here’s the link, and below, the highlights.
In 2009, GAO highlighted management challenges that the Forest Service faced in three key areas—wildland fire management, data on program activities and costs, and financial and performance accountability. The Forest Service has made some improvements, but challenges persist in each of these three areas. In addition, recent GAO reports have identified additional challenges related to program oversight and strategic planning.
Strategies are still needed to ensure effective use of wildland fire management funds. In numerous previous reports, GAO has highlighted the challenges the Forest Service faces in protecting the nation against the threat of wildland fire. The agency continues to take steps to improve its approach, but it has yet to take several key steps—including developing a cohesive wildland fire strategy that identifies potential long-term options for reducing hazardous fuels and responding to fires—that, if completed, would substantially strengthen wildland fire management.
Incomplete data on program activities remain a concern. In 2009, GAO concluded that long-standing data problems plagued the Forest Service, hampering its ability to manage its programs and account for its costs. While GAO has not comprehensively reviewed the quality of all Forest Service data, shortcomings identified during several recent reviews reinforce these concerns. For example, GAO recently identified data gaps in the agency’s system for tracking appeals and litigation of Forest Service projects and in the number of abandoned hardrock mines on its lands.
Even with improvements, financial and performance accountability shortcomings persist. Although its financial accountability has improved, the Forest Service continues to struggle to implement adequate internal controls over its funds and to demonstrate how its expenditures relate to the goals in the agency’s strategic plan. For example, in 2010 Agriculture reported that the agency needed to improve controls over its expenditures for wildland fire management and identified the wildland fire suppression program as susceptible to significant improper payments.
Additional challenges related to program oversight and strategic planning have been identified. Several recent GAO reviews have identified additional challenges facing the Forest Service, which the agency must address if it is to effectively and efficiently fulfill its mission. Specifically, the agency has yet to develop a national land tenure strategy that would protect the public’s interest in land exchanges and return fair value to taxpayers from such exchanges. In addition, it has yet to take recommended steps to align its workforce planning with its strategic plan, which may compromise its ability to carry out its mission; for example, it has not adequately planned for the likely retirement of firefighters, which may reduce the agency’s ability to protect the safety of both people and property. Finally, the Forest Service needs a more systematic, risk-based approach to allocate its law-enforcement resources. Without such an approach it cannot be assured that it is deploying its resources effectively against illegal activities on the lands it manages.