Forest Service Business Services: Further Actions Needed to Re-examine Centralization Approach and to Better Document Associated Costs


A letter report issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "In the early 2000s, the Forest Service, within the Department of Agriculture, centralized the operations of three major business services: (1) budget and finance, (2) human resources management, and (3) information technology. The agency's goals in centralizing these services, which were previously delivered by staff in field units throughout the country, were to streamline and improve operations and reduce costs. Congressional committees directed GAO to independently analyze whether centralization had achieved intended efficiencies and cost savings. Accordingly, this report examines the (1) types of effects centralization has had on the Forest Service and its employees, particularly in field units; (2) actions the agency has taken to assess its delivery of its centralized business services and to address identified shortcomings; and (3) extent to which the agency can demonstrate that it achieved intended cost savings. GAO examined agency reports, performance studies, cost estimates, and other documentation and interviewed and conducted focus groups with employees across the agency.

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