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Bop Report on Lateral Transfers of Staff 2009

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United States Government Accountability Office

GAO

Report to Congressional Requesters

February 2009

BUREAU OF
PRISONS
Written Policies on
Lateral Transfers and
Assessment of
Temporary
Assignments Needed

GAO-09-141

February 2009

BUREAU OF PRISONS
Accountability Integrity Reliability

Highlights

Written Policies on Lateral Transfers and Assessment
of Temporary Assignments Needed

Highlights of GAO-09-141, a report to
congressional requesters

Why GAO Did This Study

What GAO Found

The Department of Justice’s
Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is
responsible for the custody and
care of more than 202,000 federal
offenders with approximately
35,000 employees, almost half of
whom are correctional officers,
dispersed across BOP’s 114
correctional facilities in 6 regions.
In response to a request, GAO
identified whether BOP had
policies and procedures and how it
assessed the management of those
policies and procedures for (1)
employee-requested lateral
transfers of BOP employees
between correctional facilities and
(2) day-to-day changes in
correctional services or temporary
assignments of BOP employees
within a correctional facility. GAO
reviewed available documentation
on BOP’s policies and procedures
on lateral transfers and temporary
assignments. GAO also interviewed
officials from BOP’s central and
regional offices and seven facilities
selected on the basis of the number
of staff; at least one facility was
selected from within each of BOP’s
six regions.

BOP does not have written policies and procedures on lateral transfers of
staff. Each correctional facility evaluates requests for lateral transfers on a
case-by-case basis. Typically, when an employee requests a lateral transfer to
another facility, the warden at the employee’s current facility determines
whether to forward the request to the desired facility’s warden. The processes
for requesting a lateral transfer and the criteria for forwarding, granting, or
denying such requests varied across the facilities GAO reviewed, and
generally no documentation on decisions reached or actions taken was
maintained. Further, BOP does not systematically review decisions
concerning these requests at any level. As a result, BOP cannot determine the
number of requests for lateral transfers, the outcome of these requests, or
whether requests were handled consistently within or among facilities. GAO
has previously reported that agencywide policies and procedures help ensure
consistent treatment of staff when agencies have geographically dispersed
locations. Other Department of Justice law-enforcement components have
written policies, procedures, and a review process concerning requests for
lateral transfers.

What GAO Recommends
GAO recommends that BOP (1)
develop and implement specific
policies and procedures for
administering employee requests
for lateral transfers and (2)
systematically assess temporary
assignments. BOP agreed with
GAO’s findings, disagreed with the
first recommendation, and agreed
with and plans to take action on
the second. GAO continues to
believe written policies would help
ensure consistency across BOP.
To view the full product, including the scope
and methodology, click on GAO-09-141.
For more information, contact George H.
Stalcup at (202) 512-9490 or
stalcupg@gao.gov.

Unlike lateral transfers, BOP has written policies and procedures on how
facilities are to temporarily assign staff to fill in for absences or to meet other
needs that arise in a facility. However, BOP has not systematically assessed
how facilities are managing temporary assignments. As part of a costreduction strategy affecting temporary assignments, in 2005, BOP designated
mission critical posts, that is, assignments that were deemed essential for the
safe and secure operations of its facilities and that would be vacated only in
rare circumstances. The mission critical post initiative was intended to reduce
facilities’ reliance on overtime and non-correctional services staff, who had
typically been used for temporary assignments. A memorandum from the
Assistant Director of Correctional Programs described how each facility was
to gather information for 6 months on overtime and staffing under the mission
critical post initiative and how BOP would evaluate the effectiveness of the
initiative. However, BOP conducted no such evaluation. BOP officials also
generally do not review temporary assignments at any level, including the
effect of leaving mission critical posts unassigned.
According to the Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government,
federal agencies are to employ internal control activities, such as top-level
review, to help ensure that management’s directives are carried out and to
determine if agencies are effectively and efficiently using resources. Without
assessing its mission critical post initiative and data on temporary
assignments, BOP does not know whether it is efficiently and effectively using
staff for temporary assignments or achieving the desired cost savings. Also,
without reviewing the effect of leaving mission critical posts unassigned, BOP
cannot assess the effect, if any, of unassigned posts on the safety and security
of its facilities.
United States Government Accountability Office

Contents

Letter

1
Results in Brief
Background
BOP Lacked Written Policies and Procedures for Processing
Requests for Lateral Transfers
BOP Has Policies and Procedures for Staffing Temporary
Assignments but Has Not Systematically Assessed Their Use
Conclusions
Recommendations for Executive Action
Agency Comments and Our Evaluation

12
20
20
21

Appendix I

Objectives, Scope, and Methodology

23

Appendix II

BOP’s Correctional Services Roster Assignment and
Temporary Assignment Process

29

Analysis of Correctional Services Daily Rosters at
Selected BOP Facilities

31

Appendix IV

Comments from the U.S. Department of Justice

38

Appendix V

GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments

40

Table 1: Estimated Average Daily Number of Special Assignments
and Number Unassigned for Selected BOP Facilities, 2007

35

Figure 1: Locations of BOP Facilities and Regions and the Facilities
in Our Review
Figure 2: Options for Staffing a Temporary Assignment

7
15

Appendix III

3
5
9

Table

Figures

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GAO-09-141 Bureau of Prisons

Figure 3: Estimated Average Daily Percentage of Unassigned
Mission Critical Posts at Selected BOP Facilities, 2007
Figure 4: Estimated Average Daily Percentage of Mission Critical
Posts Filled with Overtime at Selected BOP Facilities,
2007
Figure 5: Estimated Average Daily Percentage of Mission Critical
Posts Filled with Non-Correctional Services Staff at
Selected BOP Facilities, 2007
Figure 6: Estimated Average Daily Percentage of Special
Assignments Filled with Overtime at Selected BOP
Facilities, 2007
Figure 7: Estimated Average Daily Percentage of Special
Assignments Filled with Non-Correctional Services Staff
at Selected BOP Facilities, 2007

32

33

34

36

37

Abbreviations
AFGE
BOP
EEOC
FCC
FCI
FMFIA
NFC
OPM
USP

American Federation of Government Employees
Bureau of Prisons
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
federal correctional complex
federal correctional institution
Federal Managers’ Financial Integrity Act of 1982
National Finance Center
Office of Personnel Management
United States Penitentiary

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GAO-09-141 Bureau of Prisons

United States Government Accountability Office
Washington, DC 20548

February 25, 2009
The Honorable John Conyers, Jr.
Chairman
The Honorable Lamar Smith
Ranking Member
Committee on the Judiciary
House of Representatives
The Honorable F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.
House of Representatives
The Department of Justice’s Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is
responsible for the custody and care of more than 202,000 federal
offenders, up from fewer than 25,000 in 1980. According to BOP, more
than 166,000, or approximately 82 percent, of these inmates are confined
in BOP’s 114 correctional facilities and detention centers of various
security levels.1 Responsible for the custody and care of these inmates are
approximately 35,000 BOP employees.
As agreed, this report responds to your request that we review BOP’s
management of permanent reassignments and temporary assignments of
BOP employees at its facilities. Specifically, our objectives were to identify
whether BOP had policies and procedures and how it assessed the
management of those policies and procedures for (1) permanent
reassignments of BOP employees between correctional facilities and (2)
temporary assignments of BOP employees within a correctional facility.
For purposes of this report, permanent reassignments, which BOP refers
to as lateral transfers, are employee-requested transfers to other BOP
facilities that do not involve a promotion or demotion.2 Temporary

1

The remaining approximately 36,000 inmates are confined through agreements with state
and local governments or through contracts with privately-operated residential re-entry
centers, detention centers, prisons, and juvenile facilities.

2

BOP stated in a written response that employees may also be permanently reassigned
through (1) agency-initiated reassignments, generally of management staff; (2) application
for an announced vacancy; (3) the Management Selection System for wardens and
associate wardens; and (4) the Open Continuous Announcement System for supervisory
correctional officers. We did not review BOP’s policies and procedures and BOP’s
assessment of the management of its policies and procedures on these other types of
permanent reassignments.

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GAO-09-141 Bureau of Prisons
sons

assignments are day-to-day changes in correctional services assignments
within BOP facilities, which are made for a variety of reasons, including
(1) illness or other absences of staff or (2) special assignments (i.e., to
meet needs that arise in a facility, not including regularly assigned posts).3
As part of our review, we selected seven BOP facilities, which included
five separately located facilities and two federal correctional complexes
(FCC).4 We selected facilities with the largest number of staff, with at least
one facility from within each of BOP’s six regions, and included low- and
medium-security federal correctional institutions (FCI) and high-security
United States Penitentiaries (USP). We excluded administrative facilities
from our review. The facilities selected were USP Lee in Virginia, USP
Hazelton in West Virginia, USP Pollock in Louisiana, FCI Sheridan
(medium) in Oregon, FCI Fort Dix (low) in New Jersey, FCC Coleman
(consisting of four facilities—two high-security, one medium-security, and
one low-security) in Florida, and FCC Terre Haute (consisting of two
facilities, a high-security and a medium-security) in Indiana. We conducted
a site visit to USP Hazelton and interviewed officials at the other facilities
by video conference.
To assess BOP’s management of lateral transfers and temporary
assignments, we reviewed available documentation on BOP’s written
policies and procedures for such transfers and assignments, the
implementation of those policies and procedures, and how BOP has
assessed the implementation of those policies and procedures. We also
reviewed the lateral transfer policies of four other law enforcement Justice
components—the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the U.S. Marshals
Service; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; and
the Drug Enforcement Administration. For lateral transfers, we
interviewed officials from BOP’s Human Resources and Program Review
divisions; each of its six regional offices; its Consolidated Employee
Service Center in Grand Prairie, Tex.; and the selected facilities. We also

3

A post is the location or assignment that is worked by staff. Temporary assignments are
reflected on BOP facilities’ correctional services daily rosters, which identify all individuals
assigned to correctional services for the day and are generated using BOP’s correctional
services computerized roster management system. BOP considers the correctional services
daily roster the official record of all staff assignments to the correctional services
department. See appendix II for additional information on the correctional services daily
rosters.

