I am pleased to report on the FY 2021 operations of the Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA). OHA’s mission is to provide adjudicatory and dispute resolution services to the Department of Energy. OHA’s work directly supports DOE’s strategic goal to “[p]osition the Department of Energy to meet the challenges of the 21st century and the nation’s Manhattan Project and Cold War legacy responsibilities by employing effective management and refining operational and support capabilities to pursue departmental missions.” OHA supports this goal by issuing timely and appropriate decisions. In FY 2021, as in past years, OHA provided independent, timely, and thorough analysis and review on a wide variety of issues, helping maintain the quality of DOE’s decision-making. The year 2021 was especially challenging, in light of COVID-19. As a result of the pandemic, OHA transitioned to a fully remote workforce in March 2020. In FY 2021, OHA was able to coordinate with other offices to offer fully remote hearings for all its cases. The office has also embraced new technology such as SharePoint and Microsoft Teams to collaborate internally and with other DOE components.
Despite the difficulties created by the pandemic, OHA continued to process cases promptly. For example, we issued Personnel Security decisions, on average, in just 7 days after receiving the hearing transcript. This is less than half the time to decision in 2017. Also in FY 2021, the Department of Justice reports showed that OHA’s average FOIA Appeal processing time of 14 days was the fastest of all Cabinet Agencies.
This year, OHA added two new Administrative Judges to its roster. This increased capacity came just as OHA began working on the backlog of Personnel Security cases that had built up during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic. All of our Administrative Judges worked to complete each case in a timely manner and we were able to successfully process the entire backlog within a few months.
As we begin FY 2022, we are committed to continued improvement, and to meeting all Departmental needs for our services. Going forward, we will continue to review our operations to identify opportunities for increased efficiency and productivity while maintaining our commitment to excellence.
We hope that this report is informative. If you have any comments or suggestions for future improvements, please contact our office by email at OHA.Filings@hq.doe.gov, or by phone at (202) 287-1566.
Poli A. Marmolejos