The purpose and need for the Forest Service in earlier
days was clearly stated: To work with states to protect the reserves and
provide benefits to the American public. Over time the mission, physical,
and political environments changed and increased in complexity, but there
was little effort to validate and modify the foundational principles (our
doctrine) to keep pace.
The layering of prescriptive policy, checklists, and a variety of “dos”
and “don’ts” have done little to validate the doctrine
that guided Forest Service fire suppression management, while leaving
it more vulnerable to outside scrutiny and challenge. Doctrine is found
in any number of guides, manuals, and handbooks. Ask any firefighter,
fire program leader, or line officer what the doctrinal principles are
that guide fire suppression activities, and one will get as many answers
as people asked.
Principles of wildland fire suppression should
be based on well defined values of the agency, and turn assumptions of
what those agency values are into facts. From the principles will come
the strategies and tactics, the tools and techniques for executing them,
and define the behaviors that we expect. When we move to sound, well–understood
Doctrinal concepts, then our decisions will be defendable by professional
judgment; “How did you use doctrine to arrive at your decision?”,
and “How was your decision consistent with the leader’s expressed
So, what are we doing to facilitate the transition to doctrinal principles
as the foundation of leadership and decision making?
- Review of Fire Policy Documents: A contract
has been awarded to Fire Management Solutions, Inc. that launched the
review of nearly 2200 pages of interagency fire policy documents. This
effort has interagency support and involvement in comparing and contrasting
individual agency doctrine to find the overlap… which then forms
the basis for true interagency operating doctrine.
- Policy Revision: The strategy is to locate doctrine
appropriately among the various key documents, streamline existing policy,
reduce or eliminate redundant materials, and move operational directives
to handbooks and guides.
- Futuring : An AD-Hoc steering group is facilitating
the review and contractor oversight for the transition strategy development.
This strategy will be available for application by January 2007 and
the interagency transition to Doctrine will be fully underway.
- Training Development: We have initiated an effort
to develop a comprehensive training strategy that reaches every firefighter
from the ground up and every fire manager from the top down. As a result
Forest Service FAM and our interagency partners will become a more coherent
organization guided by well stated doctrinal principles, which represent
the reality of the work, the environment, and the mission.
- Peer Review: A streamlined process to investigate
and gather lessons learned; the subject of our next Doctrine Dialogue.
An organization focused on accomplishing a worthy
mission within clearly articulated doctrine and principles is agile, effective,
and enduring. Max Weber, Sociologist
US Forest Service
Fire and Aviation Management
Risk Management and Human Performance Team
3833 So. Development Ave.
Boise, ID 83705-5354
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