4

FCCs have two or more facilities colocated on a property that is contiguous. For purposes
of this report we refer to both the FCCs and separate facilities as “facilities.”

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GAO-09-141 Bureau of Prisons

interviewed representatives of the American Federation of Government
Employees Council of Prison Locals (AFGE). For temporary assignments,
we reviewed BOP’s policies and procedures related to correctional
services’ roster assignments. For each facility in our review, we analyzed a
stratified random sample of 60 hard-copy correctional services daily
rosters, 5 per month, for calendar year 2007 and estimated the extent to
which the facilities in our review used temporary assignments. For FCC
Coleman, which uses separate daily rosters to assign staff at each of its
four facilities, we reviewed the separate rosters from each facility for the
same 60 days. For FCC Terre Haute, which uses a consolidated roster to
assign staff throughout the complex, we reviewed the consolidated daily
roster for the 60 days. We determined that the data from the hard-copy
daily rosters were sufficiently reliable for purposes of this report. We also
interviewed individuals from BOP’s Correctional Programs and Program
Review divisions, its Office of Research and Evaluation, each of its six
regional offices, the selected facilities, and representatives of AFGE. See
appendix I for a more detailed discussion of our scope and methodology.
We conducted this performance audit from August 2007 to January 2009,
in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.
Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain
sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our
findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that
the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and
conclusions based on our audit objectives.

Results in Brief

BOP does not have written policies and procedures on lateral transfers of
staff. Correctional facilities generally evaluate requests for lateral transfers
on a case-by-case basis. Typically, when an employee requests a lateral
transfer to another facility, the warden at the employee’s current facility
determines whether to forward the request to the desired facility’s warden.
However, the processes for requesting a lateral transfer and the criteria for
forwarding, granting, or denying such requests varied across the facilities
we reviewed, and generally documentation on decisions reached or
actions taken was not maintained. Further, BOP does not systematically
review lateral transfers at any level. BOP officials told us that they did not
think written policies on lateral transfers were necessary because of the
infrequency of such requests and had not considered lateral transfers a
high-risk area necessitating review. Without documented procedures or
documentation on transfers made, BOP cannot determine the number of
requests for lateral transfers, the outcome of these requests, or whether
requests were handled consistently within or among facilities. We have

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GAO-09-141 Bureau of Prisons

previously reported that agencywide policies and procedures help ensure
consistent treatment of staff, particularly when agencies have
geographically dispersed locations. According to an official from the
Office of Personnel Management’s Strategic Human Resource Policy
Division, documentation of consistent treatment would also provide
support for an agency’s decision-making process when there are claims of
favoritism and help an agency to avoid perceptions of inconsistent
treatment. Other Justice law-enforcement components have policies,
procedures, and a review process covering lateral transfers.
Unlike lateral transfers, BOP has written policies and procedures on how
facilities are to temporarily assign staff. However, BOP has not
systematically assessed how facilities are managing temporary
assignments. As part of a cost-reduction strategy affecting temporary
assignments that began in 2004, BOP designated mission critical posts in
2005, that is, assignments that were deemed essential for the safe and
secure operations of its facilities and that would be vacated only in rare
circumstances. The mission critical post initiative was intended to enable
facilities to reduce reliance on overtime and non-correctional services
staff, who had typically been used for temporary assignments. A
memorandum from the Assistant Director of Correctional Programs
described how each facility was to gather information on overtime and
staffing over a 6-month period and how BOP would evaluate the
effectiveness of the mission critical post initiative. However, BOP
conducted no such evaluation, and BOP officials could not explain why
the evaluation was not conducted. According to the Standards for
Internal Control in the Federal Government, federal agencies are to
employ internal control activities, such as top-level review, to help ensure
that management’s directives are carried out and to determine if agencies
are effectively and efficiently using resources.5 BOP’s Management
Control and Program Review Manual states that BOP is to maintain a
system of management controls that enables managers to assess program
performance regularly. Further, in addition to not having evaluated the
mission critical post initiative, BOP officials generally do not review
temporary assignments, including the effect of leaving mission critical
posts unassigned. Because BOP’s computerized roster management
system does not produce summary data on temporary assignments, the
only way currently to assess how BOP is temporarily assigning staff would

5

GAO, Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government, GAO/AIMD-00-21.3.1
(Washington, D.C.: November 1999).

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GAO-09-141 Bureau of Prisons

be to manually review daily rosters. Without evaluating its mission critical
post initiative or routinely analyzing data on temporary assignments, BOP
does not know whether it is efficiently and effectively using staff for
temporary assignments or achieving the desired cost savings. Also,
without reviewing the effect of leaving mission critical posts unassigned,
BOP cannot assess the effect, if any, of unassigned posts on the safety and
security of its facilities.
We recommend that the Attorney General direct the Director of BOP to (1)
develop and implement specific policies and procedures for administering
employee requests for lateral transfers, including providing for the
collection of data on such requests and their outcomes and the
development of a system of oversight, and (2) systematically assess
temporary assignments to ensure that BOP is meeting the objectives of the
mission critical post initiative and effectively and efficiently using
resources.
We provided the Attorney General with a draft of this report for review
and comment. In his written comments on behalf of the Attorney General,
the Director of BOP agreed with our findings on the first recommendation
but disagreed with the recommended action because BOP would have to
devote resources to developing policies and procedures and maintaining
such a program. In addition, BOP perceived our recommendation as
elevating the process to a central office function. Instead, BOP plans to
“encourage a practice to have locations post a vacancy announcement on
USAJobs before filling local vacancies.” We continue to believe that
without written policies and procedures for managing lateral transfers,
BOP cannot ensure that staff are being consistently treated when
requesting lateral transfers. Regarding our second recommendation, the
Director agreed and stated that BOP will conduct a systematic assessment
of correctional services mission critical post use and conduct regularly
scheduled reviews of institutions to determine whether it is meeting its
mission critical post initiative and effectively and efficiently using
resources.

Background

BOP consists of a headquarters and six regional offices—Mid-Atlantic,
North Central, Northeast, South Central, Southeast, and Western—that
directly oversee the operations of its 114 facilities within their respective
geographic regions of the country. BOP operates facilities of different
security levels—minimum, low, medium, and high, which respectively
have increasing security features, inmate to staff ratios, and control of
inmate movement, and administrative, which have special missions, such

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GAO-09-141 Bureau of Prisons

as the treatment of inmates with serious or chronic medical problems.
Some BOP facilities are part of BOP’s 13 FCCs, which consist of two or
more facilities colocated on property that is contiguous. BOP facilities are
given a security designation based on the level of security and staff
supervision the facility is able to provide. Figure 1 shows the locations of
BOP facilities and regions and the facilities in our review.

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GAO-09-141 Bureau of Prisons

Figure 1: Locations of BOP Facilities and Regions and the Facilities in Our Review

FCI Sheridan,
Oregon

FCI Ft. Dix,
New Jersey

FCC Terre Haute,
Indiana

USP Hazelton,
West Virginia

WA
MT

ME

ND
MI

MN

VT
MA
CT
RI

NH

OR
ID

WI

SD

NY
MI

WY

PA

IA

NJ
MD
DE
DC

NE
NV

IL

UT

OH

IN

WV

CO
CA

VA

MO

KS

KY
NC
TN

OK

AZ

SC

AR

NM

MS
TX

AL

GA

LA

FL

AK

USP Lee,
Virginia

USP Pollock,
Louisiana

HI

FCC Coleman,
Florida

PR

Federal correctional facilities
Federal correctional facilities in our review
Western Region

Mid-Atlantic Region

North Central Region

Southeast Region

Northeast Region

South Central Region

Sources: GAO presentation of BOP information and Art Explosion (map).

Note: The total number of the facilities indicated on the map is less than 114 because some facilities
are part of federal correctional complexes (FCC), which include more than one facility. For example,
FCC Coleman consists of four facilities, and FCC Terre Haute consists of two facilities.

