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Auditors Provide Guidance in Strategic Planning to Help the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality Better Achieve its Mission

By following best practices in strategic planning, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) can more readily achieve its mission to protect environmental quality and pursue its goal of becoming an anti-racist organization while complying with expectations set by the Governor, according to an audit released today.

The Oregon Audits Division released a performance audit of DEQ, a large agency with an even larger mandate — administer and enforce environmental laws pertaining to Oregon’s air, water, and land quality, and ensure compliance with federal environmental regulations on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Managing an agency of this size is challenging on its own, but auditors found DEQ faces other challenges that further complicate its efforts to achieve its mission. Some are external to the agency: the escalating effects of climate change, a growing public demand for services, and persistent funding limitations. Others are internal, including a struggle to support a healthy work environment for all staff, especially for those who are Black, Indigenous, or people of color.

Fortunately for DEQ, the agency has already begun an effort that can be leveraged to address all of these challenges and more: Strategic planning.

Strategic planning is a process that involves aligning divisions or teams to higher-level agency strategies to achieve goals in an effective and efficient manner. In January 2023, Governor Tina Kotek established a set of expectations for state agencies around strategic planning and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) actions, including a deadline to develop such a plan by June 2024.

“A successful strategic plan has far-reaching benefits, not just for state agencies but for all Oregonians,” said Kip Memmott, Audits Division Director. “Agencies can operate more efficiently with limited resources, better pursue their goals, and in turn improve upon service delivery for Oregonians who benefit when their government functions better.”

DEQ has intentionally applied an anti-racist framework to its strategic planning efforts as part of a broader push to adopt anti-racist principles into the agency’s important regulatory work. According to the Center for the Study of Social Policy, anti-racism is the active process of identifying and challenging racism, by changing systems, organizational structures, policies and practices, and attitudes to redistribute power in an equitable manner.


Auditors identified several components of strategic planning that would directly address the agency’s many challenges, including:

  • Assessing staffing and other resource constraints to help focus and prioritize the agency’s strategic goals;
  • Ensuring a long-term perspective on budgeting and connecting the agency’s mission, vision, and goals to resource needs when budget decisions are made;
  • Adopting communication goals and priorities to break down silos and foster cross-cultural collaboration; and
  • Adopting anti-racist principles through leadership buy-in and communication, ongoing anti-racist education, demonstrating commitment to principled change, decentralizing and sharing power, meaningful engagement, and factoring in distributive justice.

Read the full report on the Secretary of State website.

About the Oregon Audits Division

The division exists to fulfill the Secretary of State’s constitutional and statutory audit authority. We do this by auditing to protect the public interest and improve Oregon government. Our vision is to be the source of independent, reliable, useful, and timely information on state government operations and programs for the Governor, Legislature, and people of Oregon; and to provide transparency and accountability for the use of public resources.

About the Oregon Secretary of State

The Oregon Secretary of State is one of three constitutional offices created at statehood. Oregon’s Secretary of State is Oregon’s chief elections officer, chief auditor, chief archivist, and oversees business and nonprofit filings. The Secretary of State also serves as one of three members of the State Land Board and as the chair of the Oregon Sustainability Board. Under Article V, Section 8a of the Oregon Constitution, if there is a vacancy in the office of Governor, the Secretary of State becomes governor. As an independently elected constitutional officer, the Secretary of State answers directly and solely to the people of Oregon.

Laura (Fosmire) Kerns
Communications Director

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