1998 Report of the Forest Service
Goal 3: Ensure Organizational Effectiveness
The need to have an effective and efficient administrative organization is widely recognized. In response to public demand for more efficient and effective governmental operations, Congress has taken steps to increase accountability for performance throughout the Federal Government. The President's National Performance Review directs agencies to review their business processes and find ways to become more efficient. The Forest Service reinvention study identified a number of activities that could be improved through reengineering.
To address these concerns, in FY 1998 the Forest Service initiated Project Ponderosa to focus attention, energy, and resources on improving the manner in which the agency conducts its business operations. The following management initiatives outline in more detail the agency's progress in these areas.
[Note: These overarching concerns are expressed as Management Initiative 3.5 in the GPRA Strategic Plan and Annual Performance Plans. Since those plans do not identify specific indicators or outputs for that initiative, in this report it is treated as an organizing theme or principle.]
Management Initiative 3.1: An innovative, people-oriented work environment and workforce that is representative of society as a whole and that services all customers equally.
A key component of an effective organization is a workforce that is representative of the agency's customers and American public. The Forest Service report Toward a Multicultural Organization (1991) set the course to meeting these challenges. Goals and strategies were identified to allow the Forest Service to attract, retain, and provide career opportunities for employees of various ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds, as well as those with disabilities (see Tables 46-50).
As a result of USDA customer and employee concerns, the Secretary of Agriculture established a Civil Rights Action Team in 1997 to develop recommendations for improved employee and customer relations and program delivery throughout the Department. The Secretary accepted those recommendations, and many of them have been implemented within the Forest Service and/or Department-wide. For example, in FY 1998 the Forest Service established a team to resolve employee complaints dealing with civil rights issues. Improvements will be measured using indicators identified in the USDA Civil Rights Action Team report. Work to implement the remaining recommendations is ongoing.
The agency monitors employee satisfaction through the Continuous Improvement Process (CIP) questionnaire. The survey covers communication, human resource management, job satisfaction, organizational management, service and quality, and supervision. By establishing a baseline, identifying areas needing improvement, and setting and achieving goals, an improved work environment is expected to increase employee productivity.
In 1998, Human Resource Management (HRM) conducted program reviews in Region 2 and Region 6. It was found that streamlining activities, efforts related to increasing opportunities for persons with disabilities, and LMR Partnerships are very strong. There are concerns about heavy workloads in HRM, and lack of strategic direction in the delivery of HR services. A national evaluation of service delivery and quality of current services is now underway, and a Service-wide workforce plan is being initiated.
Much progress has been made and efforts continue today as shown in the accompanying table and graph. Building skills and cultural awareness for working with low-income, minority, historically underserved communities and tribal governments is also an area that continues to be emphasized.
# Sources include Annual Reports of the Forest Service (FY's 1995-97); final MAR for FYs 1995-98.
The agency is committed to providing work, training, and educational opportunities to the unemployed, underemployed, elderly, youth, and others with special needs. In FY 1998, 125,698 individuals participated in Job Corps, Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), Volunteers in the National Forests, Youth Conservation Corps (YCC), and the Hosted Program. Together, these Senior, Youth, and Volunteer Programs (SYVP) accomplished high-priority conservation work valued at over $109 million in support of the Forest Service mission.
Management Initiative 3.2: All customers receive better service.
Providing good customer service is a critical component of the Forest Service mission. As a High Impact Agency, this management initiative provides a means of addressing aspects of the five customer service goals identified in the National Performance Review. These include:
1) offering the opportunity for customers, contractors, suppliers, and vendors to conduct financial transactions electronically;
2) offering applicants and permittees toll-free telephone, World Wide Web, and automated applications for many special use permits;
3) using internal enterprise teams to improve management efficiency of the national forests in California;
4) improving service to public land users through "one-stop shopping" in conjunction with the BLM; and
5) providing an integrated, nationwide outdoor recreation information and reservation system in partnership with BLM and the National Park Service.