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GAO-09-141 Bureau of Prisons

Facilities are managed by a warden and other officials, including an
executive assistant and associate warden who generally provide overall
direction and implement policies. Each facility consists of various
departments, including the correctional services department, which
represents the largest segment of each facility. Correctional workers are
responsible for the correctional treatment, custody, and supervision of
criminal offenders. The captain is the head of the correctional services
department and generally reports to the warden or associate warden.
Lieutenants are generally responsible for the day-to-day staffing of
correctional services and report to the captain or deputy captain. Noncorrectional services staff include, among others, those assigned to health
services, unit management, food services, and facility operations.
According to BOP written responses, all facility staff receive the same
initial core 5 weeks of training and 1 week of annual refresher training.6
BOP’s Master Agreement with AFGE permits management to determine
the internal security practices of the agency and take whatever actions
may be necessary to carry out the agency mission during emergencies.7
According to BOP officials, the warden is permitted to use all facility staff
(including non-correctional services staff, such as secretary, nurse, or
dentist) for correctional services assignments during emergencies and at
other designated times. One of BOP’s published core values is that all
employees are “correctional workers first,” regardless of the specific
position to which an individual is hired, and both correctional services
staff and non-correctional services staff are responsible for the safety and
security of the facility.

6

Some positions require certification or additional training. For example, the security
officer position requires specific training courses in the repair and maintenance of BOP
weapons and recertification every 2 to 3 years.
7

The labor-management relations chapter of title 5 of the U.S. Code permits BOP
management to take whatever action is necessary to carry out the agency mission during
emergencies. See 5 U.S.C. § 7106(a)(2)(D).

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GAO-09-141 Bureau of Prisons

BOP Lacked Written
Policies and
Procedures for
Processing Requests
for Lateral Transfers

BOP has no written policies for lateral transfers and provides no guidance
to facilities on how to process requests for lateral transfers or criteria for
granting such requests. Requests for lateral transfers are generally handled
on a case-by-case basis, and the processes and criteria used for granting
those requests varied across facilities in our review. Neither BOP nor most
of the facilities reviewed maintained documentation or tracked data on
lateral transfers and their outcomes and did not systematically review
lateral transfers. We have previously reported that agencywide policies
and procedures help ensure consistent treatment when agencies are
geographically dispersed.8 Our review of the lateral transfer policies of
four other Justice components showed that each had established written
policies and procedures for lateral transfers.

BOP Had No Written
Policy for Lateral
Transfers, and Processes
and Criteria Used Varied
Across Facilities and
Regions

According to officials from BOP’s Human Resources Division, BOP has no
written policies and procedures for processing staff requests for lateral
transfers. The officials said that BOP staff request lateral transfers because
of a variety of personal reasons, including personal hardship, such as a
sick family member, or a relocated spouse. At most of the facilities
included in our review, officials told us staff generally requested a lateral
transfer from their current facility to another location by submitting a
memorandum through their warden to the warden at the desired location.
According to a written response from BOP, this approach is informal and
is at the discretion of both wardens. BOP provides no guidance to facilities
on how to process such requests or criteria for granting them. In addition,
because no written policies and procedures exist, BOP has no way of
ensuring that staff are aware of how to request a lateral transfer. An
official at one facility in our review said because no written policies exist,
if an employee wanted to find out about how to obtain a lateral transfer,
the employee would have to ask someone. BOP officials told us that they
did not think written policies on lateral transfers were necessary because
of the infrequency of such requests.
Officials from the facilities in our review reported using different
processes and criteria for lateral transfers. Officials from two facilities
said their Employee Services Department, which is responsible for human
resources functions, forwarded a memorandum from the employee to the
warden at the desired facility, while officials from other facilities said their

8

GAO, Equal Employment Opportunity SSA Region X’s Changes to Its EEO Process
Illustrate Need for Agencywide Procedures, GAO-03-604 (Washington, D.C.: July 16, 2003).

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Employee Services Department had no role in receiving or forwarding
requests for lateral transfers. Officials we interviewed from two facilities
said that their wardens routinely approved reassignment requests going
out of the facility, while others said requests would be considered
individually on a case-by-case basis. Further, in accepting requests for
incoming lateral transfers, officials from some facilities said the decision
was based on a combination of budgetary, staffing, and work performance
factors, while one facility official said he preferred not to approve lateral
transfers of senior correctional officers, specifically those at the General
Schedule grade 8, because of its affect on morale.

BOP Did Not Monitor
Requests for Lateral
Transfers or Their
Outcomes

BOP was unable to identify the number of staff who were laterally
transferred because it did not maintain data on the manner in which
employees are permanently reassigned. According to a BOP Human
Resources Division official we interviewed, BOP’s personnel database did
not contain information by type of permanent reassignment, such as
agency-initiated, application for announced vacancy, or lateral transfers.
In fiscal year 2005, a total of 2,749 staff were permanently reassigned; in
fiscal year 2006, 1,952; and in fiscal year 2007, 1,901. According to BOP
officials, these numbers reflect the total number of staff successfully
reassigned through all types of permanent reassignments; BOP could not
isolate lateral transfers. In addition, these numbers did not include the
number of staff who applied for or requested a reassignment and were
denied.
BOP did not require facilities to maintain any documentation of requests
for lateral transfers, such as the original memorandum making a request or
documents indicating whether requests were forwarded, approved,
denied, or reasons for denial. Officials from most of the facilities in our
review said their facilities retained the original employee request
memorandum in some circumstances, but one official said the request
memorandum was never retained. Without such documentation, BOP was
not able to determine BOP-wide the number of staff who requested lateral
transfers, the number of times an employee requested a transfer, the
number of requests approved or denied, or the reasons for denial.
According to BOP, its central office exercises no role in reviewing
decisions concerning lateral transfers where the warden is the deciding
official. BOP officials stated that lateral transfers have not been
considered a high-risk area necessitating review. At the regional level,
officials from five of the six regions told us that their offices had no role
concerning requests for lateral transfers where the warden was the

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GAO-09-141 Bureau of Prisons

deciding official. At the sixth region, an official said that starting in the
first quarter of 2008 all wardens in that region were required to obtain
authorization from the regional director before approving lateral transfers.
According to this official, the approval policy was implemented because of
a concern that transfers from hard-to-fill positions would contribute to
turnover. At the facility level, if the warden at the employee’s current
facility decided not to forward the request or the warden at the desired
facility denied the request, BOP had no formal process for
reconsideration.

Agencywide Policies,
Procedures, and
Monitoring Are Important
for Ensuring Consistent
Treatment of Staff

We have previously reported that it is important to have agencywide
policies and procedures to help ensure consistent treatment, especially if
employees are geographically dispersed across regions.9 Further,
according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC)
Management Directive 715, to ensure management and program
accountability, agencies should maintain clearly defined, wellcommunicated personnel policies, and ensure that they are consistently
applied.10 A Human Resources Specialist from the Office of Personnel
Management’s (OPM) Strategic Human Resource Policy Division told us
that policies, procedures, and monitoring of employee-initiated
reassignments are not required by regulation. However, according to the
official, as with any other personnel action, documentation could be
helpful if a personnel action is later questioned. The official also said that
documentation of consistent treatment would also provide support for an
agency’s decision-making process when there are claims of favoritism and
help an agency to avoid perceptions of inconsistent treatment. The
absence of BOP-wide policies and procedures for lateral transfers
diminishes BOP’s ability to ensure consistent treatment of staff across
BOP’s 114 facilities in 6 regions.
Our review of the policies and procedures of four other Justice lawenforcement components—the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the U.S.
Marshals Service; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and

9

GAO, Equal Employment Opportunity SSA Region X’s Changes to Its EEO Process
Illustrate Need for Agencywide Procedures, GAO-03-604 (Washington, D.C.: July 16, 2003).

10

EEOC’s Management Directive 715 provides guidance and standards to federal agencies
for establishing and maintaining effective equal employment opportunity programs,
including a framework for executive branch agencies to help ensure effective management,
accountability, and self-analysis.

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Explosives; and the Drug Enforcement Administration—showed that each
of these had established written policies and procedures applicable to
some or all employees for requesting a transfer to another location.11 For
example, the Marshals Service, whose policy is intended “to provide a
standard, fair, and efficient means of considering employee requests for
transfer,” uses a centralized automated system where deputy U.S.
Marshals can register their interest in transfers to district positions at
General Schedule grades 12 and below in one or more geographic
locations.12 For medical hardship requests, the policy also provides for a
review panel whose decisions can be appealed to a designated agency
official to approve or reject a request for a transfer.

BOP Has Policies and
Procedures for
Staffing Temporary
Assignments but Has
Not Systematically
Assessed Their Use

BOP has policies and procedures on how facilities are to assign staff on a
temporary basis, but it has not systematically assessed how such
temporary assignments are being made. As part of a cost-reduction
strategy involving temporary assignments that began in 2004, in 2005 BOP
designated certain posts as “mission critical,” that is, assignments that
were deemed essential for the safe and secure operations of its facilities
and would be vacated only in rare circumstances. The mission critical post
initiative was intended to reduce facilities’ reliance on overtime and noncorrectional services staff, both of which had typically been used for
temporary assignments. BOP provided facilities with general guidance on
implementing the initiative but did not subsequently conduct an evaluation
on the effectiveness of the initiative or determine whether it resulted in
reduced reliance on overtime and use of non-correctional services staff for
mission critical posts. Under the Standards for Internal Control in the
Federal Government,13 federal agencies are to employ internal control

11

We did not evaluate the policies and procedures of the other Justice law-enforcement
components.
12

The centralized system is used regardless of whether or not there is an announced
vacancy.
13

GAO, Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government, GAO/AIMD-00-21.3.1
(Washington, D.C.: November 1999). We used the criteria in these standards, issued
pursuant to the requirements of the Federal Managers’ Financial Integrity Act of 1982
(FMFIA), to provide the overall framework for establishing and maintaining internal
control in the federal government. Pub. L. No. 97-255, 96 Stat. 814. Also pursuant to FMFIA,
the Office of Management and Budget issued Circular No. A-123, revised December 21,
2004, to provide the specific requirements for assessing and reporting on internal controls.
Internal control standards and the definition of internal control in Circular No. A-123 are
based on the aforementioned GAO standards.

