Land Management Agencies:

Ongoing Initiative to Share Activities and Facilities Needs Management Attention

GAO-01-50: Published: Nov 21, 2000. Publicly Released: Nov 30, 2000.

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The colocation of the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) units provides the best opportunity for the agencies to jointly serve the public, effect operational efficiencies, and improve land management. The Service First Initiative is designed to improve the operations of these two agencies by combining resources and providing "one-stop shopping" services for the public. Since the initiative has been in operation, the number of shared projects between BLM and the Forest Service has increased from 15 in fiscal year 1996 to 272 in mid-fiscal year 2000. Many of the projects involve shared personnel, shared equipment, and joint training projects. Although there have been some successes in achieving efficient government operations, there are many legal and regulatory barriers that prevent the full integration of the agencies' resources. The full integration of the agencies' operations depends on resolution of these barriers.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Forest Service issued the Concept of Operations in its directives system in June 2001, and is in the process of making the Delegation of Authority provisions permanent through the Code of Federal Regulations. BLM issued its corresponding Concept of Operations information in its Information Bulletin system in November 2001. In addition, the content of the Concept of Operations is included in the joint Forest Service/BLM Service First website (www.fs.fed.us/servicefirst).

    Recommendation: To better ensure consistent business practices and guidance on how to implement Service First Projects, the Chief of the Forest Service and the Director of BLM should expedite the completion and issuance of its Concept of Operations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture: Forest Service

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Forest Service and BLM developed a preliminary collocation plan, identified 44 locations to be colocated between fiscal years 2003 and 2008, and included the proposed list on the joint Forest Service/BLM website. As part of the President's Management Reform Agenda, both agencies requested funding in their fiscal year 2003 budget submissions to implement the collocation of these offices.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the agencies are reaping full benefits of colocation, the Chief of the Forest Service and the Director of BLM should work together to develop a colocation plan that will: (1) include a review and determination of the feasibility of colocating Forest Service and BLM units; (2) develop time frames for colocating the units; and (3) identify and prioritize the resources needed to achieve colocation.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture: Forest Service

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Forest Service and BLM developed a preliminary collocation plan, identified 44 locations to be collocated between fiscal years 2003 and 2008, and included the proposed list on the joint Forest Service/BLM website. As part of the President's Management Reform Agenda, both agencies requested funding in their fiscal year 2003 budget submissions to implement the collocation of these offices.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the agencies are reaping full benefits of colocation, the Chief of the Forest Service and the Director of BLM should work together to develop a colocation plan that will: (1) include a review and determination of the feasibility of colocating Forest Service and BLM units; (2) develop time frames for colocating the units; and (3) identify and prioritize the resources needed to achieve colocation.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior: Bureau of Land Management

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Forest Service completed a database on their joint Service First website (www.fs.fed.us/servicefirst) that identifies participating locations and the types of projects undertaken. This year the agencies jointly developed an evaluation strategy aimed at measuring the proposed savings or benefits of the Service First initiative. Development of this strategy satisfies the agencies' implementation of GAO's recommendation.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the Forest Service and BLM can readily provide Congress and the agencies' decisionmakers with reliable data on the Service First initiative and the results achieved that can be used to determine the extent to which the initiative has been successful and whether the cross-delegation of authority should be extended, the Chief of the Forest Service and the Director of BLM should jointly develop a system that will provide reliable program data that could serve as a basis for tracking the status and progress of the initiative--including the locations participating in Service First, the types of projects undertaken, and the savings or benefits achieved from the projects--and provide a basis for measuring and evaluating the results of the initiative.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture: Forest Service

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: For projects funded in fiscal year 2001, the Forest Service and BLM developed selection criteria and documented the selection process, but did not establish formal guidelines for the process.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the best projects are funded by the Incentive Fund, the Chief of the Forest Service and the Director of BLM should jointly establish guidelines for the selection process and the documentation of the decision-making process to be used before additional funds are made available for future Incentive Fund awards.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior: Bureau of Land Management

 

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