U.S. Forest Service:

Independence Still Lacking in Law Enforcement Organization

T-OSI-94-1: Published: Oct 5, 1993. Publicly Released: Oct 5, 1993.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Donald J. Wheeler
(202) 512-6722
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the Forest Service's independent investigative law enforcement function. GAO noted that: (1) although the Forest Service's proposed reorganization is scheduled to be implemented in 1993, the proposed reorganization is behind schedule, does not achieve the organizational independence desired, and does not meet the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency standards; (2) the reorganization does not provide for adequate professional guidance from experienced law enforcement supervisors throughout the organization; (3) the Forest Service is unlikely to achieve law enforcement independence and will likely experience continued mismanagement because of conflicting guidance in departmental policies; (4) the Forest Service's ability to prosecute potential criminal matters and pursue other law enforcement activities is undermined by its preference to settle criminal investigations administratively, inappropriate disclosure of case-sensitive information, untrained and inexperienced supervisors, and community concerns that cause undue management interference; (5) many law enforcement officers believe that they are vulnerable to administrative reprisals because they are supervised by program line managers; and (6) the Forest Service needs to achieve greater organizational independence and create a direct supervisory chain-of-command to alleviate organizational and employee relations problems.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The straight-line reporting structure, which was fully implemented by direction contained in a policy letter issued by the Chief of the Forest Service on October 29, 1993, ensures that personnel with demonstrated experience in conducting criminal investigations supervise all criminal investigators and full-time law enforcement officers. The Chief of the Forest Service has requested that priority be given to completing all related budget, personnel, and administrative actions.

    Recommendation: To achieve organizational independence, the Chief of the Forest Service should ensure that supervisors of law enforcement personnel have demonstrated experience in conducting criminal investigations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture: Forest Service

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Forest Service does not concur that the position of Director of Law Enforcement and Investigations needs to be at a senior executive level. Currently, the Forest Service cannot fill some existing SES positions due to OPM limitations. The Forest Service will reconsider the level of the position once agency restructuring plans and capability to consider additional SES positions become clear.

    Recommendation: To achieve organizational independence, the Chief of the Forest Service should create a senior executive-level law enforcement position reporting directly to the Chief or principal deputy.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture: Forest Service

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A straight-line reporting structure was fully implemented by direction contained in a policy letter issued by the Chief of the Forest Service on October 29, 1993. The Director, Law Enforcement and Investigations, has line authority over all Forest Service criminal investigators and full-time law enforcement officers.

    Recommendation: To achieve organizational independence, the Chief of the Forest Service should ensure that the senior law enforcement executive has line authority over all law enforcement personnel in the agency.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture: Forest Service

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Chief of the Forest Service has directed regional foresters and other line managers to support and fully coordinate activities with the Law Enforcement and Investigations Program. He is satisfied that the Law Enforcement and Investigations Program is committed to close coordination and cooperation with all levels of the Forest Service. He intends to devote additional attention in fiscal year 1995 to ensuring complete implementation and organizational acceptance of the new straight-line reporting structure of the Law Enforcement and Investigations organization.

    Recommendation: To achieve organizational independence, the Chief of the Forest Service should require senior law enforcement, regional, and program executives to ensure close coordination and cooperation at all levels between the Forest Service's land, resource, and law enforcement functions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture: Forest Service

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Sep 21, 2016

Aug 3, 2016

Aug 1, 2016

Jul 14, 2016

Jul 5, 2016

Jun 30, 2016

Jun 28, 2016

Jun 23, 2016

Jun 22, 2016

Looking for more? Browse all our products here