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activities, such as top-level review, to help ensure that management’s
directives are carried out and to determine if the agencies are effectively
and efficiently using resources. BOP generally does not review data on
temporary assignments at any level. In addition, BOP’s computerized
system cannot produce the summary data that would facilitate such a
review. As a result, we had to conduct a manual review of temporary
assignments. Our manual review showed that reliance on overtime and
non-correctional services staff varied by facility and that some mission
critical posts were left unassigned.

BOP Policies and
Procedures Provide
Options for Temporarily
Assigning Staff

BOP’s written sources of policies and procedures on temporary
assignments are the negotiated Master Agreement with AFGE and BOP’s
Correctional Services Procedures Manual. BOP’s Master Agreement with
AFGE provides that management, in accordance with applicable laws, has
the right to assign work and to determine the personnel by which
operations shall be conducted and outlines the negotiated procedures for
assigning work and other matters subject to negotiation.14 For example,
according to the Agreement, employees shall be given at least 24-hours
notice when it is necessary to make shift changes, except employees
assigned to the sick and annual leave list or when the requirement for
prior notice would cause vacating a post.15 Work assignments on the same
shift may be changed without advance notice. In addition, when BOP
determines that it is necessary to pay overtime for assignments normally
filled by bargaining unit employees, the Agreement provides that qualified
employees in the bargaining unit will receive first consideration for these
overtime assignments and that these assignments will be distributed and
rotated equitably among bargaining unit employees. Each facility may
negotiate specific procedures regarding overtime assignment. The stated
purpose of the Correctional Services Procedures Manual is to promote
standard management practices for correctional services staff at all
facilities, while recognizing the differences among facilities that vary in
missions and security levels. The Manual requires facilities to use the
computerized roster management system for the correctional services

14

The labor-management relations chapter of title 5 of the U.S. Code sets forth
management’s right to assign work and to determine the personnel by which operations
shall be conducted. 5 U.S.C. § 7106(a)(2)(B).

15

Staff assigned to the sick and annual list serve as a designated group of officers used for a
variety of reasons including to fill in for staff on leave, in training, or for special
assignments. The number of staff on the sick and annual list varies by facility.

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daily roster, reflecting all temporary assignments.16 According to
interviews with BOP officials, all temporary assignments must be recorded
in the computerized roster management system.
As stated earlier, BOP uses temporary assignments, or day-to-day changes
in correctional services assignments, for a variety of reasons including to
fill in for staff regularly assigned to correctional services posts at BOP
facilities who are absent because of illnesses or other reasons, such as
training, or for special assignments. Special assignments are used to meet
needs that arise in a facility and are not regularly assigned posts and may
include escorted trips, airlifts, bus transports, and phone monitoring.
Special assignments are used to address needs that could (1) arise
unexpectedly, such as a medical emergency, or (2) be anticipated and may
be planned for in advance, such as a scheduled educational activity or
medical appointment.
According to BOP officials, staffing decisions on temporary assignments
are made at the discretion of each individual facility and are generally
carried out by the lieutenants who are responsible for the day-to-day
staffing of the correctional services departments. The options for staffing
temporary assignments are not contained in BOP-wide written policy.
However, according to officials at the facilities we interviewed, when there
is a need for a temporary assignment, the assigning lieutenants have five
options, as shown in figure 2.

16

BOP’s computerized roster management system is a stand-alone Microsoft Access-based
program used by each facility and contains information on all correctional services and
non-correctional services staff who have previously been assigned a correctional services
post or special assignment.

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Figure 2: Options for Staffing a Temporary Assignment

Facility lieutenant
Can choose from the following options
to fill temporary assignments

Sick and annual list
Use staff assigned to the
sick and annual list who
serve as a designated
group of officers used for a
variety of reasons including
to fill in for staff on leave, in
training, or for special
assignments. The number
of staff on the sick and
annual list varies by facility.

Non-correctional
services staff

Pay overtime/
compensatory time

Use staff regularly
assigned to departments
other than correctional
services on a given day
and shift, leaving the
regular position of the
non-correctional services
staff vacant.

Use staff (correctional
services or noncorrectional services) not
regularly assigned for the
given day and shift that
need to be filled. Overtime
or compensatory time
hours are in addition to the
employee’s regularly
assigned hours.

Leave unassigned
Do not make a temporary
assignment and leave the
post or special assignment
vacant.

Correctional services
staff assigned to other
posts
Use correctional services
staff regularly assigned to
other posts. If this option is
selected, this officer’s
regular post would be
vacant. The lieutenant
would need to determine
whether and how to fill the
post or leave it unassigned.

Source: GAO analysis based on BOP information.

While most officials said that there were specific posts that should never
be left unassigned—including the control room, towers, special housing
unit, and mobile or perimeter patrol—officials from all of the facilities in
our review said that some mission critical posts could go unassigned,
depending on the type of post and the circumstances (e.g., in
emergencies). For example, an official from one facility said that if there is
snow on the ground and fewer inmates than normal are in the recreation
yard, one or more recreation yard posts may go unassigned.

BOP Implemented the
Mission Critical Post
Initiative to Achieve Cost
Reductions for Temporary
Assignments but Did Not
Assess the Initiative’s
Effectiveness

In 2004, faced with significant budgetary constraints associated with
increases in the inmate population, BOP began implementing a threephase comprehensive strategy designed to streamline its operations and
reduce costs. As part of its overall cost-reduction strategy, in 2005, BOP
implemented the mission critical post initiative. The objectives of the
mission critical post initiative were to (1) establish posts that were
deemed essential for the safe and secure operations of its facilities and
would be vacated only under rare circumstances, (2) reduce the reliance
by the correctional services department on non-correctional services staff,
and (3) substantially reduce overtime costs. According to BOP’s Director,

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these objectives were to be achieved by making other correctional
services posts available for relief and special assignments. Before the
mission critical post initiative, special assignments had most often been
covered by use of overtime or non-correctional services staff.
Under the mission critical post initiative, BOP identified standard
correctional services posts for each security level. These included posts
that were mandated by current policy as well as posts that were
determined to be essential for the daily operations of the facilities, such as
those in the control room, where staff can monitor all facility activity and
control entrances and exits, and housing units, which include sleeping
spaces and a common area. BOP gave facility wardens final authority in
designating mission critical posts to accommodate specific facility
missions and designs, such as the needs of an older building, and to
consider other factors. Correctional services posts deemed not mission
critical, such as front gate or chapel officers, were eliminated. BOP
guidance stated that certain essential duties, such as telephone
monitoring, still needed to be accomplished despite the absence of a
dedicated post. BOP guidance also required the facility captain to ensure
that all other reasonable options had been exhausted before authorizing
overtime to fill mission critical posts. However, BOP did not specify what
such options were. Further, BOP’s Correctional Services Procedures
Manual, which provides guidance on assigning correctional services staff,
was last updated in October 2003, before the implementation of the
mission critical post initiative and, therefore, does not provide further
guidance on when it is appropriate to (1) use non-correctional services
staff or (2) leave a mission critical post unassigned rather than pay
overtime.
A memorandum from the Assistant Director of Correctional Programs
designated a 6-month evaluation period for the mission critical post
initiative and described how BOP was to gather information from the
facilities and how it was to evaluate the implementation of the initiative:
“In order to monitor this process over the next 6 months, each Captain will be required to
submit a weekly recapitulation to their (sic) respective Regional Correctional Services
Administrator identifying their (sic) daily activity regarding local roster management. At
minimum, the weekly recapitulation must consist of the amount of overtime used, number
of posts filled by shift, the number of staff on day off, annual leave, sick leave, holiday, and
training. The weekly recapitulation must be sent to the respective Regional Correctional
Services Administrator by the close of business on Monday of the following week. At the
end of the six-month period, the roster recapitulation results by institution will be analyzed

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regarding the amount of overtime used in regards to each institution’s Custody staffing
pattern and mission.”

According to BOP officials, BOP never conducted the analysis described in
the memorandum and has not conducted any evaluation of the mission
critical post initiative. BOP officials could not explain why the evaluation
was not conducted. Such an evaluation would have been consistent with
both the Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government,
which provide that federal agencies are to employ internal control
activities, such as top-level review, to help ensure that management’s
directives are carried out and resources are effectively and efficiently
used, and BOP’s Management Control and Program Review Manual,
which lays out the basic components of its system of management
controls, which include assessing program performance regularly.

