Feasibility of Conducting
A Cost Comparison on Communication
 Activities in the USDA Forest Service




       Competitive...
Table of Contents
I. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY.......................................................................................
TABLE 6: EMPLOYEES BY OCCUPATIONAL SERIES....................................................................................
I. Executive Summary
Competitive Sourcing is the President’s Management Agenda (PMA) item that can result in an
OMB Circul...
2. Conduct a Business Process Reengineering (BPR) of the Programs, Legislation &
      Communication (PL&C) Deputy Area pl...
II. Introduction
A feasibility study is the first of many steps in a deliberative process to determine whether to
conduct ...
The Study Team also included members of an experienced consulting firm to provide technical
expertise. The firm has worked...
III. Review Findings
Business Needs Assessment
USDA requires that the Business Needs Assessment section identify the key b...
The Alaska Region Strategic Business Plan for Fiscal Years 2006-08 specifically
       addresses each of the Forest Servic...
Market Research
A major requirement of a feasibility study is to review the ability of public and private sources in
the m...
Industry Associations. During the initial market research phase, a review of more than 100
communications/public affairs-r...
The identified companies are located throughout the U.S., many with multiple offices. The
O’Dwyer’s website lists more tha...
Web design - update program web        Website (webmaster & posting
 pages                                  materials)    ...
Service(s) Performed                        Related Task/Activity               Company/
                                 ...
Service(s) Performed                          Related Task/Activity              Company/
                                ...
Service(s) Performed                          Related Task/Activity           Company/
                                   ...
The Team’s first phase of market research determined that there were companies available across
the U.S. to perform servic...
units that typically have shared administrative services, such as R-6/PNW and NE/NA, there
were still separate Communicati...
Table 6: Employees by Occupational Series




Line officers, program managers, scientists, and many other employees also p...
Because the Team identified 115 tasks performed in more than 300 locations, it was determined
that further defining the wo...
The WO Communication Office developed a Communications Plan for this study and is
responsible for implementing the Plan. T...
Consultative and advice-giving tasks generally stay at the lowest level of the organization where
the issue can be address...
Region 6 and the Pacific Northwest Research Station (PNW) have separate
Communication/Public Affairs offices, as do the No...
Many publications are “farmed out” (contracted) to non-agency companies
              for design, type-setting, illustrati...
Another issue the Team considered when determining whether to recommend activities for
further study was the recent ruling...
Forest Service leadership, the overall emphasis of the To-Be organization should focus on
program and process improvement....
Performance Gap Analysis
This section identifies five areas that need performance improvement, identifying the “gap”
betwe...
Forest Service mission, the agency should “strengthen qualifications and standards for the
   GS-1035 series to require a ...
the effectiveness of the agency’s communication efforts and lower costs. For example,
   providing frontliners with comput...
Cost comparisons could result in abolishing positions if work is transferred outside the agency. If
the work remains in-ho...
•   Directives system (Directives)
       •   IBM Network (electronic records)
       •   Pontius (contracting)
       •  ...
IV. Analysis and Recommendations
This section describes the process the Team went through to conduct the Feasibility Study...
since it will be easier to determine workload and monitor performance. Selection of these
    activities also potentially ...
Speeches                                                          25       4.3
  Brochures                                ...
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Appendix III: Reference Material

  1. 1. Feasibility of Conducting A Cost Comparison on Communication Activities in the USDA Forest Service Competitive Sourcing Program Office June 30, 2005
  2. 2. Table of Contents I. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY.......................................................................................................................................1 II. INTRODUCTION....................................................................................................................................................3 OBJECTIVES...................................................................................................................................................................3 ANALYTICAL APPROACH .................................................................................................................................................3 ASSUMPTIONS AND CONSTRAINTS......................................................................................................................................4 III. REVIEW FINDINGS.............................................................................................................................................5 BUSINESS NEEDS ASSESSMENT.........................................................................................................................................5 MARKET RESEARCH........................................................................................................................................................7 AS-IS ASSESSMENT.......................................................................................................................................................14 TO-BE ASSESSMENT.....................................................................................................................................................22 PERFORMANCE GAP ANALYSIS.......................................................................................................................................24 CIVIL RIGHTS IMPACT ANALYSIS (CRIA).......................................................................................................................26 SYSTEMS.....................................................................................................................................................................27 IV. ANALYSIS AND RECOMMENDATIONS......................................................................................................29 APPLICATION OF THE EVALUATION CRITERIA....................................................................................................................29 RATIONALE AND DISCUSSION .........................................................................................................................................34 RECOMMENDATIONS ....................................................................................................................................................36 ACQUISITION STRATEGY................................................................................................................................................41 PROJECT LIFECYCLE SCHEDULE......................................................................................................................................45 Project Lifecycle Schedule for Feasibility Study................................................................................................45 Schedule for Standard 12-month Competition (no extension)............................................................................46 Schedule for Standard 18-month Competition (extension).................................................................................46 Schedule for Streamlined Competition with MEO (135 days)............................................................................46 Schedule for Business Process Reengineering....................................................................................................47 V. CONCLUDING REMARKS.................................................................................................................................48 APPENDIX I: WORK DESCRIPTIONS.................................................................................................................49 APPENDIX II: LOCATION OF COMMUNICATION EMPLOYEES...............................................................52 APPENDIX III: REFERENCE MATERIAL..........................................................................................................61 APPENDIX IV: CIVIL RIGHTS IMPACT ANALYSIS (CRIA)..........................................................................62 APPENDIX V: GENERIC PLANS FOR COMPETITIVE SOURCING / BPR STUDIES................................69 STANDARD STUDY (12 MONTHS)....................................................................................................................................69 STANDARD STUDY (18 MONTHS)....................................................................................................................................72 STREAMLINED STUDY....................................................................................................................................................75 BUSINESS PROCESS REENGINEERING (BPR).....................................................................................................................77 APPENDIX VI: ABBREVIATIONS/ACRONYMS................................................................................................81 List of Tables TABLE 1: INDUSTRY ASSOCIATIONS..................................................................................................................8 TABLE 2: EXISTING CONTRACTS........................................................................................................................9 TABLE 3: LABOR POOL WEBSITES....................................................................................................................10 TABLE 4: SAMPLING OF AVAILABLE COMMERCIAL ENTITIES.............................................................10 TABLE 5: EXAMPLES OF RECENT GOVERNMENT SOLICITATIONS......................................................13 ii
  3. 3. TABLE 6: EMPLOYEES BY OCCUPATIONAL SERIES...................................................................................16 MODEL 1: COMMUNICATION PRODUCT-RELATED WORKFLOW MODEL.........................................18 MODEL 2: COMMUNICATION CONSULTATIVE WORKFLOW MODEL..................................................19 TABLE 7: COMMUNICATION TASK/ACTIVITY SUMMARY RATINGS ...................................................30 iii
