Proposed Consolidation of Smokejumper Bases in the Forest Service's Western Regions

CED-82-39: Published: Feb 9, 1982. Publicly Released: Feb 15, 1982.

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GAO was requested to review the closing of the Forest Service's Siskiyou Smokejumper Base located in Region 6. Specifically, GAO provided information on: (1) any Forest Service study of planned closures, expansions, or realignments of smokejumper bases in three other western regions; and (2) any past findings GAO has reported on the lease-versus-purchase practices of the Service or other Federal agencies.

The Forest Service has not made a cost or cost-savings study of closures, expansions, or realignments of smokejumper bases in Region 6 and other western regions. However, it did study the operations of selected smokejumper bases in these regions in 1978 and reported the results in January 1979. The report showed significant overlaps in the operating areas of the smokejumper bases in these regions and recommended that the number of smokejumper bases be reduced; the Siskiyou base was one of the four bases recommended for closure. The Service does not have any data showing planned expenditures for consolidations or closures of smokejumper bases in other western regions. The Service is developing a system to conduct cost-benefit analyses of its activities in preventing, detecting, and fighting forest fires. In addition, the Service has been trying to devise a system to provide information that would help improve the efficiency of all expenditures for suppressing forest fires. GAO has issued over 300 reports during the period 1971 through 1981 dealing with aircraft, leases, and facility leasing. Most of the reports dealt with military aircraft and the activities of the General Services Administration in providing facilities for various Federal agencies. None dealt with the issue of alternative costs of leasing versus purchasing helicopters, planes, and other facilities in situations involving the types of facilities and operations at smokejumper bases.

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