USDA FOREST SERVICE : Strategic Planning and Resource Assessment

Management's Discussion and Analysis

Forest Service’s Performance Highlights for 2003

The key performance areas for the Forest Service executive leaders are Mission Results, Business Results, Civil Rights, Homeland Security, and the NFP. Significant FY 2003 accomplishments are addressed in these performance areas. In addition, trend and performance information regarding the Forest Service performance indicators immediately follow this discussion.

Accomplishments Toward Mission Results

The mission of the Forest Service continues to be clearly linked to the overall mission of the USDA, and more specifically to the USDA’s Natural Resources and Environment (NRE) Mission Area. Many of the policies initially discussed, developed, and proposed with the Under Secretary, Council of Environmental Quality (CEQ), OMB, and with the Department of the Interior (DOI) were finalized in FY 2003 and are now being implemented. These include significant progress implementing the Healthy Forests Initiative announced in August 2002.

On the legislative front, the Forest Service worked with the Administration to get stewardship contracting authority enacted. The Healthy Forests Restoration Act (H.R. 1904) was approved in the House and the bill has moved out of committee in the Senate. Forest Service administrative accomplishments include:

  • Established two categorical exclusions for priority fuel treatment and forest restoration projects.
  • Revised the Forest Service administrative appeals process to expedite appeals of forest health projects.
  • Implemented guidance developed to facilitate Healthy Forests Initiative projects that involve endangered species.
  • Implemented guidance from CEQ to improve environmental assessments for priority forest health projects.

Other accomplishments in this area include:

  • Identified the four major threats to the national forests and the Nation’s forest lands as fires and fuels, invasive species, loss of open space, and unmanaged recreation.
  • Worked with USDA and the Administration to develop an understanding of the serious forest health/forest fuels situation with high potential for catastrophic fires, resulting in a commitment by the President to address these issues through the Healthy Forests Initiative.

Accomplishments Toward Business Results

Among the Forest Service’s highest priorities is leadership’s attention to the business and financial operations and systems of the agency. In FY 2002, and again in FY 2003, the Forest Service received an unqualified (“clean”) audit opinion on its financial statements.

The Forest Service revised its 5-year strategic plan in its 2003 update to the Strategic Plan for fiscal years 2004-2008 that focuses on outcomes to achieve sustainable resource management and addresses the four major threats, noted above. This update sets agency goals and objectives for fiscal years 2004 through 2008. As a subset of this document, a strategic plan for the entire Business Operations program was developed that describes performance expectations for all administrative staffs and programs.

The Forest Service is continuing its efforts to ensure progress towards achieving performance accountability. In 2003, the agency developed a comprehensive plan to implement a PAS. As of FY 2003 year-end, the agency completed an assessment of existing processes and systems related to the budget, performance, and accountability. The Forest Service also began an effort to develop a consolidated set of activities linking objectives and performance measures, from the Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2004-2008 (updated in FY 2003), to the agency’s budget. The PAS is scheduled for initial implementation in FY 2005, for budget execution and reporting purposes, and for full implementation in FY 2006, incorporating budget formulation.

A pilot is currently underway in Region 10 (Alaska) to develop a set of operational level measures to support budget and strategic plan integration. In support of the President’s Management Initiatives, the Forest Service continues to implement competitive sourcing and business process re-engineering through the A-76 process. The Forest Service has also developed and implemented a strategy for cost containment on large wildfires.

Accomplishments Toward Civil Rights

The agency’s commitment to Civil Rights continues to be demonstrated by performance and follow through. All senior executives are held accountable for meeting goals in civil rights. Forest Service Leadership reviews all GS-14 and above personnel selections for the degree of outreach and the presence of qualified candidates on certificates that would contribute to diversity at those upper grade levels. Civil Rights goals are clearly displayed in the strategic plan and the Business Operations Strategic Plan. The Civil Rights budget is linked to the strategic plan and the annual performance plan.

Other FY 2003 accomplishments include:

  • Established a Tribal Relations Coordinator.
  • Launched a leadership development and succession-planning program.
  • Resolved informal EEO complaints at a rate of 52 percent.
  • Received a per capita filing rate of 0.4 percent (USDA’s per capita rate is 0.6 percent) for formal complaints.
  • There was a significant decrease in formal complaints filed in FY 2003—149 formal complaints filed compared to 207 formal complaints filed in FY 2002.
  • Through September 30, 2003, 84 formal complaints were closed by settlements or withdrawals. This continues a positive trend that began in FY 2002.

Accomplishments Toward Homeland Security

The Forest Service supports the Administration’s objectives regarding homeland security. FY 2003 accomplishments include the completion, training, and implementation of the Continuity of Operations Plan for Forest Service national headquarters and implementation of actions called for in the Occupant Emergency Plans.

The Forest Service is a key participant with USDA, the Department of Homeland Security, and other Federal Government security agencies on border issues, as well as antiterrorist contingency planning and exercises.

Also, the agency is in the process of implementing the necessary actions, as identified in the security assessment of Air Tanker Bases and Regional Aviation facilities. The Major Management Challenges and Program Risks section of this report includes more information on these actions.

Accomplishments Toward National Fire Plan

With more than $226 million budgeted for hazardous fuels treatments in 2003, the Forest Service treated approximately 1.4 million acres of NFS lands. Approximately 1 million of these acres are in the wildland-urban interface area. Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth personally serves as Chair of the Wildland Fire Leadership Council, providing leadership for completion of interagency performance measures to improve accountability and communication of NFP accomplishments.

Progress continues to be made in each of the five components of the NFP—firefighting, rehabilitation, hazardous fuels treatment, community assistance, and accountability. Initial attack continues to be an accomplishment highlighted by once again achieving a 98.4-percent success rate as a result of making additional resources available on Federal lands, as well as other jurisdictions.

Also in 2003, 14 National Firewise Communities workshops have been held throughout the country. Since 2000, more than 30 workshops have been held for over 3,500 participants, including homeowners, builders, fire departments, emergency managers, realtors, planners, American Red Cross, and others in over 1,000 communities and in 48 States.