  4. 4. I. Executive Summary Competitive Sourcing is the President’s Management Agenda (PMA) item that can result in an OMB Circular A-76 competition (A-76) to perform a commercial activity. The USDA requires a feasibility study to assist in identifying activities for potential competition. Feasibility studies provide a rigorous analysis supported by empirical data to identify if any functions are suitable for competition. Forest Service leadership commissioned this service-wide Feasibility Study on the Communication functions. To complete this Feasibility Study, the Study Team relied on: • Reports and analyses performed over fifteen years by internal Forest Service teams and outside consultants on the practice, structure and results of communication • Current data supplied by the field and national Public Affairs Directors during the course of developing this Feasibility Study • Access to Forest Service leadership • The knowledge, experience, and input of four high-level subject matter experts (SMEs) with extensive experience as practitioners of Forest Service Communication and Public Affairs responsibilities and as line managers using those services • The Forest Service Competitive Sourcing Program Office, including its consulting firm that has fifteen years of experience in preliminary planning, A-76 and more recently, feasibility studies for other agencies The Team listed 14 major functions, and subdivided those into 115 tasks and activities representing activities currently performed by Communication and Public Affairs. The Team then estimated the number of full-time equivalents (FTEs) involved with each of these tasks/activities, and developed evaluation factors and weighting criteria to determine whether a task or activity was a possible candidate for competitive sourcing. The Team then rated each task/activity on the evaluation factors. The Team concluded that most Communication activities are available commercially. Based upon data analysis and discussion, the Team proposed the following recommendations: 1. Perform a public-private competition of the following 21 Communication tasks/activities (plus existing contracts that are used to create part or all of the following activities): a. Non-science writing, including newsletters, website, reports, speech preparation, brochures, film scripts, trade publication articles, institutional ads, product or technical collateral materials, and other writing services b. Technical, environmental and other editing services, including editing of peer review publications and general technical reports (GTR) c. Creating multi-media communications d. Recording and editing audio-visual material e. Preparing audio-visual presentations f. Publication design g. Creating artwork h. Managing stock photos, and audio and visual tapes i. Meeting management and facilitation 1
  5. 5. 2. Conduct a Business Process Reengineering (BPR) of the Programs, Legislation & Communication (PL&C) Deputy Area plus related programs (Press office, conservation education, speechwriting, isolated positions) throughout all Deputy Areas performing Communication functions. The Team delivered the Feasibility Study and its recommendations to the Deputy Chiefs of Programs, Legislation, and Communication (PL&C) and Business Operations (OPS) on June 30, 2005. The Deputy Chiefs will send the recommendations to the field and Washington Office (WO) leadership for review and comment in July/August. There will also be a dialog with the following six audiences: 1. Communication Directors 2. National Leadership Team (NLT) 3. Administrative Management Council (AMC) 4. Inter-regional Ecosystem Management Coordination Group (IREMCG) 5. Civil Rights Directors 6. Forest Service Partnership Council After the agency review process, the Deputy Chiefs for PL&C and OPS will present the final set of recommendations for an agency decision, tentatively scheduled for fall, 2005. 2
  6. 6. II. Introduction A feasibility study is the first of many steps in a deliberative process to determine whether to conduct a cost comparison for specific commercial activities. The feasibility study is extremely important. First, a properly conducted feasibility study should provide a path toward improved organizational efficiency and cost saving opportunities for the agency, regardless of whether it recommends specific functions to study further. Second, the recommendations in this Feasibility Study could affect the lives of many Forest Service employees if leadership determines to conduct a competitive sourcing study. The Team members were well aware of the potential effect its recommendations could have on the Forest Service and its employees. Objectives There were two objectives for this Feasibility Study: 1. Comply with USDA and Forest Service direction. The Competitive Sourcing Green Plan FY 2004-2008 (June 2004) stated that the Forest Service would competitively source approximately 100 Communication FTEs in FY 2005. However, the USDA issued guidance requiring USDA agencies to conduct a feasibility study prior to conducting a public-private competition. Accordingly, the Forest Service revised its requirement from conducting a competitive sourcing study of 100 Communication FTEs to conducting a feasibility study of all Communication functions in FY 2005 (approximately 750 FTEs). 2. Ensure that the Forest Service makes the right decisions, based on the right information, about what – if any – functions are suitable for competitive sourcing. Prior to competitive sourcing activity, conduct a feasibility study that ensures a rigorous analysis, supported by empirical data. Analytical Approach In preparing for this Study, the Study Team had the benefit of fifteen years of research and reports produced by Forest Service employees or contractors on the function, effectiveness, structure, and skill needs of communication in general and within the agency. This information played a critical role in helping the Team develop an understanding of the problems, issues and successes the Forest Service Communication functions have experienced in that time. It also helped the Team develop final recommendations. A complete listing of reference material used is located in Appendix III: Reference Material. Management asked four subject matter experts (SMEs) to join the Feasibility Study Team. The SMEs have extensive Public Affairs/Communication background and experience at many levels of the agency, and were involved in many of the past studies of agency public affairs effectiveness listed in Appendix III. The SMEs now work in upper-level line or other senior staff positions, but they maintain networks in the public affairs community and key roles in line or staff that allow them to remain current on Communication needs and issues. The SMEs included one Regional Forester, one Assistant Station Director, one Forest Supervisor, and one Policy Analyst. 3
  7. 7. The Study Team also included members of an experienced consulting firm to provide technical expertise. The firm has worked on preliminary planning, A-76 and feasibility studies for 15 years. More recently, the firm has conducted feasibility studies with HUD, SBA, and HHS, and is currently working with a branch of the Army to help develop its first feasibility study. Management asked that the Study Team make minimal requests of the field data for data for the Feasibility Study, which required estimates of workload, staffing and current costs. This Study followed the guidance provided in the May 11, 2004 USDA bulletin, Guidance for Determining the Feasibility of Conducting Competitive Sourcing Competitions. Assumptions and Constraints The Study Team worked under the following assumptions for the Feasibility Study: • It should include suggestions that will make Communication/Public Affairs more effective and efficient • The Forest Service needs to reduce its indirect costs • The Forest Service will comply with the President’s Management Agenda (PMA), which includes the Competitive Sourcing Initiative • The USDA 2004-2008 Competitive Sourcing Green Plan, as revised, states that the Forest Service must complete a Feasibility Study on Communication by June 30, 2005 • The Forest Service Competitive Sourcing Green Plan FY 2005-2009 will propose to compete 100 FTEs in FY 2006 within the Communication function The Study Team assumed the following constraints when conducting the Feasibility Study: • A Congressional cap of $2.5 million on Forest Service A-76 studies in FY 2006 • The Feasibility Study must be completed by June 30, 2005 • The Forest Service needs to reduce indirect costs • The Forest Service needs to reduce Washington Office costs • The Forest Service is currently undergoing major organizational change in three areas: Information Resources Management (IRM), Budget and Finance (B&F), and Human Resources (HR) • Because of the three major reorganizations, HR has a heavy workload and another major reorganization or competition will be difficult • Field data requests should be held to a minimum 4
  8. 8. III. Review Findings Business Needs Assessment USDA requires that the Business Needs Assessment section identify the key business drivers of the functions considered for study, and determine alignment with the agency’s strategic goals and objectives. The Team quickly determined that the role of Communication is vital to the agency in achieving its goals and objectives. The USDA Forest Service Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2004-2008 identified six goals for the Forest Service: 1. Reduce the risk from catastrophic wild land fire 2. Reduce the impacts from invasive species 3. Provide outdoor recreational opportunities 4. Help meet energy resource needs 5. Improve watershed condition 6. Conduct mission-related work in addition to that which supports the agency goals The Communication function indirectly supports all National Strategic Plan goals through the two-way flow of information and the building and maintenance of valuable relationships with the media, government and the public. Even though not stated as a specific goal in the Forest Service’s Strategic Plan, the Communication functions are critical to ensuring that the goals are achievable. Following are two examples from the Strategic Plan where a Communication-related activity is in italics/underlined text: 1. In the Forest Service’s second stated goal, “Reduce the impacts from invasive species,” the Means and Strategies section reads: To accomplish the objective, the Forest Service proposes to take these steps: Cooperate with other Federal, State, tribal, and nongovernmental partners in conservation education efforts that increase public awareness of invasive species and encourage support and participation in management actions. Two specific Communication functions would play a role in the accomplishment of this goal: Government Relations, which works on federal, state, local, and tribal relations; and Conservation Education, which would likely be responsible for developing the material and training educators on the education efforts. Additionally, Communication would develop the materials required to increase public awareness, whether in the form of a press release, posting information on a website, developing a poster, or some other product. 5