BOP Management
Generally Does Not
Review Temporary
Assignments

BOP’s management generally does not review temporary assignments. For
example, BOP’s central office does not review temporary assignments,
including the extent to which facilities leave mission critical posts
unassigned or rely on overtime or non-correctional services staff to fill
temporary assignments. Central office reviews, which are conducted by
BOP’s Program Review Division, generally every 3 years, are limited to
reviewing a sample of daily rosters to ensure that the rosters are signed
and properly maintained and do not include a review of temporary
assignments. At the regional level, reviews of temporary assignments are
generally limited to overtime usage and do not include reviews on the
extent to which mission critical posts were left unassigned and the
reliance on non-correctional services staff. While facilities in all six
regions are to submit overtime reports to their regional offices for review,
according to BOP written responses, these reports are not provided in a
consistent manner throughout the agency and are used differently by each
region. At the facility level, reviews of temporary assignments are mostly
limited to the day-to-day reviews of the daily rosters generally to verify
accuracy.17 In addition, officials from one of the seven facilities reported
tracking mission critical posts left unassigned on daily rosters, and the
warden at that facility said that he randomly reviews daily rosters on a
weekly basis. Without reviewing unassigned mission critical posts,

17

Some of the BOP captains we interviewed said they also reviewed roster summaries for
overtime use and excused and unexcused absences. Officials from two of the facilities in
our review said that their associate wardens review roster summaries including for the
number of employees on leave and in training.

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facilities cannot determine whether leaving mission critical posts
unassigned has an effect on facilities’ safety and security.
Because of limitations with BOP’s computerized roster management
system, the only way currently for BOP to assess how it is temporarily
assigning staff would be for BOP officials to manually review daily rosters.
The system does not produce summary data on temporary assignments
and does not produce reliable historical data on non-correctional services
positions. While the system contains data on temporary assignments for
individual days, it currently does not produce summary data that would
make it easier for BOP officials to assess BOP’s use of temporary
assignments. For example, when a facility leaves a mission critical post
unassigned, it is designated on the correctional services daily roster, but
BOP’s computerized system does not produce summary data on the
number of mission critical posts left unassigned. To obtain summary data,
a facility would have to count the occurrences of unassigned posts from
each daily roster for a given period. In addition, although the system can
produce limited data on overtime and non-correctional services staff by
individual days,18 it does not produce summary data over time on the use
of overtime or non-correctional services staff or the purposes for which
overtime was paid or non-correctional services staff were used. In March
2008, one region began manually reviewing individual daily rosters
submitted by its facilities.19 Officials in that region said that two staff
members currently spend about an hour a day reviewing the rosters and
that one staff member is spending about an hour and a half reviewing the
rosters on a weekly basis. Also according to BOP officials responsible for
the design and implementation of the system, although it distinguishes
between correctional services and non-correctional services staff, if an
employee moves from a correctional services position to a noncorrectional services position or vice versa, the employee’s department

18

BOP’s computerized system can generate an overtime report that includes for each day,
the name of each staff member who worked overtime, the name of the post or type of
special assignment, the hours worked by the staff member, and if the staff member was
regularly assigned to a non-correctional services department. For non-correctional services
staff, the summary on the last page of the daily roster contains a total count of the
occurrences of non-correctional services staff used for mission critical posts and special
assignments combined.
19

These officials said they are reviewing individual daily rosters for overall staffing,
including use of sick and annual staff, correctional and non-correctional services staff,
overtime, and special assignments. The officials also said that they are trying to make sure
all staff (correctional services and non-correctional services) are assigned before overtime
is used.

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status would change for all rosters that are stored on the system before
the move. As a result, any historical data on the use of non-correctional
services staff is not reliable, and only hard copy versions of daily rosters
maintained at a facility are an accurate record. Without summary data on
the use of overtime and non-correctional services staff and the purposes
for which overtime was paid or non-correctional services staff were used,
BOP cannot assess whether the policy changes it made involving
temporary assignments enabled BOP to achieve its goals of reducing its
reliance on overtime and non-correctional services staff. Also without
summary data on unassigned mission critical posts, BOP cannot assess the
effect, if any, of such posts on the safety and security of its facilities.
Further, without reliable data on the use of non-correctional services
positions, BOP cannot accurately assess the extent to which it has reduced
its reliance on non-correctional services staff.

Manual Review of
Temporary Assignments
Shows That BOP Facilities
Left Mission Critical Posts
Unassigned and Relied on
Overtime and NonCorrectional Services Staff
to Varying Degrees

Our review of BOP’s management of temporary assignments included
determining how BOP temporarily assigned staff, specifically the extent to
which the facilities in our review left mission critical posts unassigned and
relied on overtime and non-correctional services staff for temporary
assignments. Because of the limitations with BOP’s computerized roster
management system, we manually reviewed individual daily rosters. For
each of the facilities in our review, we analyzed a stratified random sample
of 60 correctional services daily rosters, 5 per month, for calendar year
2007. We counted for both mission critical posts and special assignments
the occurrences of (1) unassigned posts, (2) non-correctional services staff
paid regular time, (3) correctional services staff paid overtime, (4) noncorrectional services staff paid overtime, and (5) compensatory time and
statistically estimated the average number and percentage of mission
critical posts and special assignments for each of these categories.20 We
also counted the total number of special assignments. We did not review
daily rosters completed before the implementation of the mission critical
post initiative and therefore do not know the impact of the initiative.
Appendix I provides detailed information on the methods we used for

20

For mission critical posts, each estimate from these samples has a margin of error, at the
95 percent confidence level, of plus or minus 2 percent or less for average daily percentage
estimates or plus or minus 2 posts or less for average daily post estimates. For special
assignments, each estimate from these samples has a margin of error, at the 95 percent
confidence level, of plus or minus 6 percent or less for average daily percentage estimates
or plus or minus 3 special assignments or less for average daily special assignment
estimates.

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conducting our analysis. Appendix III provides the results of our analysis
for each of the facilities in our review.
Our analysis showed that facilities in our review left mission critical posts
unassigned, with an estimated low of 3 percent of mission critical posts
per day on average at two facilities and an estimated high of 12 percent per
day on average at another facility. Facilities differed in the occurrences of
overtime to fill mission critical posts, with estimated low of 1 percent per
day on average and a estimated high of 6 percent per day on average and
for special assignments an estimated low of 21 percent of special
assignments per day on average and an estimated high of 63 percent per
day on average. Facilities differed in the of use of non-correctional
services staff to fill mission critical posts, with an estimated low of 1
percent of mission critical posts per day on average and an estimated high
of 10 percent per day on average and for special assignments an estimated
low of 2 percent of special assignments per day on average and an
estimated high of 25 percent per day on average. It is unclear the extent to
which leaving mission critical posts unassigned, paying overtime, and
using non-correctional services staff may affect the safety and security of
BOP’s operations.

Conclusions

BOP does not have written policies and procedures for managing lateral
transfers. Without such policies and procedures, BOP cannot ensure that
staff at each of its 114 facilities in 6 regions across the United States have
similar processes available to them or are being consistently treated when
they request lateral transfers. While BOP does have processes in place for
managing temporary assignments, it has not evaluated the effectiveness of
its mission critical post initiative nor systematically assessed temporary
assignments. Without such assessments, BOP is not employing internal
control activities specified in federal standards and BOP policy and,
therefore, cannot determine whether it is achieving the desired cost
savings or determine the effect, if any, of unassigned mission critical posts
on the safety and security of its facilities.

Recommendations for
Executive Action
•

We recommend that the Attorney General direct the Director of BOP to
develop and implement specific policies and procedures for administering
employee requests for lateral transfers, including the collection of data on
such requests and their outcomes and the development of a system of
oversight to ensure the consistent treatment of BOP staff and

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•

Agency Comments
and Our Evaluation

systematically assess temporary assignments to ensure that BOP is
meeting the objectives of the mission critical post initiative and effectively
and efficiently using resources.
In a letter dated February 5, 2009 (see app. IV), the Director of BOP, on
behalf of the Attorney General, agreed with our findings. Regarding our
first recommendation, the Director disagreed with the recommended
action that BOP develop and implement specific policies and procedures
for administering employee requests for lateral transfers because BOP
would have to devote time and personnel to developing policies and
procedures and maintaining such a program. In addition, the Director
stated that implementation of our recommendation would elevate this
process to a central office function rather than retain it at the local level
where staffing decisions are made. While developing, implementing, and
overseeing policies and procedures that we recommend would require
some resources, these actions would not necessarily require centralizing
either decisions on requests for lateral transfers or the data collection on
such requests and their outcomes. For example, decisions on transfer
requests could primarily remain at the facility level; facilities would collect
and retain data on all requests and their disposition and facilities would
then report these data on lateral transfers to BOP. This would allow BOP
to conduct appropriate oversight to ensure that requests for lateral
transfers are handled consistently across facilities. The Director stated
that instead of implementing our recommendation, BOP plans to
“encourage a practice to have locations post a vacancy announcement on
USAJobs before filling local vacancies.” Such a plan would fall short of the
intent of our recommendation of having specific policies and procedures
for facilities across BOP to administer employee requests for lateral
transfers, including the collection of data on such requests and their
outcomes and the development of a system of oversight to ensure
consistent treatment of staff. We continue to believe that without such
written policies and procedures covering lateral transfers, BOP cannot
readily monitor how such transfers are being managed across BOP or
ensure that staff are being consistently treated when requesting such
transfers.
Regarding our second recommendation, the Director stated that BOP will
conduct a systematic assessment of the use of correctional services
mission critical posts at its field locations from January 1 through
December 31, 2009. Further, the assessment will include the issue of
vacating posts. After the initial assessment, BOP’s Correctional Services
Program Review Guidelines will be modified as appropriate based on

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BOP’s findings, and BOP plans to conduct regularly scheduled reviews of
institutions to determine whether it is meeting its mission critical post
initiative and effectively and efficiently using resources.

