- WEB EXCLUSIVE
- PE COFFEEHAUS
The GAO reserved most of its criticism for the previous Administration, noting almost a near-complete lack of attention to Children's Health under EPA Administrators Christy Whitman, Mike Leavitt and Stephen L. Johnson. However, the current administration was also targeted for waking up slowly. The report states that the EPA has developed policies and guidance to consider children, but it has not maintained attention to children through agency strategies and priorities. In 1996, EPA created a national agenda on children's health, and its 1997 and 2000 strategic plans highlighted children's health as a key cross-agency program. As a result, the agency's research advanced the understanding of children's vulnerabilities. However, the GAO report found that the EPA has not updated the agenda since 1996, and the focus on children is absent from the 2003, 2006, and September 2009 draft strategic plans.
The report criticized the agency for not even providing a leader for the Children's Office through the entirety of the Bush Administration, and well into the Obama Administration.
"EPA has not fully used the Office of Children's Health Protection and other child-focused resources. The active involvement of managers from the office and experts from the Children's Health Protection Advisory Committee has been lacking, as has the involvement of key staff throughout EPA. Although EPA now has a new Director of Children's Health, the office had not had consistent leadership since 2002, hampering its ability to support and facilitate agencywide efforts and elevate matters of importance with senior officials,"
GAO said the advisory committee has provided hundreds of recommendations, but EPA has requested advice on draft regulations only three times in the last decade (all three in the past year). The report also notes that the EPA's efforts have been hampered by the expiration in 2005 of certain provisions in the executive order that established the task force. For example, the Task Force on Children's Environmental Health provided EPA with a forum for interagency leadership on important federal efforts, such as the National Children's Study. It also provided biennial reports that helped establish federal research priorities.