Report on the FY 2011 operations of the Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA).
Here are highlights for the past year:
- Alternative DisputeResolution. In FY 2011, we were happy to welcome aboard the DOE’s Office of Conflict Resolution and Prevention (OCPR), which joined OHA in February 2011. OCPR, formerly a part of the Office of General Counsel, serves as a resource to all DOE components and contractors to explore efficient and cost effective means of preventing conflicts and resolving disputes, without the formalities or costs of litigation.
- Personnel security hearings. Under DOE's personnel security program, OHA conducts administrative hearings concerning individuals’ eligibility for access to classified information or special nuclear material. In FY 2011, our average case processing time fell to its lowest level in any of the last ten years, nearly 25 percent below our average over the last five years, and more than 30 percent below our average for FY 2001-2011. For the third year in a row, we had no cases older than 180 days in our end-of-year inventory. By the end of FY 2011, our average time for issuing a decision after the receipt of the hearing transcript stood at less than 28 days.
- Whistleblower cases. Under the DOE Contractor Employee Protection Program, OHA conducts investigations and hearings, and considers appeals concerning whistleblower claims filed by DOE contractor employees. We continued processing these cases in a timely fashion in FY 2011. Average processing time stood at a ten-year low, more than 43 percent below the average of the last ten years and 37 percent below our average for fiscal years 2007 through 2011. Also in FY 2011, our office considered two whistleblower complaints filed under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
- Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act Appeals. OHA considers appeals of agency denials of requests for information. In FY 2011, though receiving a higher than- average number of appeals, our case-processing time was low compared to our historical averages, nearly 25 percent below our most recent five-year average and close to half that of our average from FY 2002 through 2011 (full data at Appendix A, Table 13).