We will send copies of this report to the Attorney General and other
interested parties. Copies will be made available to others upon request.
This report will also be available at no charge on GAO’s Web site at
http://www.gao.gov.
If you have questions about this report, please contact me on
(202) 512-9490 or at stalcupg@gao.gov. Contact points for our Offices of
Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on the last
page of this report. Staff who made major contributions are listed in
appendix V.

George H. Stalcup
Director, Strategic Issues

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Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
Methodology

Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
Methodology
Our objectives were to identify whether BOP had policies and procedures
and how it assessed the management of those policies and procedures for
(1) permanent reassignments of BOP employees between correctional
facilities and (2) temporary assignments of BOP employees within a
correctional facility. For purposes of this report, permanent
reassignments, referred to as lateral transfers by BOP, are employeerequested transfers to other BOP facilities that do not involve a promotion
or demotion. Temporary assignments are day-to-day changes in
correctional services assignments at BOP facilities made for a variety of
reasons including (1) to fill in for staff regularly assigned to correctional
services posts who are absent because of illnesses or other reasons, such
as training, or (2) for special assignments (i.e., to meet needs that arise in a
facility and are not regularly assigned posts).1
As part of our review, we selected seven facilities, which included five
separately located facilities and two federal correctional complexes
(FCC).2 We selected facilities based on the number of staff, as reported in
BOP’s 2006 State of the Bureau, with at least one facility from within each
of BOP’s six regions, and included low- and medium-security federal
correctional institutions (FCI) and high-security United States
Penitentiaries (USP). Because of their specialized missions, we excluded
administrative facilities, such as Federal Detention Centers, Federal
Medical Centers, and the Administrative-Maximum USP. To select the
FCCs, we included an additional criterion, whether the FCC used separate
rosters to assign staff at each of the facilities in the complex or one
consolidated roster to assign staff throughout the complex. Based on
information provided by BOP, we selected the FCC with the highest
number of staff that uses a consolidated roster, FCC Terre Haute
(consisting of two facilities, a high-security and a medium-security) in the
North Central Region, and the FCC with the highest number of staff that
uses separate rosters, FCC Coleman (consisting of four facilities—two
high-security, one medium-security, and one low-security) in the Southeast
Region. For the remaining regions, we selected the facility in each region

1

Temporary assignments are reflected on BOP facilities’ correctional services daily rosters,
which identify all individuals assigned to correctional services for the day and are
generated using BOP’s correctional services computerized roster management system.
BOP considers the correctional services daily roster the official record of all staff
assignments to the correctional services department. See appendix II for additional
information on correctional services roster assignments.

2

FCCs have two or more facilities colocated on a property that is contiguous. For purposes
of this report we refer to both the FCCs and separate facilities as “facilities.”

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Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
Methodology

with the highest number of staff. In the Mid-Atlantic region, we selected
the two facilities with the highest number of staff, one at which to conduct
a site visit. We selected low-security FCI Fort Dix in the Northeast Region,
medium-security FCI Sheridan in the Western Region, and the following
high-security USPs: Hazelton and Lee in the Mid-Atlantic Region and
Pollock in the South Central Region. We conducted a site visit to USP
Hazelton and interviewed officials at the other facilities by video
conference.

Objective 1: Lateral
Transfers of BOP
Employees among
Correctional Facilities

To identify whether BOP had policies and procedures on lateral transfers
and how it assessed the management of such policies, we requested
documentation on such policies and procedures. We also interviewed
officials from BOP’s Human Resources and Program Review divisions,
each of its regional offices, its Consolidated Employee Service Center in
Grand Prairie, Tex., and the seven facilities in our review. We interviewed
representatives of the American Federation of Government Employees
Council of Prison Locals (AFGE) and reviewed AFGE’s Master Agreement
with BOP. To obtain information about the use of written policies,
procedures, and oversight of lateral transfers in the federal government,
we interviewed an official from the Office of Personnel Management’s
Strategic Human Resources Policy Division. We also requested and
reviewed documentation on the extent to which four other Department of
Justice law enforcement components—Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco,
Firearms and Explosives; Drug Enforcement Administration; Federal
Bureau of Investigation; and United States Marshals Service—had written
policies and procedures in place for such reassignments.
To identify the number of BOP employees who were permanently
reassigned for fiscal years 2004 through 2007, we requested and obtained
National Finance Center (NFC) data from BOP on the number of
permanent reassignments.3 These data included those successfully
reassigned through all types of permanent reassignments, including lateral
transfers, agency-initiated reassignments, application for an announced
vacancy, BOP’s Management Selection System, and the Open Continuous
Announcement System, but BOP could not separate the data by type of
reassignment. We compared the NFC data with data on permanent
reassignments generated by the Office of Personnel Management’s Central

3

NFC operates an integrated payroll/personnel system and provides related support
services for the payroll process to various federal agencies.

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Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
Methodology

Personnel Data File. The discrepancies were small enough for us to
determine that the NFC data were sufficiently reliable for the purposes of
this report.

Objective 2:
Temporary
Assignments of BOP
Employees within
Correctional Facilities

To identify whether BOP had policies and procedures and how it assessed
the management of its policies and procedures for temporary assignments
of BOP employees within correctional facilities, we reviewed BOP
program statements and other guidance related to temporary assignments.
We interviewed the relevant officials at BOP’s central and regional offices,
and at each of the selected facilities. We also interviewed representatives
of AFGE and reviewed AFGE’s Master Agreement with BOP.
To determine how the facilities in our review used temporary assignments,
we analyzed correctional services daily rosters provided by BOP for each
of the facilities included in our review. BOP facilities maintain daily
rosters in two ways: (1) in its computerized roster management system,
which can be accessed at a later date and (2) as hard copies stored at each
facility. We analyzed hard-copy correctional services daily rosters from
facilities in our review because BOP’s computerized roster management
system does not produce historically accurate data on the department
status of correctional services and non-correctional services staff that are
sufficiently reliable for purposes of this report. According to BOP officials
responsible for the design and implementation of BOP’s computerized
system, although the system distinguishes between correctional services
and non-correctional services staff, if an employee moves from a
correctional services position to a non-correctional services position or
vice versa, the employee’s department status would change for all rosters
that are stored in the system before the move.
To determine the reliability of the hard-copy daily rosters, we reviewed
training and other technical documentation associated with the
computerized roster management system used at BOP facilities and BOP’s
policies and procedures for ensuring the accuracy of the data. We
interviewed BOP’s Correctional Services Administrator; BOP officials
responsible for designing, maintaining, and updating the computerized
roster management system and for organizing system training at the
facilities; and BOP officials from each of the seven facilities in our review
knowledgeable about entering data and generating daily rosters. We
determined that the data contained in the official hard-copy correctional
services daily rosters were sufficiently reliable for the purposes of this
report. BOP considers the hard-copy daily rosters the official record of
staffing in correctional services, including the use of overtime and the use

Page 25

GAO-09-141 Bureau of Prisons

Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
Methodology

of non-correctional services staff. According to facility officials we
interviewed, the evening watch lieutenant and captain review and sign
each day’s hard-copy roster for accuracy, typically within the 24 to 48
hours following the end of the last shift of the day. That roster then
becomes the final version. BOP requires the signed hard-copy daily rosters
to be stored at the facility for 10 years.4
We did not evaluate the accuracy of information on the individual daily
rosters. We excluded those hard-copy daily rosters that were printed more
than 30 days after the date of the daily roster because we determined that
the designations on non-correctional services staff were not sufficiently
reliable for the purposes of this report.5 We also excluded from our
analysis incomplete daily rosters (i.e., those that were sent to us with
missing pages) and rosters that we did not receive.6

Analysis of Daily Rosters

To analyze the correctional services daily rosters from each of the
facilities in our review, we selected a stratified random sample of 60 hardcopy daily rosters, 5 per month, from the universe of 365 daily rosters per
facility for calendar year 2007. We did not look at daily rosters completed
before the implementation of the mission critical initiative and therefore
do not know the impact of the initiative. For FCC Coleman, which uses
separate daily rosters to assign staff at each of its four facilities, we
reviewed the separate rosters from each facility for the 60 days. For FCC
Terre Haute, which uses a consolidated roster to assign staff throughout
the complex, we reviewed the consolidated daily roster for the 60 days. In
total, we reviewed 600 daily rosters. With this stratified random sample,
each roster in the universe had a chance of being selected. Each selected
roster was subsequently weighted in the analysis to account statistically
for all the members of the universe, including those who were not
selected.

4
Changes to leave categories can be made as needed after the daily roster has been
finalized. The daily roster would be updated in the computerized roster management
system and a new hard copy would be generated, signed, and stored at the facility.
5

One daily roster was excluded from our analysis because it was printed over 30 days after
the date of the daily roster.