  9. 9. The Alaska Region Strategic Business Plan for Fiscal Years 2006-08 specifically addresses each of the Forest Service goals. For the second goal, the Means and Strategies to achieve these goals specifically include the use of Communication: • Provide outreach/education/technical assistance including an information/media campaign. • Work with Research to fill knowledge gaps. • Foster cooperation and coordinated invasive species management with adjacent landowners and partners. 2. The Forest Service’s fifth stated goal is to “improve watershed condition.” Within the Means and Strategies, several bullet points list examples of steps that require assistance from Communication functions in order to succeed: • Use collaborative stewardship and partnerships with community stakeholders to identify watersheds at risk of diminished water quality due to fire and other threats and to plan and implement mitigation or prevention measures. One role that falls within Communication is Contact and Relationships, which includes liaison with community and external groups, as well as public involvement activities. • Provide information and options to mitigate adverse impacts to watersheds from air pollution and acid rain. The Products and Services section of Communication create brochures, news releases, newsletters, etc., which will enable the Forest Service to get its message out about air pollution and acid rain. The Press Office section has well-developed relationships with news media reporters, editors, and producers. • Provide scientific information to support BMPs (Best Management Practices) for forests and grasslands to protect watershed values, and monitor and evaluate their effectiveness. Science Delivery includes an online library of information and varieties of products to convey science information to users. Communications Products and Services manages websites, provides brochures, newsletters, and news releases. A small amount of Communication Research monitors trends, public dialogue and concerns on natural resources issues. On a more long-term basis, the Communication functions: • Assist the agency in achieving its mission and vision by helping communicate and address issues with the federal, state, and local governments • Ensure critical information is delivered to the public, and • Help agency officials deliver the Forest Service message As the above examples demonstrate, Communication functions are woven into the fabric of the Forest Service strategic goals. In essence, the Communication functions help ensure the agency achieve its goals. 6
  10. 10. Market Research A major requirement of a feasibility study is to review the ability of public and private sources in the marketplace to provide the services of the target functions. An A-76 cost comparison is inappropriate if the marketplace cannot provide the service. Once market research determined that services were available in the marketplace, a secondary concern for the Team was to determine whether there were companies that offered the needed services in the required locations. Analytical Approach. To conduct market research, the Team consulted industry associations, existing Communication contracts, Forest Service subject matter experts, labor pool websites, internal studies, and recent government solicitations to determine the availability of existing commercial entities to perform the Communication functions. The Team conducted the market research in two phases. The primary analysis focused on the 14 major Communication functional areas, developed by using professional industry documents and internal reports as a baseline, and finalized with the help of the SMEs. A summary of each functional area is located in Appendix I: Work Descriptions. The Team then separated each functional area into 115 total tasks and activities. A full listing is located in the IV. Analysis and Recommendations section of this Feasibility Study. Once the Team determined the activities to recommend for further study, it began a secondary phase of market research. In this phase, research was completed to ensure that those commercial entities identified as being available to provide general public affairs and communication services could provide services comparable to each of the specific tasks/activities identified as suitable for further study. Findings. An initial search of industry associations, labor pool websites, and recent government solicitations provided a listing of thousands of companies that currently perform communications and public affairs activities throughout the U.S. The primary phase of market research showed that all 14 major functional groupings within Communication were commercially available. The Team found the widest range of tasks and activities that were commercially available were in the Communication Products and Services function, along with certain administrative tasks. Commercial availability was but one factor used early in the evaluation process. Once it was determined that there were commercial entities that could provide the Communication functions, the Team developed a set of evaluation criteria to weight and rank each of the 115 identified tasks/activities. These rankings ultimately helped the Team determine the final 21 activities/tasks recommended for further study. A detailed discussion of the entire evaluation process is in the Analysis and Recommendations section. Should Forest Service leadership determine to conduct a cost comparison competition, a team will conduct further market research during preliminary planning to ensure that specific business units included in the comparison have retained compatibility with the marketplace. During this phase, a team will use industry associations, SMEs, catalogs, government websites, and other resources to expand market research and further define the requirements of the study. 7
  11. 11. Industry Associations. During the initial market research phase, a review of more than 100 communications/public affairs-related industry associations showed there were commercial entities that could provide the same services/tasks as those provided by the Communication functions. The Team agreed that the following four associations were the most relevant to reviewing all Communication functions: Table 1: Industry Associations Association Website and Association Information International Association of http://www.iabc.com/ Provides a professional network of more Business Communications than 13,000 business communication professionals in more than 60 countries. Members hold positions in public relations/media relations, corporate communications, public affairs, government relations, writing and editing. Public Relations Society of America http://www.prsa.org/ The largest organization for public relations (PRSA) professionals, with nearly 20,000 members representing business and industry, technology, counseling firms, government, associations, hospitals, schools, professional services firms and nonprofit organizations. Publishes the Green Book: A Guide to Public Relations Service Organizations Society for Technical http://www.stc.org/about.asp An individual membership Communications organization dedicated to advancing the arts and sciences of technical communication. It is the largest organization of its type. Its 18,000 members include technical writers and editors, content developers, documentation specialists, technical illustrators, instructional designers, academics, information architects, usability and human factors professionals, visual designers, web designers and developers, and translators, etc. O’Dwyer’s PR/Marketing http://www.odwyerspr.com/ Provides listing of 1,500 Communications Website Communications/PR service providers, as well as job listings and additional information for the marketplace. The Team conducted searches on these four association sites, using key words relating to the 14 defined major functional areas, such as “Press office,” “Communications Research,” and “Public Relations.” Preliminary efforts showed dozens of commercial entities in various locations that could perform services related to each of the queries. Once it was determined which specific activities to recommend for further study, the Team conducted a second round of research focused on those tasks and activities, such as “technical writing,” “audio-visual presentations,” and “speechwriting.” A sample of results drawn from the PRSA Green Book: A Guide to Public Relations Service Organizations follows: • Video services………………………….9 companies • Writing news releases and other…….....7 companies • Internet services………………………..5 companies • Event planning and management……....1 company • Public speaking and speech writing…....6 companies • Photo services………………………….4 companies 8
  12. 12. The identified companies are located throughout the U.S., many with multiple offices. The O’Dwyer’s website lists more than 1,500 service providers in categories such as Graphic Services, Editorial Services (includes writing and editing), Multimedia Services, Photography and Photo Stock Services, Speechwriting, Newsletters, Books, Website Development, and Miscellaneous Services. Existing Contracts. A request to the field for a summary of current contracts provided a listing of more than 200 existing contracts that support Communication activities. Contractors are generally located near Regional Offices, Station headquarters, or the Washington Office (this appears to be for convenience rather than a requirement). The total value of these contracts exceeds $1.5 million in the Products and Services area. Below are samples of these contracts, showing the service performed, the related task as defined by the Team, and the location of the service(s): Table 2: Existing Contracts Service(s) Performed Related Task/Activity Company Location Film and view distribution A/V recording and editing Agoura Hills, CA Music Soundtrack to Elkhorn Video A/V recording and editing Missoula, MT AV and Telecommunications Services A/V recording and editing Washington, DC Editing Video and Soundtrack A/V recording and editing Welches, OR Video editing services A/V recording and editing Welches, OR Artwork for national Fisheries & recruitment product Creating artwork Ketchikan, Alaska Edit Northern Region News submissions Editing Coeur d’Alene, ID Technical editing for research Editing peer review publications publications/GTR Houston, TX One-hour mini DVD tape master and Managing stock photos, audio and VHS preview video video tapes Portland, OR Meeting management services for the R-5 Centennial Forum Meeting management Troy, MT Display design and fabrication Multimedia communication Petersburg, VA Sound recording and video editing Preparing A/V presentations Welches, OR Printing maps / tabloids Publication design Albuquerque, NM Graphic design of brochure Publication design Maryland Page layout Publication design Atlanta, GA Design and layout Publication design Portland, OR Adobe Photoshop 7 training Publication design/creating artwork Asheville, NC Technical editing Technical editing Knoxville, TN Editing and layout services Technical editing Reston, VA Writing Effective Memos training Technical or other writing Woods Cross, UT Science writer for Science Perspective Technical writing Palo Alto, CA Website (webmaster & posting Web Mgt/Dreamweaver training materials) Asheville, NC Website (webmaster & posting Web design materials) Golden, CO 9
