USGS - science for a changing world

Office of Budget, Planning, and Integration

Maps, Imagery, and Publications Hazards Newsroom Education Jobs Partnerships Library About USGS Social Media

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why are we doing ABC in the first place?

    The Department has a sustained need for cost management information to help our employees and the public that we serve understand what it takes to deliver quality products and services - for example, what it takes to keep our National Parks and Refuges open, the cost of producing topographical maps or making earthquake predictions, to deliver good quality water, to process land use permits, or to deliver services to Alaska, Native American, and Insular Area communities.

    ABC will help us explain how we serve the public and what they get in return for the money they invest, as taxpayers, in us to provide them with the high quality products and services that they have grown accustomed to receiving.

  2. I've worked for Interior for over 20 years now. I can recall doing ABC in the mid-80's. This didn't last for very long - too cumbersome to maintain. What makes this effort that the Dept's about to launch any different from what we did back in the 80's?

    The Dept is committed to identifying the cost of delivering its products and services to its customers. The need for accurate cost management information will never go away. Building from past experience, we are using an approach that will generate necessary information while avoiding cumbersome paperwork and procedures.

    There are over 300 Departmental work activities. Most of you will only have to code your work against about 5 or 6 of these work activities. We are working to train your supervisors/managers to help you to code your work. And, we have worked this implementation so that coding your work shouldn't take any more time than it currently takes you.

  3. OK, so the Dept has developed activities that supposedly describe what I do. I wasn't asked about what I do. Who developed these activities? And if I don't think these activities describe what I do accurately, who do I go to, to get them changed?

    Three weeklong workshops were held in Aug '02, Feb '03 and Mar '03 to identify and define activities. Field and headquarters level practitioners and program managers participated in these workshops. The activity definitions developed during these workshops were then sent out to the bureaus for coordination and comments.

    The activity definitions represent the Department's best attempt to accurately define the Department's work. The good news is that these definitions can be redefined and changed as we see if they provide the information we need. Suggestions for changes to the activity definitions should be forwarded to your Bureau ABC Steering Committee member. Bureau ABC Steering Committee members are listed on the Department's ABC Website at under "ABC Steering Committee - Membership/POC".

  4. I hear the Dept talking about how ABC will benefit the Dept. What's in it for me? How will this help me do my job?

    If you have ever wondered why you are asked to perform tasks that don't seem to contribute to an end outcome that has meaning, or why your organization seems to run out of money toward the end of the fiscal year, ABC can help to identify what your work efforts are really contributing to, and what it really costs to provide products and services. ABC can help you make the argument to get adequate resources - people and money - to do your job more effectively.

  5. What is the Department going to do with this information they're collecting?

    The ABC information will help your Bureau and the Department make resource allocation decisions.

    ABC will help us understand how much we are actually spending to get the results we're seeing. It will allow us to understand the major drivers behind spending in a given program, to identify what are the most efficient (and inefficient) elements of a program's operation and, from this information, to decide how we can get the best results for our efforts.

  6. I don't know anything about "coding" my time against work activities? Who's going to train me? How much time is it going to take out of my job to do this? Is management asking us to code our time so they can keep track of what we do and use this information against us? What difference does it make whether I code my time, or my timekeeper or supervisor does this for me?

    The Bureaus and Departmental Offices have developed training modules that will help you understand the purpose of ABC and how to code your time against work activities. These modules will be available on a CD or, in some cases, be available for downloading from either your Bureau's or Department's Web site. The modules allow you to be trained at your own pace - also to skip over the modules that address topics that you may already know about. Your Bureau or Departmental Office has developed a training plan for how the CD and/or Web site will be used. Consult your Bureau or Department ABC Steering Committee member for further information. Each Bureau's ABC Steering Committee members are listed on the Department's ABC Website at under "ABC Steering Committee - Membership/POC".

    The Department's standard is for coding time against work activities to not take more than 5 minutes of your workday.

