Report on the FY 2011 operations of the Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA).
Here are highlights for the past year:
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.
By the end of FY 2012, our average time for issuing a decision after the receipt of the hearing transcript stood at 24 days, its lowest level in any of the last ten years, over 36 percent below our average over the last five years, and over 57 percent below our average for FY 2003-2012. For the fourth year in a row, we had no cases older than 180 days in our end-of-year inventory.
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 2012. Average processing time was 31 percent below the average for the last ten years and 12 percent below our average for fiscal years 2008 through 2012, and no case in our end-of-year inventory was older than 180 days. Also in FY 2012, our office considered three whistleblower complaints filed under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Privacy Act Appeals. OHA considers appeals of agency denials of requests for information under the FOIA and Privacy Act and issues final agency decisions. In FY 2012, though receiving a higher-than-average number of appeals, our FOIA and Privacy Act average case-processing time was 16 days, a figure below our most recent five-year average and less than half that of our average from FY 2002 through 2011.
Exceptions and Special Redress. OHA considers petitions for special redress, as well as requests for relief from certain regulatory requirements. In FY 2012, OHA granted exception relief from DOE lighting efficiency standards to producers of energy efficient fluorescent lamps, due to recent policies adopted by the government of China that significantly limited the availability of rare earth elements used in the production of the lamps. In the exceptions area, average case-processing time remained at historically low levels.
Alternative Dispute Resolution. OHA’s Office of Conflict Resolution and Prevention (OCPR) 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 excessive costs of litigation. OCPR directs the DOE Headquarters Mediation Program, which processed 37 cases in FY 2012.