  13. 13. Web design - update program web Website (webmaster & posting pages materials) Vallejo, CA The request for information from the field resulted in contracts that included all 115 task/activities areas. After being reviewed for comparability, contracts for all but the 21 tasks recommended for study were filtered out of the list. This included existing contracts, prior contracts and some proposals from current solicitations. Relevant data extracted from existing contracts are: • Cost elements (labor, materials, travel, etc.) • Level of effort • Tasks (i.e., statement of work) • Standards of performance used by these service providers Should leadership decide to progress to a cost comparison, additional research will need to be conducted during the preliminary planning stage to determine which contracts should be included in the scope of study. Government Subject Matter Experts. In addition to the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) on the Study Team, both field and Washington Office SMEs assisted the Team by answering questions about specific tasks associated with work identified in the requirements. Labor Pool Websites. A review of labor pool websites validated that the work requirements for the tasks/activities recommended for further study and the available civilian workforce are compatible. A number of labor categories follow the Forest Service series/occupation designations, such as Public Affairs (GS-1035), Writing and Editing (GS-1082), Technical Writing and Editing (GS-1083), Visual Information (GS-1084), Editorial Assistance (GS-1087), and Fine and Applied Arts (GS-1001). The Department of Labor (DOL) and Salary.com websites cover commercial equivalents with ranges for salaries and requirements on the local level. These websites provide listings of equivalent position descriptions throughout the U.S.: Table 3: Labor Pool Websites Company/Agency Website address General Services Administration http://www.gsaelibrary.gsa.gov/ElibMain/ElibHome U.S. Department of Labor http://www.bls.gov/ Salary.com http://www.salary.com/home/layoutscripts/homl_display.asp The GSA website provided the Team with a list of companies available to provide tasks and activities on a service-wide or local basis. This supported results of the analysis of associations and current contracts – there are a large number of commercial vendors in this area. If leadership decides to conduct a cost comparison competition, the GSA website will be helpful for the contracting officer and preliminary planners. Table 4: Sampling of Available Commercial Entities Service(s) Performed Related Task/Activity Company/ Location Market Research and Public Opinion Services • Writing newsletters, speeches Mind & Media Inc. 10
  14. 14. Service(s) Performed Related Task/Activity Company/ Location • Speeches and presentations and presentations, brochures Alexandria, VA • Newsletters • Editing • Media and public information services • Creating communications • Creative development of draft scripts with multi-media Public Relations Services. Customized media • Writing speeches and Chemonics and public relation services: presentations International Inc. • Development of media • Editing Washington, DC messages and strategies • Creating communications • Speeches and presentations with multi-media • Related activities to public relations services Web Based Marketing Services. Develop • Website (webmaster & A.S.K. Associates, Inc. strategies to provide maximum use of Internet posting materials) Lawrence, KS capabilities. Typical tasks may involve the consultation, development and implementation of the following: • Website design and maintenance services • Search engine development • E-mail marketing • Interactive marketing • Web based training • Web casting • Video conferencing via the web Section 508 compliance, including captioning services On-Line media management Related activities to web based marketing services • Media provided in a format compatible with the software requirements Commercial Art and Graphic Design Services. • Technical editing Boyd-Fitzgerald, Inc. Types of services may include: • Publication design Bettendorf, IA • Developing conceptual design and layouts • Creating artwork • Providing copywriting and technical writing services • Creating sketches, drawings, publication designs, and typographic layouts • Furnishing custom or stock artwork (including electronic artwork) Document Conversion Services. State-of-the-art • Managing stock photos, audio MHA Associates Inc. scanning of original document’s text and graphic and video tapes Fairfield, CA image into digital data Records Management Services. • Managing stock photos, audio DATATRAC • Archiving and video tapes Information Services Richardson, TX Advertising Services. Services provided include: • Preparing A/V presentations Svanaco, Inc. 11
  15. 15. Service(s) Performed Related Task/Activity Company/ Location • Advertising objective determination • A/V recording and editing Park Ridge, IL • Message decision/creation • Media selection • Outdoor marketing and media services • Broadcast media (Radio, TV and Public Service Announcements) • Direct mail services • Media planning • Media placement services • Advertising evaluation • Related activities to advertising services Video/Film Production. Services provided to • Writing Bond Video Arts, Inc. public and Government agencies concerning the • Editing Littleton, CO latest products, services, and/or issues in various • Preparing A/V presentations outputs such as industry standard formats, CD- • A/V recording and editing ROM, DVD and video streaming development. Examples of services include: • Writing • Directing • Shooting • Arranging for talent/animation • Narration • Music and sound effects • Duplication • Distribution • Video scoring • Editing Conferences, Events and Tradeshow Planning • Meeting management and CMP Meeting Services Services. Include making all necessary facilitation Summerfield, NC arrangements for conferences, seminars and trade show, including: • Project management • Coordination and implementation of third party participation • Collection management of third party payment for participation • Liaison support with venue • Audiovisual and information technology support • Topic and speaker identification • Site location research • Reservation of facilities • On-site meeting and registration support • Editorial services • Automation and telecommunications support • Design and editing productions 12
  16. 16. Service(s) Performed Related Task/Activity Company/ Location • Mailing and other communication with attendees including pre-post meeting mailings/travel support and computer database creation Recent Solicitations. The Team reviewed recent applicable government solicitations to determine if companies have submitted bids for activities similar to the functions under study. The Team found several solicitations with parallel communication and media requirements at FedBizOpps.gov. The solicitations ranged from full functions such as Scientific Delivery or Management and Administrative Support, to tasks such as writing and editing, website management, or technical reports editing. Solicitations ranged from the entire communications function for an agency to individual service tasks. The applicable solicitations found through this research will provide a better scope and requirements solution if the leadership determines to conduct a cost comparison competition. A sample of the solicitations follows: Table 5: Examples of Recent Government Solicitations Services Requested Related Task/Activity Agency/Solicitation Number Editing and abstracting • Editing BLM DLQ050005 documents Writing and editing services • Writing and editing Dept of Commerce, NOAA, AB133F-05- RP-1135 Technical writing and editing • Writing and editing HHS/NIH, ESQ50039 Writing and editing services • Writing and editing BLM BAQ050007 Graphic design • Graphic design Dept of State, MMS-Notice 001 Website design Website design Editorial services Writing and editing Technical writing • Writing and editing EPA PR-C1-05-10007 Editing Multimedia support Multimedia support Interpretive writing and • Writing and editing National Park Service, N4250040010 editing Video recording and editing • Audio-visual preparation Dept of Air Force, F64605-01R-0014 services Photographic services Basic communications and • All functions Dept of Air Force, CommA-76 multimedia support Website design • Website design Dept of Air Force, FA4803-05-R-A010 Speech writer • Speech preparation BLM PAQ044006 If leadership decides to go forward with a cost comparison, the Performance Work Statement Team will need to develop the specific workload and work locations requirements, which will require additional research to ensure commercial availability in all required locations. However, the results of the primary and secondary phases of market research for this Feasibility Study show that there are commercial enterprises throughout the U.S. with the ability to provide the services for the 21 tasks/activities recommended for further study. 13
  17. 17. The Team’s first phase of market research determined that there were companies available across the U.S. to perform services similar to all 115 identified Communication tasks and activities. The second phase of market research determined that there were sufficient numbers of commercial entities available in various locations to provide the services for the 21 tasks/activities recommended for further study. As-Is Assessment The As-Is Assessment provides an summary of current Communication operations. This section includes an overview of all Communication functions; a detailed discussion of the Communication workforce, workload, and workflow; a review of internal functions; a summary of the 14 major functional groupings and tasks; a review of the potential effects of outsourcing; and a review of Communication customers, partners and stakeholders. Overview of Agency. The Forest Service is a highly decentralized agency with three major units: 1. The National Forest System (NFS), which consists of nine regions that report directly to the Chief, 115 Forest administrative units, and approximately 600 Ranger Districts. 2. Research, which has seven major units that report directly to the Chief, and more than 70 labs that report to Research unit headquarters . 3. State and Private Forestry, whose responsibilities are also decentralized; they are typically performed by the regional NFS offices, the Northeastern Research Station (NE), and the International Institute for Tropical Forestry (IITF). Like the Forest Service as a whole, the Communication function is also highly decentralized, consisting of: • The Washington Office (WO) – Several staffs handle the WO Communication functions, including the Chief’s Office, the Office of Communication, Legislative Affairs, Office of Regulatory and Management Services, and Conservation Education. This totals more than 75 positions. • Regional Offices - Each of the nine Regional Offices has an office of Public Affairs/Communication varying from 10 to 15 employees. • Research Units - Each of the seven major Research units has between eight and 18 employees in Communication with the exception of ITIF, which has no employees in the GS-1001 or GS-1035 series (discussed later). • The Northeastern Area of State and Private Forestry, which has a Public Affairs/Communication Office. • Forests - Each of the 115 Forests typically has a Public Affairs Officer or similar position and may have related support personnel. • Districts and Labs – some of which have Public Affairs Specialists (many Districts and Labs have employees in the GS-1001 series providing frontline and interpretive services). The lead Communication position and organization often report directly to the line officer or staff officer rather than reporting to a higher-level Communication official. We noted that on 14
