In their report on the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriation Bill, 2012, 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.”
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Interior Fire Program Assessment 2012 Project
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October 17, 2012
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 program, USGS, Bureau 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 down-select sessions 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 organization 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 other wildland fire management partners to develop an approach to implementation.
September 18, 2012
Three Government-to-Government consultations with Tribal Leaders and a down-select working session with fire directors, fire executives, and Department leadership were completed the week of August 26.
The Project Leader Jim Douglas, with support from members of the Assessment and Project Working Teams, led three Government-to-Government consultations with Tribal leadership. The purpose of the consultations was to provide an overview of Tasks 1 and 2 of the Interior Fire Program Assessment and gain Tribal leadership's feedback relative to the current state and the three organizational model examples detailed in the Task 2 deliverable to the Department. Tribal Consultations were held in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Spokane, Washington; and Bloomington, Minnesota. In total, nearly 100 interested parties (primarily tribal representatives and staff) attended the consultations. Tribal Leaders had until September 12, to provide additional feedback to the Assessment Team.
The input of Tribal Governments is invaluable to the Department's wildland fire management program and to the success of the Assessment process; therefore, future consultations will be planned prior to implementation of any recommendations as a result of the Interior Fire Program Assessment 2012 project.
Down-Select Working Session
Department and Bureau wildland fire management leadership and representatives from the USDA Forest Service, US Geological Survey, and Bureau of Reclamation attended a down-select working session in Boise, Idaho, on August 29. This facilitated session focused primarily on discussions regarding the current state and the three organizational model examples from the Task 2 deliverable to the Department
The objectives for the down-select working session were to:
- establish common understand of functional options and organizational models;
- identify benefits, limitations, risks, implementation issues, and alternate structures of organizational models; and
- inform identification of a smaller set of options for further analysis.
Participants openly discussed recommendations for improvement and the potential organizational structures presented in the Task 2 deliverable to the Department during the session. Discussion focused on the merits and limitations of the models, the current state, and adjustments and transition considerations.
Key themes from the down-select working session, as voiced by the participants, included the following:
Participants validated recommendations for improvement.Fire is integrated into the unique land management functions of each bureau and does not stand alone. Similarly, fire programs and administrative support are intertwined with other bureau programs. Personnel are not necessarily dedicated to the fire program.A great deal of cooperation currently exists; bureaus realize efficiencies. The options discussed in the Task 2 deliverable did not include the current state, although the current state can serve as a baseline for comparison purposes. There is potential for sharing services within some administrative and technical areas (e.g., smoke management, planning, GPS/GIS, grants and cooperative agreements, acquisitions, and human resources) among bureaus at the local, regional, or national levels.
Plan for Moving Forward
Department and bureau leadership indicated the Implementation Plan, prepared during Task 3, should address the following two efforts:
- Carry out Task 2 recommendations for improvement within the current organization structure; and
- Analyze functions that may be shared at the national, regional, and/or local levels.
While organizational changes will not be included in the planning during Task 3, they may naturally follow the analysis of specific functions, as the Department collects more information and implements other recommendations.
Submittal of the Task 3 deliverable to the Department is scheduled for October 17. Department leadership will make decisions for moving forward at that point. Bureau and Tribal leadership will be active participants in subsequent decisions and activities.
August 13, 2012
During Task 1 of the Interior Fire Program Assessment 2012 project, there were 185 telephone and in-person interviews conducted and 116 responses received to the online survey. This information provided the Assessment Team with insights into our wildland fire programs which were documented in the Wildland Fire Program Baseline and Opportunities for Improvement report delivered to the Department on July 3. The report contained observations regarding efficiencies and opportunities for improvement that were primarily based on your collective input.
The Assessment Team is currently working on Task 2 of the project, which will provide recommendations for efficiency improvements and options for potential organizational structures. Some upcoming project highlights are listed below:
- August 23: Final Task 2 report is due.
- August 27 - 31: Tribal consultations will be conducted in Albuquerque, Spokane, and Minneapolis.
- August 29: A down-select session with members of the Steering Committee, Fire Executives, and Fire Directors will be held to evaluate recommendations in the report and identify the merits of each. Following this session and the final Tribal consultation, the Department will select which options it will continue to evaluate and refine. They will work with the Assessment Team to further define and analyze these options.
- October 17: The final Task 3 report (Implementation Plan) is due to the Department. This report will further define implementation planning and issues related to selected options in preparation for the Department to make final decisions on the actions it will take related to the efficiencies.
The Department appreciates your contributions to this project!
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