A Government Accountability Office review of three agencies has provided insight into approaches that can help manage and minimize the effects of shrinking federal resources on services to the public.

A look at select programs and documents of the Employment and Training Administration, Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers, and the Environmental Protection Agency, supplemented by agency official and external stakeholder interviews, allowed the GAO to gauge the impact as federal discretionary appropriations declined from fiscal 2010 through 2014.

GAO looked specifically at whether the agencies addressed three key themes within a framework:

  • Top management should lead efforts to manage declining resources.
  • Data analytics should guide decision-making.
  • Agencies should develop cost-cutting and cost-avoidance strategies.

GAO looked at ways leadership had helped restructure and cross-train agency workforces to achieve mission objectives; how data-driven process-improvement methodologies had identified efficiency opportunities; and how reviewing service contracts reduced or eliminated nonessential services. However, GAO also found instances where programs were pushed to capacity and timeliness and service levels did decline.

GAO has recommended the agencies involved finalize existing efforts that offer long-term savings and can provide swift response to future economic downturns. Lessons learned will be used to examine and manage other agency programs facing a strained environment.