6

One roster from one facility and two rosters from another facility were excluded from our
analysis because the rosters were either missing pages or were not provided to us.

Page 26

GAO-09-141 Bureau of Prisons

Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
Methodology

For each day selected in the sample, on the daily roster we manually
counted for both mission critical posts and special assignments
occurrences of (1) unassigned posts, (2) non-correctional services staff
paid regular time, (3) correctional services staff paid overtime, (4) noncorrectional services staff paid overtime, and (5) compensatory time. In
addition, we counted the total number of special assignments assigned per
day at each facility in our review. Based on these results, we estimated the
average daily number and percentage of mission critical posts and special
assignments that were unassigned, filled with non-correctional services
staff, or filled with overtime using either correctional services staff or noncorrectional services staff. These results are limited to the facilities in our
review for calendar year 2007 and are not intended to be applied to
facilities across BOP.
For the overtime results, we based the average daily count on the number
of overtime occurrences rather than number of overtime hours. The total
number of overtime occurrences per day was determined by adding the
daily count of occurrences of correctional services staff paid overtime and
non-correctional services staff paid overtime.
Because of resource constraints, we did not count the total number of
mission critical posts listed on each of the 600 daily rosters. This would
have provided the actual total number of mission critical posts for each
day. Instead, we calculated daily percentages based on the maximum
number of posts possible per day in the facility, which ranged from 70
mission critical posts at low-security FCI Coleman to 232 mission critical
posts at FCC Terre Haute.7 BOP facilities determine the number of days
needed for each post, and posts are designated as consisting of between 1
to 7 day shifts per week. For example, a visiting-room post was identified
as a 2-day shift per week at one facility in our review. We assumed for
each day in our sample that each mission critical post would be listed on
the daily roster—that is, the visiting room would be staffed on each day of
our sample. Because it is likely that not every post would be included on
the daily roster on each of the days in our sample and that the actual
number of posts listed on the roster would be less than the maximum
number of posts possible in a day at that facility, our methodology
potentially underestimates the results.

7

The maximum daily posts were obtained from each facility’s quarterly complement
analysis which, according to BOP, is generated by each facility’s computerized roster
management system and shows which posts are to be staffed for the quarter as well as
defining the staffing required to fill the listed posts for each day in that quarter.

Page 27

GAO-09-141 Bureau of Prisons

Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
Methodology

Because we followed a procedure based on random selection, each of our
samples is only one of a large number of samples that we might have
drawn. Since each possible sample could have provided different
estimates, we express our confidence in the precision of our particular
sample’s results as a 95 percent confidence interval. This is the interval
that would contain the actual value for 95 percent of the samples we could
have drawn from the universe. For mission critical posts, each estimate
from these samples has a margin of error at the 95 percent confidence
level, of plus or minus 2 percent or less for average daily percentage
estimates or plus or minus 4 posts or less for average daily post estimates.
For special assignments, each estimate from these samples has a margin of
error, at the 95 percent confidence level, of plus or minus 6 percent or less
for average daily percentage estimates or plus or minus 3 special
assignments or less for average daily special assignments estimates.
We conducted this performance audit from August 2007 to January 2009 in
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. Those
standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient,
appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and
conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that the evidence
obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions
based on our audit objectives.

Page 28

GAO-09-141 Bureau of Prisons

Appendix II: BOP’s Correctional Services
Roster Assignment and Temporary
Assignment Process

Appendix II: BOP’s Correctional Services
Roster Assignment and Temporary
Assignment Process
This appendix describes how BOP assigns staff to correctional services
mission critical posts and makes temporary assignments to these posts
and special assignments.

Assignments to
Mission Critical Posts

BOP correctional services staff are assigned to or selected for two types of
mission critical posts, rotating and non-rotating. Most posts in a facility are
rotating posts and are assigned on a quarterly basis in accordance with the
bidding procedures contained in the Master Agreement between BOP and
AFGE. The outcome of the bid process represents the correctional
services assignments for that specific quarter. These include such posts as
the control room, where staff can monitor all facility activity and control
entrances and exits, and housing units, which include inmate sleeping
spaces and a common area. Staff may also bid on what are called “sick and
annual” posts. Staff who hold sick and annual posts serve as a designated
group of officers used for a variety of reasons, including filling in for staff
on leave, in training, or for special assignments. Non-rotating posts are not
open to quarterly bidding, and staff are assigned or selected on a
permanent basis. These include such posts as captain’s secretary, captain,
and special investigative agent. Assignments to mission critical post
(rotating and non-rotating) are reflected on each facility’s quarterly roster
that is prepared and stored in each facility’s computerized roster
management system.1 The quarterly roster reflects all staff assigned to
posts for the quarter and serves as the basis for all daily rosters for that
quarter and is generated from each facility’s computerized system.

Temporary
Assignments to
Mission Critical Posts
and Special
Assignments

Approximately 2 weeks before a particular date, the designated
administrative lieutenant at each facility generates the daily roster from
the computerized system. Subsequently, designated supervisory staff,
typically other lieutenants, enter temporary assignments directly into the
computerized system to reflect correctional services staff requests for
leave and special assignments. In staffing temporary assignments,
lieutenants are to consider the number of staff needed and the specialized
experience, training, or certification required for some posts and special
assignments and the qualifications of available staff. For example, in cases

1

The computerized roster management system is a stand-alone Microsoft Access-based
program used by each facility and contains information on all correctional and noncorrectional services staff who have previously been assigned a correctional services post
or special assignment. The information is entered into each facility’s computerized system
at the facility level.

Page 29

GAO-09-141 Bureau of Prisons

Appendix II: BOP’s Correctional Services
Roster Assignment and Temporary
Assignment Process

of medical escort special assignments, BOP policy requires a 3-to-1 staffto-inmate ratio for maximum custody inmates, but only a 2-to-1 ratio for
high- and medium-custody inmates. To escort an inmate to an outside
medical facility, the staff assigned must have completed basic prisoner
transport training and be recertified annually. Names of staff who are
current on this certification and certifications required for other posts or
special assignments are contained on lists available to the assigning
lieutenant and are available under the staff member’s name in the
computerized system. In addition, officials from some facilities and
regional offices told us that staff assigned to some posts, while not
requiring a formal certification, should have a certain level of knowledge
or experience. For example, in the control room, officials told us that it is
important to have someone with knowledge of the facility to fill in for
someone regularly assigned. Finally, officials from two facilities said that
certain non-rotating posts—those that are not assigned on a quarterly
basis—such as special investigative agent, emergency planning officers,
captain’s secretary, captain, and deputy captain could go temporarily
unassigned, and officials from one of these facilities said staff assigned to
some non-rotating posts are used for temporary assignments to mission
critical posts and special assignments. Temporary assignments are made
as necessary until the end of the last shift of the day (i.e., midnight).

Page 30

GAO-09-141 Bureau of Prisons

Appendix III: Analysis of Correctional
Services Daily Rosters at Selected BOP
Facilities

Appendix III: Analysis of Correctional
Services Daily Rosters at Selected BOP
Facilities
This appendix describes the results of our analysis of correctional services
daily rosters of how each of the facilities in our review used temporary
assignments to mission critical posts and special assignments for calendar
year 2007. For a more detailed description of the methods we used to
conduct our analysis, see appendix I.

Mission Critical Posts

Our analysis showed that during calendar year 2007 facilities in our review
left mission critical posts unassigned ranging from an estimated low of 3
percent per day on average at FCI Sheridan and FCI Coleman Medium to
an estimated high of 12 percent per day on average at USP Coleman II.
Figure 3 shows the 2007 estimated average daily percentage of unassigned
mission critical posts for each of the facilities we reviewed. We did not
analyze which specific posts went unassigned (e.g., rotating or nonrotating posts or posts by name).

Page 31

GAO-09-141 Bureau of Prisons

Appendix III: Analysis of Correctional
Services Daily Rosters at Selected BOP
Facilities

Figure 3: Estimated Average Daily Percentage of Unassigned Mission Critical Posts
at Selected BOP Facilities, 2007
Percentage

16
14
12%

12
10
8

7%
6%

6%

6

4%

4

4%

4%

4%

3%

3%

2

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BOP facility
Source: GAO analysis of BOP correctional services daily rosters.

Note: All estimates have a margin of error, at the 95 percent confidence level, of plus or minus 2
percent or less for average daily percentage estimates.

Facilities paid overtime to fill, on average, an estimated low of 1 percent
per day of mission critical posts at USP Lee and a high of 6 percent per day
of mission critical posts at FCI Coleman Low, FCI Coleman Medium, and
USP Coleman II, as figure 4 shows.

Page 32

GAO-09-141 Bureau of Prisons

Appendix III: Analysis of Correctional
Services Daily Rosters at Selected BOP
Facilities

Figure 4: Estimated Average Daily Percentage of Mission Critical Posts Filled with
Overtime at Selected BOP Facilities, 2007
Percentage
9
8
7
6%

6

6%

6%
5%

5%

5
4%

4
3

2%

2

2%

2%
1%

1

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BOP facility
Source: GAO analysis of BOP correctional services daily rosters.

