Column: Another troubling Interior report
"Communication. Trust. Leadership.

A report by the Interior Department inspector general, released this month, provides a glimpse of how these issues can arise in agencies that have to manage a workforce spread across the country.

The report, by Earl E. Devaney, Interior's inspector general, focused on the law enforcement office at the Fish and Wildlife Service. Devaney praised the office for "significant progress" in overhauling its operations since 2002, when the secretary of the interior called for improvements.

But Devaney also found some problems in the law enforcement office, such as a "general mistrust of senior management" and a lack of communication between the headquarters and the field, "which has created a perception that there is a 'wall' between management and field personnel."

For the review, Devaney's staff conducted more than 110 interviews, traveled to field offices and hired a consultant to survey the law enforcement staff. Of 369 employees asked to participate in the survey, 88 percent responded -- an indication, the report said, that the employees are highly committed to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The agency's law enforcement office enforces federal laws, such as protections for endangered species and migratory birds. The office's work includes breaking up animal-smuggling rings, safeguarding habitat for endangered species, enforcing bird-hunting regulations and inspecting wildlife shipments to detect illegal trade.

The IG review suggested that the agency's law enforcement program is at risk of being undermined because of leadership and communication problems -- issues that hinder operations in many parts of the government.

The report pointed out that the lack of communication between senior leaders and the field "has significantly impacted morale and trust." Field employees said their bosses at headquarters never visited their offices, and many field agents said they rarely got an office visit from their superiors -- the special agents in charge."

Get the Story:
Stephen Barr: Interior Report Finds 'Wall' Between Field Staff, Leaders (The Washington Post 2/28)
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Inspector General Report:
Assessment of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement (February 2007)

House Resources Committee Hearing:
Reports, Audits and Investigations by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Office of Inspector General Regarding the Department of the Interior (February 16, 2007)

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