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Science Advisor Programs

Synthesis Report of the US Laboratory Enterprise Evaluation

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Message from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

EPA is committed to science.

Science is the foundation of EPA’s work: from testing soil at Superfund sites to protecting the quality of America’s waters to conducting research that supports the agency’s and the President’s work to take action on climate change. We must make sure our laboratory facilities are operating at their best, so our dedicated scientists and engineers have the tools and resources to provide this excellent science and research.

EPA is committed to greening the government.

EPA is a leader in making government operations more environmentally friendly. In the past, EPA was one of only two agencies in the Federal government to score green on all sustainability metrics contained in the Office of Management and Budget’s environmental scorecard. This commitment extends to laboratories, and by finding ways to make EPA’s laboratories more efficient, EPA can continue reducing its energy consumption, water usage, and greenhouse gas emissions.

Supporting our commitments to science and the environment

EPA is committed to providing rigorous science to protect health and the environment and to reducing our environmental impact by greening the government. This evaluation began in December 2012, when former Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe announced the effort to identify opportunities that would increase efficiency and effectiveness while ensuring the agency’s ability to provide the best research, science and technology critical to our mission. Over the next two years, EPA collected and analyzed extensive laboratory enterprise information, which has given us a more complete and more accurate snapshot of our entire laboratory enterprise across all of our programs, regions, and research offices. EPA also asked the National Research Council (NRC) to look at ways to make our science even more effective, and it published a report in September 2014, called Rethinking the Components, Coordination, and Management of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The data we collected and analyzed, plus findings from the NRC’s report, and information from other sources, have resulted in the Synthesis Report of the US EPA Laboratory Enterprise Evaluation. This report, and everything we learned throughout the evaluation, have given EPA important tools to help prioritize decisions about our facilities and make cost-effective use of laboratory resources to meet EPA’s need for rigorous science and research—now and into the future. I fully support the actions described in the report and have directed our agency leaders to begin implementing them. I hope you take the time to read through the report; I’ve highlighted some of the actions we are implementing below.

Making the Lab Enterprise Even Stronger. EPA’s Science Advisor will develop a vision for the lab enterprise that includes strengthening communication, coordination, and management processes throughout the agency as well as creating synergies with other federal organizations, and coordinating annual data collection and analysis. These actions will ensure that EPA maintains an up-to-date laboratory enterprise and continues to make informed decisions about our laboratory facilities.

Continue Planning and Management. EPA has three different types of labs: program, region, and research. These labs have very different responsibilities, and they will continue to plan their science as components of their respective program, regional, and research offices. Additionally, the Assistant Administrators and Regional Administrators of these offices will retain line management authority for their labs. These actions help ensure that our lab science contributions are aligned with the needs of EPA’s programs and strategic goals.

A New Forum to Strengthen the Laboratory Enterprise. EPA’s Science Advisor will charter a new, permanent lab enterprise forum within the Science and Technology Policy Council (STPC) to help implement the actions in the Synthesis Report and help inform future decisions regarding the lab enterprise.

Continue to Invest in our Laboratories. We found that, while our lab facilities are in good condition, there is room for improvement. We will continue to make investments in our laboratory facilities to ensure that we continue to provide the best science and attract and keep the best scientists.

Make Minor Consolidations. Sometimes people think that major consolidations save money, but this is not always the case. Our evaluation showed that there is potential to save money if we maximize the use of EPA’s owned laboratory spaces  Our evaluation identified several facility consolidations that we are now undertaking, several that will begin in the next two years, and two potential opportunities that require further evaluation. You can read more about the specifics of these actions in the Synthesis Report. I also want to emphasize that we kept all of our lab staff and science functions in every scenario we evaluated and that any consolidation activities will follow all standard EPA procedures for notifying employees.

These actions will make EPA an even stronger science organization, and we now have a better approach than ever before to make sure we meet our science needs – now and into the future. I stand by these actions and know that they are our best path forward.

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  • Using data collected by EPA, EPA worked with SmithGroup JJR (a nationally-recognized consultant with expertise in architecture, engineering, and strategic planning for laboratory portfolios) under an EPA contract to develop metrics, criteria, and a framework to help EPA analyze options to improve the efficiency of our current portfolio. Read the findings in the Environmental Protection Agency Nationwide Laboratory Assessment Report of Findings.
  • EPA requested a report from an independent expert committee of the National Research Council (NRC) on strengthening the effectiveness of the EPA laboratory enterprise.  The NRC committee began its work with EPA in fall 2013, and EPA received the NRC final report in fall 2014. The final report, titled Rethinking the Components, Coordination, and Management of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Laboratories, is publicly available and can be downloaded here:

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Synthesis Report

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