Budget Issues:

Funding Alternatives for Fire-Fighting Activities at USDA and Interior

AFMD-91-45: Published: Apr 4, 1991. Publicly Released: Apr 4, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Departments of Agriculture's (USDA) and the Interior's budgetary treatment of fire-fighting activities during fiscal years (FY) 1988 through 1990, focusing on alternative: (1) methods of funding fire-fighting activities; and (2) budget approaches for funding both emergency and nonemergency fire-fighting activities.

GAO found that: (1) the agencies' budgetary treatment of fire activities improved from between FY 1988 and FY 1990; (2) in 1990, Congress established a separate account to fund fire-fighting activities in both USDA and Interior; (3) in 1990, both agencies requested greater appropriations than in previous years, and received amounts from Congress that came closer to meeting actual fire-fighting needs; (4) USDA and Interior began to use consistent terms to categorize and track various fire costs to better determine whether certain costs applied to emergency or nonemergency activities; (5) despite such improvements, the agencies' continued use of transfer authority to fund emergency activities created difficulties, since the agencies could not anticipate such transfers in making budget estimates; (6) such transfers allowed the agencies to use funds originally intended for emergency fire activities to support nonemergency activities; and (7) alternative methods for funding emergency fire activities within the budget, included the provision of annual or periodic appropriations for emergency and nonemergency activities.