National Parks:

Emergency Law Enforcement Expenditures at Two Recreation Areas

RCED-86-107: Published: Mar 7, 1986. Publicly Released: Mar 7, 1986.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed how the National Park Service (NPS) uses its emergency law enforcement expenditure authority at two national recreation areas.

GAO noted that: (1) NPS receives annual congressional appropriations to pay for recurring and routine law enforcement activities; and (2) this authority allows NPS to use any of its appropriated funds for emergency and other unforeseen law enforcement situations, such as emergency search and rescue operations and national disasters. GAO found that: (1) in fiscal year 1984, NPS incurred $726,000 in emergency law enforcement costs for anticipated, routine, and recurring activities at the two recreation areas; (2) the use of funds to pay for routine activities such as high park visitation and folk festivals gave NPS the opportunity to use congressionally approved appropriations for construction, land acquisition, and other activities; (3) the continuing need for additional law enforcement funds should be included in annual or supplemental budget requests; (4) it is a common practice to charge routine and predictable personnel costs as an expenditure under the emergency law enforcement authority when funding of anticipated overtime costs has not been approved because of budget restrictions; and (5) although the government's budget-cutting measures made it difficult for NPS to obtain additional law enforcement funding, the use of funds from other approved budget areas for law enforcement activities is inconsistent with NPS emergency law enforcement expenditure authority.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Actions include revising NPS policy guidelines, reviewing emergency law enforcement funds by the Associate Director for Park Operations, a quarterly review of all obligations charged to emergency law enforcement accounts, random audits, and law enforcement expenditures that do not meet the criteria will be identified and a plan developed for funding expenses through the annual budget process.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Director, NPS, to ensure that emergency law enforcement expenditures are made for the purposes authorized by Congress by requesting funds for anticipated, recurring, and routine law enforcement costs through the annual budget process.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior


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