Need To Reevaluate Helistat Program Objectives and Progress

MASAD-81-31: Published: Jun 2, 1981. Publicly Released: Jun 2, 1981.

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GAO reviewed the status and objectives of the Forest Service's Helistat program.

GAO found that fundamental acquisition management principles that should have been applied in the Helistat program's development have not been applied. In managing the program, the Forest Service has unnecessarily tied program milestones to land management planning timeframes and moved too hastily, thereby overlooking essential considerations in planning a development strategy. For example, potential users were not contacted before beginning the program to get their participation and advice for determining the need for, uses of, and operational requirements for a Helistat concept vehicle. Information which GAO has developed from contacting potential users shows that it is questionable whether the Helistat concept under development will have practical application as a timber harvesting method. In addition, the system being developed cannot be reproduced without substantial redesign. Consequently, it will not be useful in demonstrating the economics of aerial logging, the principal objective of the development program. Finally, the Navy, which is administering the development contract for the Forest Service, is being hampered in its efforts to obtain data that are necessary to evaluate the program's progress, particularly regarding the engineering adequacy and safety of the vehicle being developed.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief, Forest Service, to give the contract administrator, the Naval Air Development Center, sufficient freedom to use its authority to make decisions on the adequacy of Helistat contract performance and on the future funding obligations under the contract.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief, Forest Service, to include as part of the program a requirement that estimates be made of the economics of private industry logging based on a state-of-the-art Helistat concept vehicle.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  3. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should insure that program milestones not be tied to land management planning time frames.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  4. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief, Forest Service, to restructure the development effort to include a complete state-of-the-art design and data package from which future Helistat concept vehicles could be built and from which more accurate estimates of the economics of aerial logging could be made.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  5. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should reevaluate the Helistat program before making any further funding obligations on the vehicle's development contract. This reevaluation should include the participation and advice of potential users to determine if the Helistat is needed, how it could be used, and the operational requirements for such a vehicle.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

 

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