  18. 18. units that typically have shared administrative services, such as R-6/PNW and NE/NA, there were still separate Communication/Public Affairs offices. The Team suggests reviewing the need for more than one Communication office in areas where there is apparent duplication. Workforce. The 2004 FAIR Act Inventory lists approximately 750 FTEs in the Public Affairs function code Y515. It also shows 30 FTEs in Legislative Affairs (Y620) and 571 FTEs in Administrative Support (Y000) that includes clerical support to Public Affairs and Legislative Affairs. Table 6 below shows the number of permanent employees in the GS-1001 General Arts and Information, GS-1035 Public Affairs, and the other series in the GS-1000 family. This table does not show vacancies, positions in occupational series outside the GS-1000 family, or temporary/summer-seasonal positions. Other occupational series perform Communication work and are not included in the table (without a data call, the actual employees who perform this type of work cannot be identified). However, the Team believes these numbers roughly offset one another and therefore the number in the table represents a good estimate of those who perform the Communication function. For the purposes of the Feasibility Study, the Team assumed that 750 FTEs currently perform the Communication functions. 15
  19. 19. Table 6: Employees by Occupational Series Line officers, program managers, scientists, and many other employees also play key roles in communication delivery. For example, a District Ranger is responsible for local public affairs, a Fire Management Officer is responsible for liaisons and other types of communications, and a scientist is responsible for many aspects of communicating research findings. These responsibilities are important, but are outside the scope of our study. The Team views those who use Communication function services as customers. Forest Service Communication employees are located at more than 300 different duty stations. A chart listing the locations and number of employees in the GS-1001 through GS-1099 series is in Appendix II: Location of Communication Employees. The draft Civil Rights Impact Analysis (CRIA) in Appendix IV: Civil Rights Impact Analysis (CRIA) includes additional tables showing Race, National Origin, Gender, and Age breakouts for the GS-1001 and GS-1035 occupational series. Workload. Service-wide, the workload is heavy and varied; the workload is greater in the summer due to tourism, and increases even more significantly during active fire seasons. 16
  20. 20. Because the Team identified 115 tasks performed in more than 300 locations, it was determined that further defining the workload for each of these tasks was impossible without a data call. However, if certain tasks are selected for an A-76 cost comparison, the workload of each task or activity will be fully determined as part of the Performance Work Statement (PWS). Customers, Partners, and Stakeholders. Customers are individuals or organizations that request a service from the Communication functions. For example, Forest Service employees are customers if they request Communication to assist with the creation of a report. The primary customers for Communication functions are management, scientists, other employees, news media, forest visitors, teachers and students, legislators and other elected officials, and some non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Partners are external individuals or organizations that agree to work with the agency to accomplish common interests and projects. The agency partners with many individuals and organizations. Many partnerships are specific to achieving natural resources work such as range or forest management but some directly involve Communication. The best example is the Fire program, where the agency works with other federal, state and local organizations to convey the message of fire prevention. Fire information officers from other agencies also handle communication; they provide information to the wildland fire agencies, affected communities, the news media, local officials and congressional offices, and others. (An area gaining increased management support is collaboration, which usually involves sharing information and ideas with stakeholders. The local line officer or resource specialist may lead the collaboration, but it involves significant support from Communication Specialists.) Other examples with significant Communication support include working with State Foresters, the Smokey Bear Program, or with BLM on joint projects through the Service First Program. The Communication function may help facilitate, develop, or document these partnerships. In some areas, the Forest Service may partner with a school and/or university and community groups to sponsor a conservation education field camp for youth. In some cases, the product is a joint effort between Communication and State & Private Forestry Fire outreach functions. Stakeholders are individuals or organizations affected by Forest Service decisions, and who have a stake in the Forest Service, the public lands, and/or a project, such as how the public might be affected by a Forest Service decision to close a campground, construct public facilities, etc. The Forest Service has a great deal of interaction with stakeholders, such as the public, local, state and national government representatives, interest group leaders, and industry. Communication Specialists help with this interaction – whether through face-to-face meetings, or a product supporting the interaction, such as a news release, editing of a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis, research paper, public meeting or training session. Communication Specialists are often responsible for maintaining contact with key stakeholders and informing them of areas of interest. They may also arrange meetings, workshops or on-the- ground field visits. Internal stakeholders include management, scientists, employees, and bargaining units. 17
  21. 21. The WO Communication Office developed a Communications Plan for this study and is responsible for implementing the Plan. The Communications Plan is not contained in this report. Workflow. The workflow for Communication varies relative to the specific task, but most follow one of two models: a Product-related Model, or a Consultative Model. An example of a Product-related workflow is a Forest Service employee needs to publish a report, write a news release, print a bound report, or create a video. Depending on the task, the product may be created in-house, by another government unit (GPO, Regional Office, etc.), or by a commercial vendor. Examples include desktop publishing, printing, or CD creation. The resulting product may be the creation of a camera-ready report, copies, or CDs. Model 1: Communication Product-related Workflow Model Communication Functions Workflow Model Forest Service Need Vendors Stakeholders Communication functions Product Most work for tangible products typically stay at one organizational level. It is rare for one office to work on a product and then send it to the next level for further work or review. An exception would be if the product were legislative testimony regarding a local issue where the field may have significant input into what ultimately will be a Department position handled at the WO. However, even when the Regional Office assists with the completion of a Forest product, the Regional Office typically works with the client rather than work through a Forest Communication Specialist. Regional offices must do much of this work for Forests. The Consultative Model is slightly different. Consultative work may mean providing advice, names of crucial contacts, a communication plan, or facilitation for a difficult negotiation. 18
  22. 22. Consultative and advice-giving tasks generally stay at the lowest level of the organization where the issue can be addressed. For example, a Forest Service employee or manager may need advice on how to respond to Congress, assistance in developing a communications plan, or editing assistance. There may not be a tangible product and the employee may be the main vehicle of communication rather than a report, document, or video. The Consultative workflow follows the model below: Model 2: Communication Consultative Workflow Model Communication Functions Consultative Workflow Model Forest Service Communication Need functions Product Overview of Internal Functions. The National Forest System is a four-level organization: Washington Office (WO), Region, Forest, and District. Communication offices report to the local line officer, and not to the Communication office at the next highest level. The WO, Region and Forest Communication staffs have three major functions: • Develop communication policy and ensure compliance • Assist Forest Service managers and employees with their communication needs • Ensure a two-way flow of information between the agency and all stakeholders that allows the agency to achieve its mission The WO develops service-wide policy; the Regional Office is mainly responsible for Regional policy. A Forest Public Affairs Officer mainly develops local communication policy for the Forest. Regional Offices support field units for infrastructure-intensive tasks. For example, a Regional Office may have a desktop publishing expert and may complete the design of a brochure showing trails on the National Forests of Texas. Other Forests may contract for this service rather than use the Regional Office. Communication at a Research Station has many of the same responsibilities as a Regional Office, but is more involved in the technical review, editing and production of documents. As a result, co-located units typically have separate offices. For example, the Regional Office of 19
