said one employee, who requested anonymity. 'We don't have a problem with some cuts, just how management went about it.'

Some workers said the IDS report did not provide a realistic view of how the office is run. And a CIO response disputed nearly every finding.

The source said IDS employees spent no more than 30 minutes with each manager. The knowledge management and information management director, who oversees 15 employees performing records management and manning the public reference room, was interviewed for only 15 minutes about how many government and contract employees work in the division.

'IDS was supposed to talk to the staff but did not,' said another FERC employee, who also asked not to be named. 'How will they know what we do and how it affects our mission?'

Herlihy disputed claims that IDS did an incomplete job. He said managers failed to produce the documents IDS requested, which led the consultant to focus on CIO Fernanda Young for answers to its questions.

He said FERC managers did not turn over budget documents about capital planning and other information agencies are required to compile by the Clinger-Cohen Act.

The Energy Department inspector general late last month visited FERC and found similar instances of poor documentation, Herlihy said. FERC is an independent agency within Energy.

Young said FERC did not have the documents because the Office of Management and Budget said the agency is not required to submit them under Circular A-130. She also said the Clinger-Cohen Act does apply to FERC because of its size.

'I spent two hours with IDS, and they had a list of things they wanted,' she said. 'They did not have the right information to ask the right questions. I'm not faulting them or anyone.'

Herlihy refuted most of the claims in Young's written response, saying it included 'a lot of innuendo and misinformation,' especially about the budgeting problems IDS found.

The end game

Young said she went along with the reorganization because 'she wants FERC to succeed.'
But she and others within the agency said the moves would hamper the agency's ability to accomplish its mission.

Young said the document service FERC provides to the public will suffer because of the reorganization.

'The IT office was reorganized without having a clear definition of what skills will be needed in the short term,' she said. 'IT always is easy to cut, but you can't live without it. In the next six months, the needs of our customers will change the way we look.'

Herlihy said contractors perform the bulk of the technical work and will continue to do those jobs.
'We want the CIO office to make policy, oversee contractors so policy is carried out correctly, and write and negotiate contract requirements when necessary,' Herlihy said. 'Currently, we have too many people doing functions that could be done by one person.'

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