OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL U.S.DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR CARES Act Flash Report CARES Act Funds for DOI’s Wildland Fire Management Program as of June 19, 2020 On March 27, 2020, the President signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which provided the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) with $756 million to support the needs of DOI programs, bureaus, Indian Country, and the Insular Areas. As part of the $756 million, the Office of the Secretary received $157.4 million to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus across DOI operations, which includes the Wildland Fire Management (WFM) program. The DOI will continue to fulfill its firefighting mission during the The DOI received COVID-19 pandemic. Firefighter safety is a top priority, and $756 million according to the DOI’s website, the DOI created a special interagency team of medical and public health experts to review and synthesize under the CARES Act to COVID-19 guidelines used in wildfire operations. The team directs respond to impacts from the firefighters to follow the recommendations provided by the Centers for coronavirus, including Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which state that extra $157.4 million for DOI precautions should be taken to protect firefighters and other personnel operations. As of June 19, at fire camps from COVID-19. Fire camps are like small communities 2020, the DOI had approved in many ways. For example, fire camps can include thousands of $11.3 million for wildland people living together and working collectively to respond to a fire operations: wildfire, often in remote areas. Therefore, the CDC’s guidance for • $3.5 million for the BLM wildland firefighters recommends using screening programs, disinfectants, quarantine periods, and personal protective equipment • $3.4 million for the NPS (PPE) when appropriate—all of which could lead to more requests for funding as the fire season progresses. • $2.5 million for the FWS As of June 19, 2020, the DOI approved funding of $11.3 million of the • $1.9 million for the BIA $157.4 million for the WFM program. To date, the WFM program has The WFM program restores obligated $547,596 (or 5 percent) and spent $381,431 (or 3 percent) of and maintains resilient the $11.3 million in approved funds. In this report, we provide details landscapes, protects lives about the CARES Act funds approved for fire management, and the and properties, creates fire- WFM program’s progress in obligating and spending those funds as of adapted communities, and June 19, 2020. ensures safe and effective response to wildfires. CARES Act Flash Report • No. 2020-ER-042 • Issued July 31, 2020 1 DOI’s Wildland Fire Management Program The DOI’s WFM program is composed of the four bureaus with wildland fire management responsibilities—the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the National Park Service (NPS), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)—and the Office of Wildland Fire (OWF), which is responsible for program coordination, accountability, and oversight of the WFM program budget. The OWF coordinated a fire management request for CARES Act funding on behalf of the WFM program. The OWF request provided estimates of items needed upfront, as well as items needed on an ongoing basis through the end of the fiscal year. Because the OWF oversees the WFM program and coordinated most of the requests, we obtained data from the OWF. WFM Funding The Office of the Secretary made part of its $157.4 million of CARES Act funds available for the WFM program. To date, the DOI has approved funding for temporary firefighting facilities needed to maintain social distancing and quarantine protocol; PPE, such as masks, gloves, sanitizers, and thermometers; additional labor costs for operations and program management during the pandemic; and cleaning services and sanitation of facilities and vehicles. As of June 19, 2020, the WFM program has obligated $547,596 (or 5 percent) and spent $381,431 (or 3 percent) of the $11.3 million of approved funds (see Figure 1). Figure 1: Funding Approved Through September 30, 2020 1 WFM Funding Approved To Obligations To Expenditures To Program Date ($) Date ($)* Date ($)† Temporary Firefighting Facilities BIA 1,856,000 02 0 BLM 3,223,000 343,571 177,406 FWS 2,379,000 0 0 NPS 3,438,000 0 0 Subtotal $10,896,000 $343,571 $177,406 Personal Protective Equipment BIA 1,000 0 0 BLM 101,000 101,000 101,000 FWS 1,000 0 0 NPS 1,000 0 0 Subtotal $104,000 $101,000 $101,000 1 The funding data presented may not fully represent the total of funds available for the WFM program because the DOI allocated CARES Act funding directly to each bureau, which then distributed it to its fire management program. 2 We used zeros to indicate the DOI has approved funding, so we would expect to see an obligation or expenditure. CARES Act Flash Report • No. 2020-ER-042 • Issued July 31, 2020 2 WFM Funding Approved To Obligations To Expenditures To Program Date ($) Date ($)* Date ($)† Labor Costs BIA 25,000 0 0 BLM 200,000 100,025 100,025 FWS 75,000 0 0 NPS 0 0 0 Subtotal $300,000 $100,025 $100,025 Cleaning Services and Sanitation of Facilities and Vehicles BLM 3 3,000 3,000 3,000 Subtotal $3,000 $3,000 $3,000 Totals $11,303,000 $547,596 $381,431 * Obligations are legally binding agreements that will result in expenditures. † Expenditures are payments of funds, such as when the DOI receives an invoice or a drawdown submission. Suggested Improvement Actions The CARES Act requires agencies to obligate all appropriations by September 30, 2021, and implementation guidance states that agencies should fund programs to meet crucial needs. Because funding for wildland fires is typically spent in response to fire emergencies, certain categories, such as temporary firefighting facilities and labor costs, may take more time to obligate and expend funding, while categories like personal protective equipment and cleaning services—which can be stored and used immediately—can be obligated and spent more quickly. As the 2020 fire season ramps up, we expect to see an increase in obligation and expenditure of approved funds. We note that awards made in response to emergency situations are riskier than typical awards because they are awarded quickly and often without competition, and because they have a higher purchase threshold than other acquisitions. As a result, the DOI needs to carefully administer and manage CARES Act funds to ensure its bureaus spend funds effectively, considering the increased amount of money available, the potential for additional future costs, and the fast pace at which the money must be spent. We will continue to monitor the DOI’s and the WFM program’s progress against significant reporting milestones that our office previously outlined in our reports, Where’s the Money? DOI Use of CARES Act Funds as of April 28, 2020 (Report No. 2020-FIN-036) and May 2020: Where’s the Money? DOI CARES Act Funds as of May 31, 2020 (Report No. 2020-FIN-046). 3 The BLM requested this funding directly and did not coordinate through the OWF. CARES Act Flash Report • No. 2020-ER-042 • Issued July 31, 2020 3
CARES Act Funds for DOI's Wildland Fire Management Program as of June 19, 2020
Published by the Department of the Interior, Office of Inspector General on 2020-07-31.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)