POLICY ANALYSIS: Setting the Course 5/13/99


· Policy Analysis is a corporate function that cuts across all programs and Deputy areas.

· Policy analysis may be called upon to deal with questions of: policy direction or content; agency processes; policy implementation; and foresight. Appropriate questions might include:

· What are the Forest Service's policies in a given area?

· What goals were those policies designed to accomplish?

· Are those goals still appropriate?

· Are the policies being implemented?

· Are the policies producing the intended outcome?

· What are the implications of a proposed change in policy?

· Are current Forest Service policies and programs serving agency priorities? Are top priority needs being met?

· Are the processes used by the agency for carrying out a given activity efficient and effective? Are they accomplishing the desired results?

· What adjustments in policy or process might better serve agency goals?

· What new demands and challenges is the agency likely to face in the foreseeable future?

· How will changes in the scientific, statutory, economic, or social environments affect Forest Service programs and policies?

· Should current Forest Service policies and processes be revised to respond to changing circumstances?


· The role of Policy Analysis is to be an objective observer. Our stance is that of a neutral third-party - a group without a dog in the fight. That posture is essential to maintaining PA's credibility and utility to the organization.

· Policy Analysis will both conduct analyses itself, using staff analysts, and serve as a convener of analytic efforts involving personnel from a variety of programs and areas. We will provide a corps of personnel with skills in designing and conducting analytical processes. But, PA will frequently depend on personnel borrowed from other units to help conduct projects. The result should be corporate products that reflect a crosscutting, corporate vision.


· The ultimate customer for policy analysis products is the agency itself, in the person of the Chief.

· Other primary customers are the Deputy Chiefs, Regional Foresters, Station Directors, Staff Directors, and other Forest Service personnel.

· External customers include all of the major constituencies of the Forest Service: Congress; commercial users; interest groups; forestry professionals; the academic community; and the media.

· The Policy Analysis unit should be responsive to the needs of each of these customers, but we will need to be highly selective in choosing which issues and projects to undertake.


· We will need an efficient process for: identifying potential questions for analysis; scoping those questions; assessing their feasibility and utility; prioritizing; and selecting a limited number of the most promising issues for analysis. It will be important that our internal customers understand, accept, and take part in this process so that the policy analysis effort serves the agency's needs, not merely the unit's agenda.

· To that end, we are forming an informal advisory committee representing our internal customers.

· The group should be small enough to be efficient, but large enough to represent a number of perspectives within the agency;

· The group will meet two or three times a year, face-to-face or via conference calls;

· We will rely on the committee to help us: review and prioritize proposed policy analysis projects; review and critique policy analysis products; provide course-correction feedback in the spirit of adaptive management; and ensure that policy analysis efforts are addressing the needs of the agency as a whole.


1. Issue Identification:

· Poll internal customers for input on needs and proposals for policy analysis projects;

· Meet informally with representative external customers for input on foresight and policy issues;

· Summarize input, share with Deputies, RFs, and Directors, and discuss with advisory committee.

2. Issue Selection:

· Rank potential projects against selection criteria;

· Rate the highest ranking proposals in terms of feasibility and pay-off;

· Review results with standing advisory board;

· Select issues to be addressed over the next year.

3. Review and Feedback:

· Review status of policy analysis projects with Deputy and Associate Deputy for P&L at least twice a year: (Implementation Monitoring);

· Discuss progress with advisory committee and seek their critique of draft reports and findings in terms of quality control, utility, and presentation;

· On annual basis, assess whether intended outcomes were achieved: (Effectiveness Monitoring);

· With advice from advisory committee, Chief, and Deputy for P&L, design adaptive adjustments in approach, role, or process to more closely meet agency objectives.

Selection Criteria:

Criteria for prioritizing and selecting projects for policy analysis should address:

· Urgency -- Does the project address an issue of pressing importance to the agency?

· Utility - Does the inquiry promise to yield results that will make a difference?

· Strategic Importance - Does the question address agency priorities under the Natural Resource Agenda or the Strategic Plan?

· Geographic scope - Is it relevant to a number of forests, regions, or states?

· Programmatic scope - Is the project of concern / benefit to several program areas or customer groups? Does it cut across programs and Deputy areas?

· Feasibility - Can the inquiry be carried out with the resources available to us? Are the necessary data and analytical tools available?

· Fiscal Implications - Could the inquiry improve the fiscal position of the agency?

· Originality - Has the question already been studied?

· Customers served - Does the project respond to a variety of customers or to our core customer, the Chief?

Outreach / Inreach:

Policy Analysis will work to develop and maintain ongoing liaison with key interest groups, professional societies, and academic leaders in resource management. We want to broaden the input into the agency's consideration of policy issues. We need to be aware of current concerns about Forest Service policy and contemporary trends in thinking about natural resources, ecology, and management. And we hope to increase the awareness of current FS policy direction among key external opinion leaders.

Policy Analysis will also attempt to maintain an active network of contacts, cutting diagonally across the FS, to ensure that we are in touch with current thinking about policy and its implementation from within the agency. We need to be in contact with our colleagues and their concerns. And we need to have the benefit of their thinking. We will look at a variety of techniques: questionnaires; web sites; policy forums; informal networks; etc. We also hope to recruit at least a couple of top notch people to come to Washington for a year on detail to work in policy analysis - keeping us in touch with the field and broadening our network.