The National Geotechnical Engineering Improvement Program National State of Practice in Geotechnical Engineering Geotechnical Group Organizational Action Plan
Prepared for The Office of Engineering by The Geotechnical Group of the Bridge Division
The 1993 Government and Performance Act (GPRA) contains directions for agencies to define mission and goals, measure performance, and react to the findings of the measurements. The FHWA geotechnical group has focused on National customer feedback to provide the basis for National improvement plans in geotechnical engineering since the 1970's. This 1996 report uses the results of the most recent survey (1989-1995) to: assess the impact of the 1983 geotechnical improvement plan, identify successes and performance gap findings, refocus our mission and goals to improve future performance, and estimate the resources needed for program accomplishment during the next five years.
The results of the 1989-1995 survey showed varying degrees of National improvement in areas encompassed by the FHWA 1983 geotechnical improvement program which contained over 100 action items. Particularly impressive gains were observed in foundation design and construction techniques due to the commitment of extensive FHWA resources in multi-year research, demonstration projects, and NHI training initiatives. Less improvement was observed in the areas of site investigation and geotechnical laboratory testing although several successes in individual agencies are noted in the report. Also, the continual advancement of geotechnical engineering techniques and products was observed to reduce the visible technology gap between the state of customer practice and the state of the art.
This 1996 report contains 18 findings which were identified in the geotechnical related areas of organization, site investigation, laboratory testing, design practice, construction, and earth retaining structures. The FHWA geotechnical group plans to address those findings with a five-year program containing 24 major action items to be accomplished in geotechnology implementation, training, research, and technical guidance. The resource allocation for the five year program is estimated as 21 person-years or about four person-years per FY. Current geotechnical staff time is roughly distributed 65% to technical assistance activities and 35% to geotechnical program improvement activities.
The 1996 organizational action plan for the geotechnical group focuses on customer needs and the current environment in which the geotechnical group functions. Mission, values, vision, and goals have been established to define the role of the FHWA geotechnical group in strengthening our customers. Our strength has been the diverse talents of individual members focused toward that common goal. A rigorous self assessment has been completed which indicates that fragmented responsibilities, staff downsizing and the impending retirement of 33% of the geotechnical group in the next five years will negatively impact future agency expertise and program accomplishment. Achievement of the FHWA vision to be world renowned in transportation expertise and innovation will hinge on agency actions to maintain an unbroken line of dedicated, motivated geotechnical staff specialists in both Headquarters and the field.
Finally the success of the National geotechnical group has been measured for the past two decades by techniques such as tracking achievement in major initiatives, documenting T2 implementation, conducting periodic customer surveys, tracking overall geotechnical input to customers, and in-house FHWA surveys of program effectiveness. The use of these techniques is planned to continue for the foreseeable future.
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