  23. 23. Region 6 and the Pacific Northwest Research Station (PNW) have separate Communication/Public Affairs offices, as do the Northeastern Research Station (NE) and the Northeastern Area of State and Private Forestry (NA) Communication offices in the National Forest System or the WO support most other State and Private Forestry (S&PF) activities. The NA (Northeastern Area of State and Private Forestry), however, has its own Public Affairs Office. Functional Groupings and Tasks. The Team agreed that a successful study required a solid understanding of the wide variety of tasks completed by the Communication employees, and spent a considerable amount of time defining the current Communication functional groupings and tasks. Using professional society and textbook definitions as a baseline,1 and additional help from organizational charts and the SMEs, the Team divided Communication into 115 tasks/activities that fell under fourteen functional groupings: • Communication Products and Services • Press Office • Communication Research • Management & Administration • Counseling • Special Events • Speaking • Training • Contact and Relationships • Governmental Relations • Conservation Education • Partnerships • Science Delivery • Interpretive Services The Analysis and Recommendations section contains the full listing of all functional task groupings and related tasks and activities. Potential Effects of Outsourcing. USDA guidance requires that the Feasibility Study analyze the potential effects on USDA and other organizations if the activity under study is outsourced. Communication has an indirect impact on the mission of the Forest Service in that it helps other functions accomplish their responsibilities. For example, the Communication staff may help with a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis, create a brochure on recreation opportunities, print a poster on fire prevention, or respond to Congressional inquiries. The Team does not believe that outsourcing the creation of many products and most services would have a negative effect on the Forest Service mission. In fact, many units already contract these services without any negative impact: 1 Effective Public Relations, Eighth Edition, Cutlip, Center, Broom, page 36-37 20
  24. 24. Many publications are “farmed out” (contracted) to non-agency companies for design, type-setting, illustrations, and printing. Much of the agency work in publications now involves overseeing quality of contracted products, distribution, and storage of extra copies….The old black and white photos…are being digitized for use by any number of researchers and writers from across the country. Slide shows or use of acetate overheads are being supplanted by Power Point presentations. Many historical documents will soon be transformed to digital format for viewing by thousands of internet users.”2 Data received from the field shows contract support for various products and services, such as writing, editing, creating newsletters, printing, copying, creating training courses, creating videos, press relations, research on communication issues, counseling on communication issues, supporting science delivery, and providing interpretive services. Outsourcing may have negative implications with some tasks and activities. It would be difficult to outsource many of the management functions since they are highly integrated with inherently governmental responsibilities. In addition, it may delay the time to make decisions and may increase expenses. For example, it may be possible to outsource some responsibilities of a Forest Public Affairs Officer, but the agency may not be able to abolish the position due to the inherently governmental responsibilities and other services inherent to that position. It may also be detrimental to outsource many of the advisory functions performed by public affair officers. These officers need to have a solid understanding of local issues, local politics, internal functioning of the agency and its mission, and be immediately available. Outsourcing these responsibilities may delay services and confuse communication. The Civil Rights Impact Analysis (CRIA) discusses the detailed affect that outsourcing might have on employees, but notes that women are most likely to be negatively impacted if leadership decides to proceed with a public-private competition. 73 percent of the combined GS-1001 and GS-1035 occupational series are women. Developing partnerships, speaking, contacts/relationships, counseling, and coordinating special activities could theoretically be outsourced, but the performance of these activities would be difficult without a strong understanding of local issues, local politics, internal functioning of the agency, and the Forest Service mission. Outsourcing these responsibilities may create a loss of personal involvement, harm the building of relationships, delay services and confuse communication. It is also unclear whether outsourcing these activities would result in savings. Conducting a service-wide study of Communication could also have a negative effect on the hundreds of small businesses who have current contracts with the Forest Service. If a single vendor begins conducting most work in this area, most of the current vendors will lose Forest Service work. Even if the agency creates a Communication Service Center, the Forest Service will greatly reduce the level of work with these small vendors. 2 USDA Forest Service Office of Communication: 125 Years of Information and Education, April 5, 2000, p. 11 21
  25. 25. Another issue the Team considered when determining whether to recommend activities for further study was the recent ruling by the GAO in a case concerning the Forest Service’s use of commercial public relations experts. A law enacted in 1913 was the basis for the GAO ruling (B-302992, September 10, 2004). The law “forbids spending for publicity experts any part of an appropriation unless that money is specifically appropriated by Congress.” In addition, Public Law 89-554, enacted in 1966 stated, “Appropriated funds may not be used to pay a publicity expert unless specifically appropriated for that purpose.” And in 1972, Public Law 92-351 decreed that no part of the current or any other act, or “funds available for expenditure by a corporation or agency, shall be used for publicity or propaganda purposes designed to support or defeat legislation pending before the Congress. While the ruling found in favor of the USDA Forest Service, the GAO provided some insight as to the important role a Communication/Public Affairs Officer plays within the agency: An agency has a legitimate right to explain and defend its policies and respond to attacks on that policy…. It is sometimes difficult to differentiate an agency’s dissemination of information in exercising this legitimate right to explain and defend its policies from dissemination activities that are for purely political reasons…. A standard we apply to resolving this struggle is that the use of appropriated funds is improper only if the activity is “completely devoid of any connection with official functions.” We do not raise any objection to the use of appropriated funds if any agency can reasonably justify the activity as within its official duties. The Team found this to be a compelling argument for why some Communication roles are critical and should be performed by an employee with knowledge of Forest Service policies, activities, and official functions, and should not be outsourced, even if outsourcing provides a cost-savings opportunity. Key points. • Consultative and advice-giving tasks generally stay at the lowers level of the organization where the issue can be addressed • The Team does not believe that outsourcing the creation of many of the Communication products and most services would have a negative effect on the Forest Service mission • Hundreds of small businesses who have current contacts with the Forest Service would be affected by outsourcing. If the agency creates a central service center, the level of work to small vendors would be greatly diminished • The Team determined that there are compelling arguments for why some Communication roles are critical and should be performed by a Forest Service employee To-Be Assessment The To-Be section provides insight into management’s vision of Communication functions capabilities in the future. The Forest Service leadership expects that while there should be savings and improvements in efficiency and effectiveness in achieving the goals outlined by 22
  26. 26. Forest Service leadership, the overall emphasis of the To-Be organization should focus on program and process improvement. The Communication functions should: • Keep Public Affairs Officers (PAO) close to the line officer to provide advice and counsel on a routine basis • Provide expert advice on the techniques of public relations and support to executives in all facets of communications, especially during public appearances, special events, and crises • Monitor public opinion and trend data and effectively communicate that information to line officers. Forecast how different audiences will respond to different events • Develop strategic media- and external-relations programs that respond to current issues and develop opportunities for long-term reputation-building and relationships • Re-emphasize the public involvement and collaboration that leads decision-makers to effective implementation of decisions • Develop ongoing collaboration across administrative boundaries, organizational cultures, and geographic impediments • Provide a field organization that seamlessly integrates all aspects of communication, including public and legislative affairs • Continue ongoing efforts to reduce costs and become more efficient and effective than current costs/processes • Improve relationships and the flow of information among organization levels within the Communication community • Support a viable internal communication network that proactively informs employees in a timely manner and provides a forum for employee concerns and feedback (supervisor training and info, understanding how different levels function, etc.) • Convey the Forest Service message and events to rural, urban and international audiences. The organization will be able to adapt quickly to changes in demographics and culture (such as increased urbanization, the ability to reach audiences who have access to an enormous amount of information, increasingly niche interest groups, etc.) • Create an effective and interactive internet presence to ensure the media and the public have direct access to accurate and timely information • Provide ongoing training for employees who deliver communication internally and externally Forest Service Communication expects its workload to increase as the population grows near National Forests, the volume of recreating visitors to National Forests continues to increase, and environmental issues become more complex. In addition, communication with all stakeholders is becoming more important, complex and expensive. Budgets will likely continue to be restrained, but the agency must continue serving its customers while increasing program efficiency and effectiveness, all while continuing to accomplish its mission. The agency, however, will need to make tough decisions and adjustments. Should a cost comparison or BPR occur and provide savings, leadership envisions investing those funds back into mission-critical natural resources work. 23