Notes: Averages are based on the number of overtime occurrences rather than number of overtime
hours. The total number of overtime occurrences per day was determined by summing the daily count
of occurrences of correctional staff paid overtime and non-correctional services staff paid overtime.
All estimates have a margin of error, at the 95 percent confidence level, of plus or minus 2 percent or
less for average daily percentage estimates.

Facilities used non-correctional services staff to fill, on average, an
estimated low of 1 percent per day of mission critical posts at FCI
Sheridan, USP Hazelton, USP Lee, USP Pollock, and FCC Terre Haute and
a high of 10 percent per day of mission critical posts at FCI Coleman
Medium, as figure 5 shows.

Page 33

GAO-09-141 Bureau of Prisons

Appendix III: Analysis of Correctional
Services Daily Rosters at Selected BOP
Facilities

Figure 5: Estimated Average Daily Percentage of Mission Critical Posts Filled with
Non-Correctional Services Staff at Selected BOP Facilities, 2007
Percentage

14

12
10%

10
8%

8

7%

7%

6
4%

4

2

1%

1%

1%

1%

1%

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BOP facility
Source: GAO analysis of BOP correctional services daily rosters.

Notes: Averages are based on the number of occurrences of non-correctional services staff used
rather than number of hours worked. The total number of non-correctional services staff occurrences
per day was determined by summing the daily count of occurrences of non-correctional services staff
paid regular time and non-correctional services staff paid overtime.
All estimates have a margin of error, at the 95 percent confidence level, of plus or minus 2 percent or
less for average daily percentage estimates.

An official from one facility said he tries not to use non-correctional
services staff for temporary assignments because they have their own
assignments to complete and being reassigned to a post would disrupt that
work. Officials from six of the facilities told us that they regularly use noncorrectional services staff for temporary assignments during annual
refresher training, a 1-week course that occurs several times a year at each
facility and is required for all facility staff.

Special Assignments

The estimated average number of special assignments per day ranged from
10 at FCI Coleman low and medium to 47 at FCC Terre Haute (one highsecurity and one low-security), as table 1 shows.

Page 34

GAO-09-141 Bureau of Prisons

Appendix III: Analysis of Correctional
Services Daily Rosters at Selected BOP
Facilities

Table 1: Estimated Average Daily Number of Special Assignments and Number
Unassigned for Selected BOP Facilities, 2007

Institution

Average number of
special assignments

Average number of
unassigned special
assignments

FCI Ft. Dix

16

0

FCI Sheridan

16

1

USP Hazelton

25

1

USP Lee

22

8

USP Pollock

16

1

FCI Coleman Low

10

0

FCI Coleman Medium

10

0

USP Coleman I

18

1

USP Coleman II

20

0

FCC Terre Haute

47

1

Source: GAO analysis of BOP correctional services daily rosters.

Note: All estimates have a margin of error of plus or minus 3 assignments or less for the average
number of special assignments estimates and plus or minus 6 percent or less for the average
percentage estimates or less at the 95 percent confidence level.

On average, the facilities in our review filled nearly all special
assignments, with the exception of USP Lee, which left an estimated 8 of
22, or 37 percent, of special assignments unassigned per day.
The facilities in our review paid overtime to fill, on average, an estimated
low of 21 percent of special assignments per day at USP Lee and a high of
63 percent at FCC Terre Haute, as figure 6 below shows.

Page 35

GAO-09-141 Bureau of Prisons

Appendix III: Analysis of Correctional
Services Daily Rosters at Selected BOP
Facilities

Figure 6: Estimated Average Daily Percentage of Special Assignments Filled with
Overtime at Selected BOP Facilities, 2007
Percentage

70
63%

60

48%

50

44%
40%

38%

40

37%

37%

31%

29%

30
21%

20

10

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BOP facility
Source: GAO analysis of BOP correctional services daily rosters.

Notes: Averages are based on the number of overtime occurrences rather than number of overtime
hours worked. The total number of special assignment overtime occurrences per day was determined
by summing the daily count of occurrences of correctional services staff paid overtime and noncorrectional services staff paid overtime.
All estimates have a margin of error of plus or minus 6 percent or less for the average percentage
estimates or less at the 95 percent confidence level.

The facilities in our review used non-correctional services staff to fill, on
average, an estimated low of 2 percent of special assignments per day at
FCI Sheridan and FCC Terre Haute and a high of 25 percent per day at FCI
Ft. Dix, as figure 7 shows.

Page 36

GAO-09-141 Bureau of Prisons

Appendix III: Analysis of Correctional
Services Daily Rosters at Selected BOP
Facilities

Figure 7: Estimated Average Daily Percentage of Special Assignments Filled with
Non-Correctional Services Staff at Selected BOP Facilities, 2007
Percentage

30
25%

25

20%

20

18%

15
12%
10%

10
6%

6%

5

3%

2%

2%

te

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BOP facility
Source: GAO analysis of BOP correctional services daily rosters.

Notes: Percentages are based on the number of occurrences of non-correctional services staff used
rather than number of hours worked. The total number of non-correctional services staff used per day
was determined by summing the daily count of occurrences of non-correctional services paid regular
time overtime and non-correctional services staff paid overtime.
All estimates have a margin of error of plus or minus 6 percent or less for the average percentage
estimates or less at the 95 percent confidence level.

Page 37

GAO-09-141 Bureau of Prisons

Appendix IV: Comments from the
U.S. Department of Justice

Appendix IV: Comments from the
U.S. Department of Justice

,"--.10:1':1

Bureau "I Priwns

Febr-uary 5,2009

Geor-ge H. Stalcup, DiI:,ectorStr-ategic Issues
U.S. Gover-rument Accountability Office
Washington, DC 20548
Dear Mr-. Stalcup:
The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) appreciates the opportunity to
formally respond to the Government Accountability Office's draft
report entitled Bureay of Pri;Qpsj Written roliei;; on Lateral
Tran;fers and A;;es;mept of temporary Assigrumept; Needed. We
have completed our review of the informatiQn reflected in the
report and offer the following comments.
Recommendation 1: To the Attorney General tQ direct the Director
of BOP to develop and implement specific policies and procedures
for administering emplQyee requests for lateral transfers,
including the collection of data Qn such requests and their
outcomes and the development of a system of Qversight to ensure
the consistent treatment of BOP staff.
a..pon•• : While the Bureau agrees with the accuracy of the
findings whi.ch indicate there are no written policies on this
issue, we respectfully disagree with the recommended action to be
taken by our agency.
The reconmendation was made to develop and implement specific
policies and procedures for administering employee requests forlateral transfers, including the collection of data Qn such
requests and their outcomes and the development of a system of
oversight to ensure the consistent treatment of Bureau staff. By
dQing SQ, the Bureau would need to devote time and personnel to
developing the policies and procedures. as well as co~it
resources to maintain such a program. Additionally, this would
elevate the process to a Central Office function, rather than
retain it at the local level with the CEO of the location, where
the staffing decisions are made. As noted in the repQrt, our
current practice does not violate any staffing regulatiQns.
Therefore, we do not feel it is necessary or a gQOd use of

Page 38

GAO-09-141 Bureau of Prisons

Appendix IV: Comments from the
U.S. Department of Justice

resources to initiate a national program to minimize possible
risk of complaints of favoritism.
However, to address GAO's
concerns, the Bureau will encourage a practice to have locations
post a vacancy announcement on USAJOBS before filling local
vacancies.
This will afford interested, qualified individuals an
opportunity to apply.
This mOdification to our current practice
meets the needs of our staff while ensuring oversight and
consistent treatment, consequently, the Bureau requests this
recommendation be closed.
Recommendation 2: To the Attorney General to direct the Director
of BOP to systematically assess temporary assignments to ensure
that BOP is meeting the objectives of the mission critical post
initiative and effectively and efficiently using resources.
ReSPQnso:
The Bureau will conduct a systematic assessment of
Correctional Services "mission critical post" use at its field
locations.
Utilization of resources (staffing, overtime, etc.)
and the issue of vacating posts will be examined. This
assessment will commence immediately and cover the one-year
period from January 1 through December 31, 2009.
After this
initial assessment, Correctional Services Program Review
Guidelines will be mOdified as appropriate based on the findings.
Subsequent, regularly-scheduled reviews of institutions will
continuously address whether the Bureau is meeting its mission
critical post initiative and effectively and efficiently using
resources.
The initial assessment and subsequent program reviews
will address GAO's recommendation, so the Bureau requests this
recommendation be closed.

If you have any questions regarding this response, please contact
VaNessa P. Adams, Senior Deputy Assistant Director, Program
Review Division, at (202) 616-2099.
Sincerely,

cc:

Richard Theis, Assistant Director
Audit Liaison Group, JMD

Page 39

GAO-09-141 Bureau of Prisons

Appendix V: GAO Contact and Staff
Acknowledgments

Appendix V: GAO Contact and Staff
Acknowledgments
GAO Contact

George H. Stalcup on (202) 512-9490 or at stalcupg@gao.gov

Acknowledgments

In addition to the individual named above, Kiki Theodoropoulos, Assistant
Director; James Ashley; Dewi Djunaidy; Karin Fangman; Tamara F.
Stenzel; and Gregory H. Wilmoth made key contributions to this report.

(450609)

Page 40

GAO-09-141 Bureau of Prisons

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