An agency customer service team created in response to Executive Order 12862, "Setting Customer Service Standards," has provided agencywide direction and led the effort in measuring customer satisfaction. In FY's 1996-97, the customer service team administered nine different customer satisfaction surveys to external customers of the agency. The surveys covered NFS, R&D, and S&PF, and were administered to a random sample of customers from selected forests, all research stations, and the Forest Service Northeastern Area. They covered recreation, timber sale contracts, range permits, and other programs.
In FY 1998, each office began using the results to develop the improvements identified by their customers. The results of some of the surveys conducted in FY 1997-98 are shown under Objectives 1.6, 2.1, 2.5, 2.6, 2.7, 2.8, and 2.11. As surveys are completed in future years, it is expected that trends in customer satisfaction will be displayed under each appropriate objective.
Management Initiative 3.3: Integrated information systems, data structures, and information management processes in place to support the agency's mission.
At the end of FY 1998, approximately 70 percent of the agency's employees were IBM system users. Progress was accelerating on redesigning the agency's information processes and applications to meet the needs of the agency and ensure Y2K compliance of all mission critical systems by January 1, 2000.
Additional performance indicators are being considered or are under development. Availability of data, consistency of definitions, and utility for managers are factors that will determine whether indicators are used in annual performance measurement or for longer term monitoring.
In order to meet the increasing demands that are being placed on the Forest Service, it is essential that all information be integrated into an electronic medium where it can be readily accessed and easily shared. The IBM system provides not only administrative applications, but also a Geographic Information System (GIS) capability, which will allow greater and quicker manipulation of resource information crucial to decisionmaking. It will also provide better communications between the Forest Service and others, thus facilitating the representation and integration of varying views into agency decisionmaking.
In FY 1998, two program reviews related to Management Initiative 3.3 were scheduled for three regions. Two reviews were actually conducted, with the following findings:
· Good progress was being made in the regions on converting from the legacy Data General computer equipment to the replacement IBM computer platform.
· Good progress was being made in the regions on assessing Y2K problems of regional software applications and in accomplishing the redesign and repair work needed to resolve those problems.
· Improvement was needed in providing employees with training on the new IBM environment.
· Improvement was needed to cut regional software distribution cycle times by 50 percent.
· Improvement was needed to develop a more detailed strategy for upgrading aging parts of the regional telecommunications networks.
· Improvement was needed in coordinating wide-area planning for GIS efforts.
· Improvement was needed at the local (forest and district) levels in assessing the Y2K problems of local applications and repairing same.
Management Initiative 3.4: A sound financial system that supports resource decisions with timely, accurate information and financial expertise.
In July 1996, the USDA Inspector General issued an adverse opinion criticizing systems, operations, and skills used by the Forest Service in financial management. The audit identified seven areas of deficiency: 1) property, plant, and equipment, 2) accounts receivable, 3) net position - equity of the U.S. Government accounts, 4) reimbursements, 5) revenues from the sale of goods and services, 6) program and operating expenses, and 7) depreciation and amortization expense. The agency is committed to working with the USDA Office of the Chief Financial Officer, Office of Inspector General (OIG), and the General Accounting Office to remedy these deficiencies with a goal of having an unqualified opinion on the 2000 financial audit report (to be issued in March 2001).
Several teams commissioned by the Forest Service Chief Operating Officer have taken the first steps to address the USDA Inspector General's concerns. Efforts are underway to find ways to improve and simplify the budget structure, reduce the number of management and work activity codes, develop useful and accurate financial reports for managers, and identify related staffing needs. Ongoing efforts to develop improved financial systems and processes (i.e., the Foundation Financial Information System - FFIS) will facilitate cost-revenue comparisons and further enhance the capability of Forest Service managers to make sound resource decisions under all objectives.
A significant achievement in FY 1998 was the establishment of the agency's Chief Financial Officer position, and filling it with an experienced administrator. Reorganization of the Program Development and Budget and Financial Management staff areas under this new Deputy Chief was also accomplished.
In FY 1998, the agency continued to implement financial systems that support fiscal accountability; that are integrated across USDA; and that facilitate comparisons of costs, revenues and accomplishments. Tables 51-56 summarize data available at this time. In the past year, the Forest Service also sought to respond to OIG audits in a timely manner and collected external debts using the tools provided in the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996. Several performance measures are under development for this objective and are outlined below.