Forest Service:

Funding Allocations to Region 4

AIMD-00-279R: Published: Aug 24, 2000. Publicly Released: Sep 26, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Forest Service's Washington Office funding allocations to Region 4, focusing on: (1) funds allocated to Region 4 during fiscal years 1995-2000 for budget line items under the National Forest System (NFS) appropriation; (2) reasons for trends and year-to-year changes in NFS' funding allocations to Region 4; (3) how budget line item amounts in the budget requests Region 4 submitted for fiscal years 1998-2000 differed from the final allocations it received; and (4) funds allocated to all regions during fiscal years 1995-2000 for the Fire Preparedness budget line item under the Wildland Fire Management appropriation.

GAO noted that: (1) each year Congress appropriates monies to fund the Forest Service's programs and activities as part of the appropriations act for the Department of the Interior and related agencies; (2) in the conference report on the Forest Service's appropriation, funds within the NFS and the Wildland Fire Management appropriations are itemized into budget line items; (3) the fiscal year 1999 conference report itemized about 20 budget line items for the NFS appropriation and 2 budget line items--Fire Preparedness and Fire Operations--for the Wildland Fire Management appropriation; (4) upon appropriation, the Forest Service removes "off-the-top" funds needed to operate the Forest Service's Washington Office (WO) and specifies funding that will be used for earmarks, national commitments, technical support units, and special projects; (5) the WO then allocates the remaining funds by budget line item to its nine regional offices; (6) GAO prepared a schedule showing funds allocated to region 4 during fiscal years 1995-2000 for budget line items under the NFS appropriation; (7) the source for these date is the Forest Service's annual Fianl Planning and Budget Advice (PBA), which is an internal budget document released to the regional offices after passage of the Department of the Interior and related agencies appropriations act; (8) regional offices use the funding allocations reported in the Final PBA to finalize their program planning for the year; (9) although GAO's review analyzed regional funding as reported in the Final PBA, regional offices also have use of carry-over funds from prior years and may receive additional funding during the remainder of the fiscal year as a result of supplemental appropriations, release of funds kept in reserve, and other factors; (10) GAO found that Region 4's funding allocations for some budget line items declined because increased amounts were allocated for off-the-top items; (11) fundamental changes are occurring in the Forest Service's accounting and budget process that will affect future funding allocations to regional offices; and (12) three of the more important changes include: (a) plans to develop a new funding allocation response to National Academy of Public Administration and GAO's criticisms of the current process; (b) efforts to revise the Forest Service's budget structure by reducing and realigning NFS budget line items; and (c) implementation of a new process for funding projects that cut across Forest Service's resource-specific programs.

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