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News Releases from HeadquartersInternational and Tribal Affairs (OITA)

EPA’s Office of International and Tribal Affairs Delivers Results through EPA’s Lean Management System

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WASHINGTON (November 23, 2020) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that it has implemented the EPA Lean Management System (ELMS) to 83% of the agency. The Office of International and Tribal Affairs (OITA) has successfully implemented the system to improve its international environmental efforts and increase utilization of the Indian Environmental General Assistance Program.  

ELMS is an agency-wide systematic approach to continuous process improvement. It is based on lean principles used for years by the private sector and is comprised of six components: visual management, standard process, cascading performance measures, problem solving, business reviews & huddles, and leader behaviors. EPA implementation of each of these elements has allowed EPA to make significant improvements to the speed and quality at which it delivers its services to the American people.

EPA Office of Continuous Improvement – the team responsible for implementing ELMS – set a goal to deploy this system to 80% of agency personnel and use it to improve 250 processes by fiscal year 2020. Both goals were successfully met with the agency reporting over 500 processes improved and 83% of personnel using ELMS.

“Lean principals were essential to the culture of continuous improvement during my previous leadership role at Ford, and many of the same principals have been effective at improving productivity here in the U.S. Government” said Chad McIntosh, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for International and Tribal Affairs. “Setting clear objectives and then measuring our progress has resulted in significant achievements over the past four years.” 

OITA plays a crucial role in advancing the agency’s relationship and environmental priorities with sovereign nations outside the United States and tribes within the United States. Working with leaders and experts from EPA's program and regional offices, other government agencies, tribes, foreign governments, and international organizations.

EPA’s engagement in the Group of Seven (G7) and the Group of Twenty (G20) through environment ministerial meetings is essential to protecting the health and environment in the United States, since much of the pollution originates outside our country. For instance, over 60% of marine plastic litter comes from five countries with inadequate waste management systems that pollute our shared oceans. Since October 2019, OITA has advanced over 25 international multilateral and bilateral policy actions that help protect the U.S. environment, including adoption of the G20 Implementation Framework for Actions on Marine Litter, as well as other EPA priorities such as resource efficiency, water infrastructure, and air and water quality.

The Indian Environmental General Assistance Program (GAP) is a program that provides grants and technical assistance to tribes to plan, develop, and establish tribal environmental protection programs consistent with other applicable provisions of law administered by EPA. To increase flexibility and program administration efficiency, GAP grants can be combined with other eligible grants in a Performance Partnership Grant (PPG), a tool that is largely underused by state and tribal grantees. In support of the EPA’s Reform Plan and FY18-22 EPA Strategic Plan, OITA assisted in establishing tribal PPG utilization rates and, using ELMS, began measuring and have documented a 16% increase in the number of GAP grants awarded as part of a PPG. Because of ELMS, OITA is well prepared to meet the agency strategic long-term measure to increase state and tribal PPG utilization by 2022.  

“I’m extremely proud of this agency’s embrace of lean principles and commitment to continuous improvement,” said Henry Darwin, EPA’s chief operating officer and visionary behind ELMS. “Setting numeric goals, tracking workflow and performance, and solving problems using data and evidence is how I believe this agency can better protect human health and the environment. ELMS has given EPA employees a new way to accomplish our mission and the results speak for themselves.” 

Some of the other most notable process improvements that have been made across EPA since the system was implemented included reducing the agency’s backlog of Freedom of Information Act requests by almost 45%, increasing the number of inspections reports that are completed on-time and communicated to the regulated entity from around 49% to 82%, and a reduction in the number of backlogged new permit applications by almost 150.

For more information of EPA’s continuous improvement efforts, please visit

For more on EPA’s 50th Anniversary and how the agency is protecting America’s waters, land and air, visit:, or follow the agency on social media using #EPAat50.