GAO’s Natural Resources and Environment Mission Team

thumbnail_environmentGAO’s workforce is organized largely by subject area, with most employees working in 1 of 14 mission teams. Today we’ll be putting the spotlight on the Natural Resources and Environment (NRE) team, which works on issues such as land and water management, environmental protection, food safety, agricultural programs, energy, science, and nuclear security.

Reports

NRE reports cover five issue areas:

  • Agriculture, Food Safety, and Science
    • A recently issued report recommended that the Department of Agriculture clearly disclose to the public limitations in the information it relied on for its proposed rule to modernize poultry slaughter inspections.
  • Energy
    • One recent report examined whether the Department of the Interior had processes in place to ensure that the federal government was getting a fair return on oil and gas resources.
  • Federal Lands and Waters
    • One report recommended that the Bureau of Land Management could enhance its appraisal process for coal properties and take steps to release on its websites additional summary information on results of past lease sales.
  • Environmental Protection
    • A recent report recommended Congress should consider amending the Safe Drinking Water Act to improve regulation of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Contaminant Monitoring Program.
  • U.S. and International Nuclear Security and Cleanup
    • A recently issued report recommended that the National Nuclear Security Administration include a range of budget estimates for preliminary projects and programs in future modernization plans.

For more information on our work, see our High Risk issue areas on Limiting the Federal Government’s Fiscal Exposure by Better Managing Climate Change Risks, Managing Federal Oil and Gas Resources, and Transforming EPA’s Process for Assessing and Controlling Toxic Chemicals. You can also see our numerous Key Issues by checking the “Natural Resources and Environment” box on this page.

Impact

In fiscal year 2013, NRE’s work identified $9.9 billion in financial benefits for the federal government as well as 79 other efficiencies. Directors from NRE testified at 13 congressional hearings and participated in 6 hearings with other GAO teams.

A Closer Look at an NRE Report:  Federal Wildland Fire Aviation Program  

The Forest Service and the Department of the Interior are jointly responsible for fighting fires on federal lands, which includes maintaining a fleet of aerial firefighting aircraft such as airtankers that drop fire retardant chemicals. The Forest Service contracts for large airtankers and certain other aircraft, while Interior contracts for smaller airtankers and water scoopers. A decrease in the number of large airtankers in the federal fleet—from 44 in 2002 to 8 in early 2013 due to aging planes and several fatal crashes—has led to concerns about the agencies’ ability to provide aerial firefighting support. We recommended, among other things, that the Forest Service and Interior expand efforts to collect information on the performance and effectiveness of firefighting aircraft, and enhance collaboration across agencies and the fire aviation community.

Image excerpted from GAO-13-684

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