The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has accepted a congressional request to update its 2009 report that examined the capacity of the federal veterinarian workforce to protect public and animal health. The work is set to begin around January 2014.
U.S. Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) and Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), co-chairs of the House Veterinary Medicine Caucus, requested an update to the report in an Aug. 8 letter sent to the GAO’s Comptroller General Gene Dodaro. In the letter, the congressmen point out that veterinarians play a crucial role in food safety, disease research, emergency response, and other public and animal health issues, but yet many factors may be contributing to a shortage of workers in the future:
“Recent assessments by the federal veterinary workforce’s Talent Management Advisory Council (TMAC) identified significant gaps in the federal veterinarian workforce’s surge capacity when responding to a major foreign animal disease outbreak. The federal veterinary workforce lacks the skills and resources needed to effectively respond to emergencies that threaten the nation’s food and health. In addition, a TMAC assessment of the federal veterinary workforce found that federal agencies will see a net decrease of 172 veterinarians over the next 5 years. The top recruitment challenges reported were pay and benefits, budgets, the talent pool, and the hiring process. The top retention challenges reported were the types of work performed, the work environment, leadership, management, training and development.
The current economy and budget constraints have caused many federal agencies to freeze hiring and to reorganize staffs to meet their mission requirements. … It is predicted as the economy improves the likeliness of having a shortage in the federal government may reach a crisis level.”
In its 2009 report, the GAO found that many agencies were competing for veterinarians to fill mission-critical activities and recommended that the Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services conduct departmentwide assessments of their veterinarian workforces to identify current and future workforce needs as well as solutions to address shared problems between the agencies. It also called upon the Office of Personnel Management to determine whether a governmentwide effort is needed to address shortcomings in the current or future workforce.
Among the 11 questions that Schrader and Yoho posed to the GAO to examine, the congressmen have specifically asked that the agency analyze the progress that has been made on the original recommendations from the 2009 report. For more information, see the letter that the congressmen sent to the GAO.