Interior Fire Program Assessment 2012
In their report on the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriation Bill, 2012, (HR Report 112-151) dated July 19, 2011, the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations indicated an awareness of the duplication that exists in the Department's wildland fire programs at the national, state, regional, and local levels. As a result, they directed, "the Department to complete an assessment of these Wildland Fire programs in order to determine the most cost effective and efficient means of providing comprehensive fire management services in support of Departmental and bureau missions, and to better direct scarce resources from duplicative administrative management organizations to focus resources on protection of lives, property, and natural and cultural resources."
Interior Fire Program Assessment Team Delivers Phase 3 Report
The Interior Fire Program Assessment Team delivered its final Phase 3 report to the Department of the Interior on October 17. The three-phased Assessment, which began in April 2012, was conducted by the Department with the assistance of a contracted Assessment Team. The three phases included:
Phase 1 to identify opportunities for improvement;
Phase 2 to develop recommendations for restructuring; and
Phase 3 to formulate an implementation plan.
In Phase 1, the Assessment Team documented observations regarding the current state of wildland fire management across the Department, wildland fire management approaches of other organizations, and opportunities for improvement within bureaus' wildland fire management programs. The Assessment Team conducted 185 in-person and telephone interviews and received 116 online questionnaire responses from multiple locations representing national, state/regional, and local level stakeholders from the four bureaus with wildland fire management programs, USGS, Department of Reclamation, USDA Forest Service, Tribes, and other interested parties.
In Phase 2, the Assessment Team provided the Department with recommendations for improvement for consideration by the Department and its bureaus. The Assessment Team also prepared options for organizational change.
At the beginning of Phase 3, the Department conducted government-to-government Tribal consultations, and the Assessment Team facilitated a down-select session to define the attributes of potential changes related to the restructuring options. These sessions were conducted to help inform the Department’s executive decision making. With input from the Tribes and from attendees at the down-select session, the Department and bureau leadership agreed to conduct further analysis of several functions and activities before considering organizational restructuring to achieve efficiencies.
The Phase 3 report includes implementation plans for (1) analysis of functions for greater efficiency and (2) efforts that address recommendations for improvement developed as the Assessment was conducted. The implementation plans described in the report are based on the Phase 2 recommendations. While organizational restructuring is not part of this immediate implementation planning, the Department may use the results of these efforts, as well as other factors (e.g., resource management requirements) to inform future organizational changes to increase efficiency.
Over the next few weeks, the Department and bureau leadership will meet to consider the efforts included in the Phase 3 report. They will, then, work with their wildland fire management partners to develop an approach to implementation.