  27. 27. Performance Gap Analysis This section identifies five areas that need performance improvement, identifying the “gap” between the Current As-Is and desired To-Be organizations. The Team has listed the following five performance gaps in order of priority, as per USDA guidance. Some of these gaps were previously alluded to in the 15 years of internal reports on Communication, and the Team has included references from some of these reports in this section to support the gap analysis. 1. Communicating to urban areas. Leadership envisions an agency that better connects with the public and media located in more urban areas. Some view the Forest Service as being good in communicating to those who already interact with the agency, but not as good at reaching out to everyone else. Leadership foresees a more successful use of modern technology to provide dynamic and up-to-date information to the media and public, and to disseminate Forest Service goals more effectively to varied and changing audiences. The U.S. Forest Service Program/Activity Business Plan Elements (Region 10, April 23, 2004) reflects the perception that the Forest Service has been unable to adapt successfully to changing demographics. “Failure to adapt quickly to meeting accelerating changes in demographics and culture…such as increased urbanization…the explosion of and access to information, and the rise of single focus interest groups…has left the agency at significant risk of failing to align with public values.” Improving Communications and Working Relationships (January 1991) noted that, “Brochures, newsletters and videos may be a part of an objective-driven approach, but should not be an end, in and of themselves. We should de-emphasize general purpose activities which aren’t tied to specific objectives or a target audience,” suggesting that the agency has a history of trying to communicate in a one-size-fits-all manner. The Team believes an integrated communication effort at the national level will allow coordinated outreach to urban areas through community groups, youth programs, and schools with collaborative and educational efforts. The future organization will continue to help other offices and the Forest Service as a whole to accomplish their goals, mission and vision. 2. Need to develop expertise. Communication Specialists in the Forest Service are often assigned many varied tasks. This results in “fragmentation,” which means the specialist must have many skills but may not be an expert in any single area. As a result, specialists respond very well to routine requests, but may not have specialized technical skills such as determining how best to communicate a message to a target audience, developing software that frontliners can access, or creating a web-based A/V presentation. This issue could be addressed by providing and requiring more training, requiring higher- level public affairs skills for management positions, reducing fragmentation in the communication functions so employees can focus on specific areas, etc. Previous internal studies also pointed out the agency’s need to improve the skills of Communication Specialists. For example, Improving Communications and Working Relationships (January 1991) recommended that to improve the ability to meet the public’s need for timely and relevant information, build strong working relationships, and support the 24
  28. 28. Forest Service mission, the agency should “strengthen qualifications and standards for the GS-1035 series to require a professional background.” The report also stated that the agency should “place a higher priority on communications and PA [public affairs] proficiencies in the evaluation and selection of managers.” A Compendium of Studies on USFS Public Affairs and References on Practice of Public Relations (July 1990), made similar comments. It stated that in its review of seven past studies dating to 1985, all agree, “that the public affairs functional area is not used by the agency to its greatest advantage. One of the most frequently cited reasons is the lack of appropriate skills possessed by those in public affairs jobs.” Recognizing that emphasis on improving proficiencies has occurred since 1991, training plus hiring new employees with state-of-the-art skills and knowledge continues to be a critical need. 3. Lack of integrated strategy. Several reports and executives commented on the lack of an integrated strategic approach to and organization of Communication, particularly in the WO. Past studies and current executives have commented that the structure discourages cooperation, creates duplication, and prevents most specialists from working with key management officials. One example that potentially discourages cooperation is having separate Communication and Legislative Affairs Staffs. Organizational Assessment, Office of Communications Washington Office (August 28, 1997) summarized, “A principal handicap to consistent messaging has arisen from the fragmentation of the external relations function in Washington.” It also noted, “…the corporate public affairs program of the Forest Service is fragmented. Account managers tend to emphasize the priorities of the staffs to which they are assigned. Promoting an agency corporate agenda such as the Chief’s principles is lost or relegated to secondary priority.” Business Plan Elements lists as its first issue: “The agency’s lack of consistent internal communication undermines relationships with its workforce, partners, and customers.” Restructuring the way the Washington Office works would encourage more cooperation throughout the agency, reduce expenses by eliminating some unnecessary duplication, and help assure that all of Communication speaks in one voice. Past studies suggested making changes that would improve internal communications. Improving Communications and Working Relations (January 1991), recommended requiring “top line officers at all levels to approve annual PA objectives, strategies and campaigns.” It recommends requiring “managers at all levels to develop and implement public affairs plans that are supportive of national communications objectives.” This report also stated, “Public Affairs officers are not part of the management team on many field units, even though there is a correlation between this and the success the unit has in carrying out its resource management program.” 4. Keeping up with changing technologies. Communication should take advantage of changing technologies. This issue came up in interviews with management, in discussion with the SMEs, and in several previous internal reports. The use of new technology could improve 25
  29. 29. the effectiveness of the agency’s communication efforts and lower costs. For example, providing frontliners with computer software designed to provide individually tailored trail maps or on-site information for visitors improves the service delivered to the public and reduces expenses such as designing, printing and distributing generic brochures. Excellent examples are scattered throughout the nation, but consistency and quality of delivery is lacking. In order to reach new and changing audiences, the agency must learn how to better use the internet and intranet, and better capitalize on improvements in audio-video communication, distance learning, email, online meetings, digital photography, graphics enhancements, computer software, etc. Varied audiences – Congress, college students, and retirees, for example – expect to receive information in varying ways. The Forest Service will need to meet those expectations in order to ensure its message is delivered, read, and understood. 5. Lowering costs. Nationally in the communications arena, the agency spends approximately $75 million for salary, benefits, travel, overhead and training for 750 FTEs, and this does not include the costs of contracts, equipment, materials, printing, and other costs. It also does not include the cost of line officers, managers, scientists, and others who deliver or draft communication products. The agency is working to lower all costs, especially indirect costs, and Communication must contribute. U.S. Forest Service Program/Activity Business Plan Elements (4/23/04), notes, “The failure to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of communications through technology…has created shadow communication channels, which reduce quality and increase costs.” The Team believes that bridging each of the five gaps is achievable, and that addressing each one will improve the role of Communication and its ability to help the agency achieve its mission. In particular, addressing the gaps on expertise and strategy will save money, and improving use of emerging technologies will enable Communication to reach its niche markets more effectively. Civil Rights Impact Analysis (CRIA) A CRIA identifies and categorizes the potential effect a cost comparison may have on the agency and its employees. The CRIA is conducted to assure the civil rights of the existing workforce is protected, and that potential risks of violation are identified prior to the Chief’s decision on whether to conduct a cost comparison of any tasks/functions within Communication. The CRIA in this document is a draft and has not been reviewed by the Civil Rights Staff. The Deputy Chief for PL&C will need to work with the Director, Civil Rights to finalize this draft prior to the ELT decision. This draft CRIA shows that women appear to be the primary group that may be negatively impacted by a study of the Communication functions, because almost three-fourths (73%) of those in the listed occupational series are women. Other race and national origin groups and persons with disabilities would be minimally affected since they appear to be underrepresented in the two occupational series. 26
