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Highlights

Competitive sourcing is aimed at promoting competition between federal employees and the private sector as a way to improve government operations. Key work activities--those that are either inherently governmental or core to the agency's mission--are generally exempt from competitions. In fiscal year 2004, Congress began placing spending limitations on the Forest Service's competitive sourcing program because of concerns about how the program was managed. Also, like other agencies, the Forest Service must report annually to Congress on the savings achieved from any competitions it conducted. GAO was asked to determine the extent to which the Forest Service has (1) plans and guidance to help implement its competitive sourcing program effectively and (2) sufficient cost data to ensure that it complied with its spending limitations and accurately reported its savings to Congress for fiscal years 2004 through 2006. To answer these objectives, GAO examined the agency's strategic plan, guidance, and available cost data for competitive sourcing and interviewed key agency officials.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Agriculture 1. To improve the Forest Service's management of its competitive sourcing program, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief of the Forest Service to revise the Green Plan to establish an implementation schedule that takes into account resource limitations.
Closed - Not Implemented
Congress prohibited spending on the Competitive Sourcing Program at the Forest Service for FY 2008 - 2010 and the Forest Service has declined to ask for funding in FY 2011. Forest Service Officials told us that there are no plans to reinstate the program and thus no plans to implement our recommendations.
Department of Agriculture 2. To improve the Forest Service's management of its competitive sourcing program, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief of the Forest Service to develop clear guidance on when and how to identify inherently governmental and core-commercial activities so they are excluded from competitive sourcing competitions.
Closed - Not Implemented
Congress prohibited spending on the Competitive Sourcing Program at the Forest Service for FY 2008 - 2010 and the Forest Service has declined to ask for funding in FY 2011. Forest Service Officials told us that there are no plans to reinstate the program and thus no plans to implement our recommendations.
Department of Agriculture 3. To improve the Forest Service's management of its competitive sourcing program, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief of the Forest Service to develop a strategy for assessing the cumulative effect of competitive sourcing competitions on the Forest Service's firefighting and emergency response capabilities.
Closed - Not Implemented
Congress prohibited spending on the Competitive Sourcing Program at the Forest Service for FY 2008 - 2010 and the Forest Service has declined to ask for funding in FY 2011. Forest Service Officials told us that there are no plans to reinstate the program and thus no plans to implement our recommendations.
Department of Agriculture 4. To improve the Forest Service's management of its competitive sourcing program, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief of the Forest Service to collect complete and reliable cost data on competitive sourcing activities to ensure that the Forest Service is able to comply with the appropriations acts' spending limitations.
Closed - Not Implemented
Congress prohibited spending on the Competitive Sourcing Program at the Forest Service for FY 2008 - 2010 and the Forest Service has declined to ask for funding in FY 2011. Forest Service Officials told us that there are no plans to reinstate the program and thus no plans to implement our recommendations.
Department of Agriculture 5. To improve the Forest Service's management of its competitive sourcing program, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief of the Forest Service to ensure that the savings reported to Congress are a realistic measure of the actual savings resulting from A-76 competitions by (1) verifying the accuracy of the data and (2) including costs such as planning costs and transition costs when calculating the savings.
Closed - Not Implemented
Congress prohibited spending on the Competitive Sourcing Program at the Forest Service for FY 2008 - 2010 and the Forest Service has declined to ask for funding in FY 2011. Forest Service Officials told us that there are no plans to reinstate the program and thus no plans to implement our recommendations.

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