The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Jeff Hauser

New Report Details How Reduced Staff Capacity Will Hamper Climate Action

Report outlines immediate steps Biden administration can take to relieve the shortfalls.


Today, the Revolving Door Project released a report examining the negative impact of limited scientific expert staff capacity at federal government agencies critical to an all-of-government response to climate action. The report goes on to recommend steps that this administration could take to accelerate and improve hiring in the short-term and prepare for an even larger hiring surge once new appropriations are in hand. With the scope of Build Back Better narrowing seemingly every day, having a federal workforce with the capacity to deploy existing authority as effectively as possible will be more essential than ever.

Read the full report here.

The report profiles the Department of Agriculture, Department of Interior, National Park Service, United States Geological Survey, Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Energy. For each, the authors record the decline in staffing levels since 2010 and the loss of STEM capacity more specifically since 2016, exploring the ways that Trump-era policies and practices contributed to the exodus. They then consider the troubling implications of these insufficient staffing levels for agencies' ability to carry out their existing responsibilities and to implement new climate policies.

The federal government famously does not excel at hiring quickly. This has posed problems for administration and policy implementation across countless issue areas but the severity of this deficiency is particularly clear when it comes to the ticking clock to avoid climate disaster. While achieving staffing capacity sufficient to tackle climate change will require new appropriations from Congress, the report emphasizes that the Biden administration can be taking steps now to bring people on board in the immediate term and prepare for a larger hiring surge in the near future. With simple changes at OPM, the authorization of expedited hiring authorities, and concerted efforts to take lessons learned from successful changes at individual agencies, the Biden administration can begin to address this problem and move its climate agenda forward right away.

Eleanor Eagan, Director of the Revolving Door Project's Governance team, said, "This administration has consistently affirmed its commitment to rebuilding the federal workforce. But with only 98 months left until 2030, at which point we will need to have cut U.S. emissions in half to avoid climate catastrophe, it should be clear that there's no time to waste turning words to action. Building a federal workforce that has the capacity to tackle the climate challenges to come cannot wait."

The Revolving Door Project (RDP) scrutinizes executive branch appointees to ensure they use their office to serve the broad public interest, rather than to entrench corporate power or seek personal advancement.