  30. 30. Cost comparisons could result in abolishing positions if work is transferred outside the agency. If the work remains in-house, there could still be a loss of positions, whether the government proposal has significantly fewer positions than the current organization or whether the work is transferred to another geographical location. These abolished positions may result in reduction- in-force (RIF), early retirements, or buyouts. Fortunately, it is rare when permanent government employees lose their jobs because of a cost comparison. Still, any organizational change could have negative civil rights implications. The draft CRIA recommends considering several alternatives to an A-76 study: • Do not conduct any study on Communication (A-76 or BPR). This would eliminate all potential negative civil rights impact • Conduct a BPR rather than an A-76 study. Although there may still be a loss of jobs, a BPR would guarantee that the work would stay in-house. In addition, employees may be required to transfer to another duty station • Conduct an A-76 study on as few FTEs as possible. A smaller study will have less of a potential impact There are potential mitigations if a cost comparison is conducted: • Recommend an employment freeze on all Communication-related positions • Include existing contracts in the public-private competition • Allow affected employees the opportunity to comment or participate in the competitive sourcing study • Offer and approve early outs and buyouts to affected employees if there will be fewer jobs in the series and grade in the new organization than employees needing to be placed • Provide detailed information about the rights of employees under a transfer of function or directed reassignment, whichever is relevant • Early Notification of directed reassignments, if any • Consider other employee assistance tools, such as career transition training and counseling, WRAPS (Workforce Restructuring and Placement System, a priority placement listing for displaced or surplus workers), employee assistance services, and extensive communication of new guidance, policies, or decisions The full draft of the CRIA in Appendix IV discusses the possible effects of a cost comparison in greater detail. Systems This section provides an overview of all capital infrastructure systems used by Communication to complete the tasks and activities under study. Communication to customers and stakeholders relies on many functions that require a variety of systems. Forest Service Communication Specialists use: • Forest Service Lotus Notes system (email) • Forest Service Website (intranet site) • Forest Service Home Page (internet site) 27
  31. 31. • Directives system (Directives) • IBM Network (electronic records) • Pontius (contracting) • FS Travel (travel) • Paycheck (time and attendance) Listed below are some of the Communication information systems: 1. Visitor information. Some states use a computerized visitor information system that also accesses state and other government agency information; this is usually a touch-screen kiosk tied to a database. 2. National reservations system. This system is the responsibility of Recreation, but many frontliners must use it. It includes a database, contracted phone operators and feeder for local reservations. 3. Publications and map systems. The Geospatial Services and Technical Center in Salt Lake City is responsible for Forest Service maps, but has a partnership arrangement with the U.S. Geological Survey and Forest Service regional graphics shops. There is an on- line map system for this production. 4. Video database. There is a system supporting the creation, editing and filing of video content. 5. Lexis-Nexus. A commercial news media on-line database used to download articles concerning the Forest Service and other topics. There are some systems in Research that are unique, either because of their nature or because of their extensive deployment, including: 1. TreeSearch. The Research Stations have developed an online library of scientific papers produced by agency scientists. New publications are entered into the library, and older papers are added to the system as funding permits. Currently the library contains more than 10,000 research publications with new ones added almost daily. Downloads by Research customers number in the millions annually. 2. Online library search system. Formerly known as FSInfo, Westfornet, or Southfornet, the Forest Service library system provides literature search service, document deliveries, and other library services. Operated by Research, the system serves all Forest Service users. 3. Hypertext Encyclopedias. This is a new, web-based system for providing access to science syntheses with context-sensitive links to more technical information, ultimately to original research publications. It is currently under development at several locations throughout the country. 4. Interactive Websites. A variety of websites exist throughout the Research Stations, providing links to databases. 5. Desktop Publishing. Due to the size of the Research publication program, extensive use is made of more highly automated, desktop systems. These are often stand-alone systems that do not directly interface with the Forest Service computer systems. The recommendations made by the Team should not have an impact on the agency’s information-technology architecture standards and guidelines. 28
  32. 32. IV. Analysis and Recommendations This section describes the process the Team went through to conduct the Feasibility Study. It explains how the Team developed the evaluation of each Communication task/activity in detail, and the outcome of the evaluation criteria. Rationale and Discussion explains how the Team applied the results of the evaluation against the objectives of the study and the goals and mission of Communication and the Forest Service. Finally, Recommendations discusses the outcome of the Team’s analysis and discussions, and the expected financial impact, including cost estimates, benefits estimates, and savings analyses for both recommendations. Application of the Evaluation Criteria Determining which Communication functions to recommend for further study required a system of criteria used to rate and rank each task/activity. The Team developed nine evaluation factors based on similar criteria used in past competitions at the Forest Service and other agencies. The SMEs rated each of the 115 tasks according to the indicators listed below: Potential for savings: Can financial savings be obtained through more effective or efficient performance? A task with greater potential for savings was viewed as a stronger candidate. Indicator: Yes, Mixed, or No. Commercially available: Are there commercial companies that are able to provide the services and/or products required by the task? A task performed by a large number of commercial companies was viewed as a stronger candidate. Indicator: Yes, Mixed, or No. Severability: Can the task be performed by an independent business unit? A task that can be severed was viewed as a stronger candidate. Indicator: Yes, Mixed, or No. Preferred government performance: While not inherently governmental, is there a management preference for performance by a government employee for some valid reason? A task that management did not have this preference for was viewed as a stronger candidate. Indicator: Yes, Mixed, or No. Location: Can the task be performed anywhere, or must it be performed locally? A task that did not have to be performed locally was considered a stronger candidate. Indicator: Non-local, Mixed, or Local. Fragmentation: Is the task the responsibility of a limited number of positions (low fragmentation), or a minor portion of a large number of positions (high fragmentation)? Tasks with high fragmentation suggest that they could benefit from restructuring, even though they are difficult to compete. Tasks with mixed fragmentation were viewed as the least feasible. Indicator: Low or High degree of fragmentation. Central performance: Is the task typically performed at a Regional Office or other central location? Tasks that are already centralized may be better candidates for competitive sourcing 29
  33. 33. since it will be easier to determine workload and monitor performance. Selection of these activities also potentially would affect fewer employees. Indicator: High or Low. Potential for process improvement: Is there the opportunity for improvement in how the task is completed? Is there potential for technology, modernization, centralization, or reorganization to develop a more efficient or effective process? A task with greater potential was considered a stronger candidate. Indicator: Yes, Mixed, or No. Incident support: Does the task provide incident support, such as to Fire? Incident Support adds additional complexity to the task. Any task that supports emergency situations was judged a less likely candidate. Indicator: Yes, Mixed, or No. Since not all the evaluation criteria are of equal importance, the Team determined a tri-level ranking of the nine evaluation criteria, primary, secondary, and tertiary. Once all 115 tasks were rated according to the evaluation factors, those findings were calculated against the weighting factors. The primary factors, Severability, Fragmentation, and Central Performance, had a maximum score of six points. The secondary factors, Locality, Potential for Process Improvement, and Preferred Government Performance, were given a maximum rating of four points. Finally, the Tertiary Factors, Potential for Savings, Commercially Available, and Incident Support, had a maximum score of two points. The resulting ratings summarized into one final set of ratings, predominately based on the mode rating (if a majority selected one rating, that rating was used). If there was a spread of ratings, such as having as many “Ys” as “Ns”, then a middle rating of “Mixed” was given to the summary rating. The Team reviewed the summary ratings, discussed any ratings that seemed incongruous, and made adjustments as necessary. The SMEs reviewed each task with high ratings to consider whether there were other factors that made the task inappropriate for a public-private competition. In addition, the Team discussed the connectivity of tasks. For example, Task 1 could have a high rating and Task 2 a mid rating. However, if Task 1 is judged a candidate, it still may make sense to include Task 2 because of its connection to Task 1. The final ratings were not the sole determination of whether an activity was recommended for further study. Rather, the summary rating is only one indicator. A listing of summary ratings of each task/activity is in Table 7 (maximum rating is 36): Table 7: Communication Task/Activity Summary Ratings Est. Communication Products & Services Rating FTE Writing Newsletters 17 6.5 Website (Webmaster & posting materials) 16 5.4 Reports 31 6.5 30
  34. 34. Speeches 25 4.3 Brochures 23 9.7 Film scripts 23 3.2 Trade publication articles 23 3.0 Institutional ads 23 1.7 Product/technical collateral materials 30 6.5 Other writing 24 7.6 Editing Technical reports 24 5.4 Environmental reports 23 7.6 Peer review publications & GTR 30 10.8 Other editing 24 7.3 Creating communication with multi-media 29 6.7 A/V recording and editing 22 5.4 Preparing A/V presentations 23 5.4 Publication design 35 6.5 Creating artwork 35 3.7 Managing stock photos, audio and video tapes 13 2.6 Est. Press Office Rating FTE Print and broadcast news releases 17 8.6 Generating feature stories 18 3.5 Contacting news media 11 8.6 Developing magazine supplements 20 1.9 Developing list of ideas (pitch sheet) for freelance writers 19 2.4 Maintaining trade publication contacts 27 3.5 Serve as official spokesperson 15 9.7 Respond to media requests 17 9.7 Monitor news clipping services 21 6.5 Attend education board meetings 11 2.6 Maintain access to authoritative sources 19 4.3 Creating advertising 30 6.5 Est. Communications Research Rating FTE Public opinion gathering 28 0.6 Monitoring trends 23 0.6 Tracking emerging issues 24 0.6 Monitoring political climate and legislation 32 0.9 Monitoring media coverage 22 1.1 Monitoring special interest groups 23 0.6 Designing program research 20 0.5 Conducting surveys 27 0.5 Hiring research firms 20 0.5 31

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