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EPA’s Office of Research and Development Reorganizes to Better Support EPA’s Mission

Published April 8, 2019

While it would be nice if today’s environmental challenges fit neatly into preselected categories, the reality is that they are complex and require integration across scientific disciplines. That’s why EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) recently announced plans to reorganize to better support the Agency’s core mission of protecting human health and the environment. The proposed structural changes will increase the impact of ORD’s research efforts and better address the increasingly complex environmental challenges of the 21st century.

Led by career staff, including EPA’s Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for Science and EPA’s Science Advisor, the changes achieve scientific leadership, better integrate scientific approaches to problems, support mission and customer focused solutions to environmental challenges, and create communities of practice within the organization. The reorganization will also align the size and structure of ORD’s management team to reflect current staff size and optimize the use of our workforce. It will not result in the loss of any jobs or staff relocations. ORD was last reorganized in 1995. 

This reorganization will not change the important environmental and health research we do. In fact, most people will continue doing the same work they currently do, but their opportunities to coordinate and leverage existing expertise across ORD will be enhanced. This means better management, greater integration of our scientific expertise, and more coordinated outreach and communications with our partners and the public.

Below are just a few examples of how this new structure will enhance our science.

  • Integrating the various scientific disciplines and diversity within the new research Centers will increase the quality of products delivered to ORD’s Agency partners and the public. Furthermore, organizing staff already co-located into one of the new Centers will help to increase the operational efficiencies and enhance ongoing scientific collaborations (e.g., air and water methods and measurements).  
  • The proposed organizational changes will also increase the capacity of our current computational toxicology center by incorporating related work currently done in other parts of ORD. Given the increased demand for chemical analysis using high throughput screening, increasing our capacity and enhancing capabilities will in turn allow ORD to be more responsive to high priority actions (e.g., PFAS). 
  • Combining ORD’s Superfund and emergency response technical support functions into one group will deliver more timely, well-coordinated support, as well as improve how we handle surges in activity during large scale emergencies. 

Another goal of the reorganization is to ensure that our Centers and Offices have a consistent organizational structure. Right now, many of our labs, centers, and offices lack a consistent structure because they were developed organically. This this has led to duplicative efforts, confusion from external partners and stakeholders, and inefficiencies in how we work. The creation of a consistent structure and positions with similar roles will permit us to form a community of practice for managers who are responsible for similar things, allowing them to share their problems and solutions seamlessly. This consistency in how we do things is important both from an internal and an external perspective.

We are moving quickly and plan to have the new organizational structure in place by September 2019.  We look forward to sharing more information with our partners and the public as it becomes final. Ultimately, with this new organizational structure in place, ORD looks forward to tackling the tough environmental challenges of today and for years to come. 

Proposed ORD Organizational Structure

ORD Assistant Administrator Immediate Office (Functional Changes)

  • Office of Resource Management (New Organization)
  • Office of Science Information Management (Functional Change)
  • Office of Science Advisor, Policy & Engagement (New Organization)
  • Center for Environmental Measurement & Modeling (New Organization)
  • Center for Computational Toxicology and Exposure (New Organization)
  • Center for Public Health and Environmental Assessment (New Organization)
  • Center for Environmental Solutions and Emergency Response (New Organization)