    The Department is interested in seeing how much it costs for you and others who do similar tasks, to do your work. The ABC process looks at unit costs by organization, field, region, state, or national level. It does not track individuals.

    You should code your time against work activities because you are in the best position to accurately record what work you accomplished - you (and not your timekeeper or supervisor) performed the work activity and know what you did.

  7. OK, so you're looking at how much it costs to do work. What will happen to those high cost work activities? Are they subject to being studied for contracting-out? Is one of the reasons why the Department is interested in doing ABC to determine what it should contract-out?

    The high-cost work activities would be analyzed to determine how these work activities could be reengineered to cost less to perform. Our goal is to be as efficient as we can be.

    The process for selecting activities to review under OMB Circular A-76 competitive sourcing guidelines depends on a number of things. Each Bureau is required by Congress to inventory work activities to designate them as either "inherently governmental" or as potentially "commercial" in nature. In the competitive review process, each bureau selects some of the activities inventoried as potentially commercial for study using the OMB Circular A-76 guidelines. Overall, the Department's bureaus have identified about 33 percent of work activities as potentially commercial in nature. Of this, a small percentage, approximately 4 percent of the Department's total workforce activities, are being reviewed in the competitive sourcing initiative. The review does not necessarily result in outsourcing; often, it results in management improvements or other changes to improve effectiveness and efficiency. Just because a work activity costs a lot to perform doesn't mean it is automatically a candidate for competitive review.

    The Department is not implementing ABC to determine what tasks, if any, should be contracted. The Department is implementing ABC to better understand how the Department is spending money and the results derived from spending that money.

  8. Who's in charge of ABC in my bureau? Is he/she the one I go to for answers to my questions?

    Your Bureau/Departmental Office ABC Program Coordinators are part of the ABC Steering Committee. ABC Steering Committee members (including your ABC Program Coordinators) are listed on the Dept's ABC Website at under "ABC Steering Committee - Membership/POC". You should consult your Bureau/Departmental Office ABC Program Coordinator and/or Steering Committee member for answers to your questions. Your supervisor may also be able to answer your questions.

  9. OK, so you're training me on how to code my time. Is my supervisor going to be able to help me figure out how to code my time?

    Yes, we will work with your supervisors and managers so that they will know how to help you figure out how to code your time against work activities.

  10. I work in the field. I don't have access to a computer. How do you expect me to be coding my time? Are you developing a new timesheet or something for me to use that won't require me to use a computer?

    Your Bureau or Departmental Office is developing specific guidance on how you will code your time against work activities. In some cases, you will use an automated time and attendance system to record your time; in other cases, your Bureau may give you a new timesheet to record your time and code your work. Consult with your Bureau or Departmental Office ABC Steering Committee member for guidance on how your Bureau will be coding time against work activities.

  11. What about all the time I put in on my job that I don't get paid for - either through overtime pay or compensatory time off. Does that get recorded in ABC too?

    ABC records all paid (salaried or approved compensatory time) time on work activities. If you spend more time on the job than for which you are compensated, you should talk to your supervisor about getting approved overtime or compensatory time for your efforts, in accordance with Departmental regulations on requesting/approving overtime/compensatory time.

    The Department is looking into identifying ways of capturing the level of effort spent accomplishing work that will be outside of ABC implementation.

  12. What do you do with leave?

    You code your timesheets with leave taken; you also code your leave to the work activities you normally work in. Consult with your Bureau/Departmental Office ABC Steering Committee member for specifics on how to code leave.

  13. What other agencies besides Interior are doing ABC?

    Many Federal government agencies-- and many state and local government agencies-- have implemented ABC across entire departments, or within certain organizations in departments. The Environmental Protection Agency, Patent and Trademark Agency, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, to name a few Federal agencies, have implemented ABC.

Office of Budget, Planning, and Integration Home Page || Performance Management || Budget by Fiscal Year || Budget Funding Tables || Resources and Tools || Related Web Sites || About Us || Site Map

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
Page Contact Information: Ask USGS
Page Last Modified: Monday, September 22, 2008