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CBO has always invested in the job skills of its employees, but the amount spent on job training and professional development has been far less than that of other high-impact organizations, and much less than recommended by management and training experts. CBO spent less than 0.5 percent of its personnel costs on training in 1999, compared with the 2 to 4 percent typical of high-performing private firms that the agency competes with for staff. In fiscal year 2000, we increased training expenditures by nearly 30 percent (to a level still far short of private-sector standards) while eliminating less costeffective training. We also undertook a more deliberate assessment of needed training and began training managers in leadership and communications skills. To date, we have provided such leadership training to one-third of our managers.
During the remainder of 2001 and in 2002, we will maintain the higher level of spending on training, education, and professional development and intend to provide management training to the remainder of our senior staff.
Modernize and Revitalize the Working Environment - Our goal is to reconfigure and, where necessary, renovate offices to better use our space and to provide a quality work environment for new employees and those currently in inadequate space.
Most of CBO's space was configured shortly after the agency's creation 25 years ago in a building designed primarily for file storage, not human occupancy. At that time, there were few desktop computers, many more support staff, less specialization, and a less competitive employment marketplace. Consequently, a significant percentage of our space was configured for clerical staff, and many analysts had work space that was in passageways or was otherwise undesirable. These work spaces adapted poorly to computer technology; and conference space, which is critical to the collaborative nature of our work, was in short supply.
During fiscal year 2000, in cooperation with staff of the Architect of the Capitol, we developed a range of strategies to address our space problems, and we began to make modest investments in our facilities. By June, we will have completed the reconfiguration of roughly a dozen small office suites and other areas constituting roughly 20 percent of our usable floor space. The result will be about 50 offices renovated, with a net gain of 18 private offices and three additional conference areas. We also reduced the amount of wasted space and greatly reduced the amount of space devoted to storage.
Because we will still have a significant number of employees in substandard space, we plan to continue our renovation efforts through at least the end of 2002-by that time we hope to have renovated perhaps half of the remaining space. This should allow us to create adequate offices for all our analytical staff, eliminate poorly utilized space, and greatly improve the appearance and livability of our offices.
Communications Priorities. The value of CBO's work to the Congress and the public derives from the quality, readability, and availability of its products. While the demand for CBO's printed products remains strong, the use of the electronic versions of the products on the agency's Web site is growing significantly year to year. We plan to improve both:
CBO's Web Site - Our goals are to respond to the growing demand for electronic products and to enhance the site's functionality and accessibility.
During fiscal year 2000, the content of CBO's Web site expanded by a third, to nearly 2,700 documents. Activity on our site nearly doubled since last year to a rate of roughly 9 million hits, or more than 1 million page requests per year. And the number of subscribers to our ListServer, which e-mails users when documents in their area of interest have been posted, increased by about 60 percent.
During the remainder of 2001 and into 2002, we plan a major redesign of our Web site. We will undertake a survey of those who use our material to identify needed improvements. More immediate improvements will include making additional publications from earlier years available on the site and creating versions of important reports with advanced search capabilities. We will also improve the Web site in less obvious ways-the ListServer will be enhanced so that customers can have publications in addition to notices emailed to them; the site will become more “visible” to outside search engines, thus increasing public access to CBO's research; and the search function will be made more user-friendly. Among visible changes, visitors to the site will be able to customize the first screen they see so that it emphasizes the information they are most interested in, publications will be easier to read on screen, and navigation will improve.
CBO's Publications and Production Processes - Our goals are to produce high-quality publications that are easily identified as CBO products and to improve production processes for efficiency.
As usage of CBO's Web site has increased, we have been able to print fewer copies of reports and reduce inventory costs. For example, printing costs for our three major mandated reports were about one-quarter lower last year than the year before and about half as much as two years earlier. New reproduction technology has improved the quality and timeliness of reports and testimony produced in-house, while lowering our costs. Consequently, for several reports last year, the initial copies produced in-house to meet tight Congressional deadlines were of much higher quality and resembled the final copies from commercial printers. We have improved some of our processes for graphics and now do most of the design and production work in-house.
During 2001, we will continue to modernize the appearance of our publications and achieve a consistent and professional look. We will also improve the production underlying our publications by centralizing the work and streamlining processes. Similarly, by revising additional graphics processes, we will produce more finished graphics in-house, saving additional time and money.
Technology and Process Redesign. As noted earlier, highly effective organizations must build a skilled staff and then provide them with the technology and work processes necessary to support them. In exit interviews and focus groups with current staff, technology emerges as an area where CBO excels compared to other places people have worked. It is also critical to our ability to do the highly complex analyses that underlie much of CBO's work.
Maintain Our Technological Edge - Our goal is to continue to provide the best technology systems economically available to support the agency's mission while constantly improving the performance of those systems and employee satisfaction.
During fiscal year 2000 and the first half of 2001, we upgraded most desktop computers and for the first time achieved an ideal hardware/software configuration for every employee. We also improved our network communications, strengthened network security with a firewall and other changes, added nearly a terabyte of needed data storage, and strengthened system reliability with more redundancy and better disaster recovery capability. We also moved our mission-critical server room to the 6th floor of the Ford House Office Building, which has emergency power and air conditioning and a higher level of physical security.
In the past few years, we have invested steadily in our technology to the point where, as mentioned earlier, every employee has up-to-date hardware and software, and our internal network and data communications are among the best in government. That level of accomplishment allows us to reduce new hardware and software spending somewhat in fiscal years 2001 and 2002 to accommodate major systems development efforts. Thus, in fiscal years 2001 and 2002, we will:
migrate our mission-critical Budget Analysis Data System to a
automate or replace older systems for administrative processes,
further develop our intranet as a primary delivery mechanism for
update a limited number of network and desktop software
develop a secure facility to house confidential and sensitive data
Streamline Procurement - Our goal is to modernize our procurement process so that it is a streamlined, paperless process with greater emphasis on competition.
During fiscal year 2000, we investigated processes and supporting software used by other organizations and began redesigning our current procurement process. We are now implementing a new automated system for processing purchase requests, issuing purchase orders, and tracking obligations, orders, and payments to vendors.
Mr. Chairman, during the last two years we have worked very hard to meet the needs of the Congress and to rebuild our staff during a period of great competition in the
labor market. To do this, we have raised starting salaries for new graduates and undertaken a variety of efforts to make CBO a more desirable employer for talented economists and policy analysts. The budget increase you provided last year remedied our earlier financial problems and, along with our extensive efforts to reduce our nonpayroll costs, has allowed us to make good progress. Nonetheless, we are still having difficulty attracting new Ph.D.s, and we must maintain competitive wages for all our analysts in order to retain them. Our budget request will allow us to continue our progress and meet the goals we have set for ourselves.