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U.S. Forest Service; Assessment of Research & Development Function

The Research and Development (R&D) Washington Office provides national oversight and overall strategic direction for United States Forest Service (USFS) R&D programs. The Washington Office oversees research programs spread over five regional research stations, a national research lab, and an international research institute. This presents challenges for both research coordination and communication.

Congress and others have asked R&D to minimize redundancy and maximize cost effectiveness while doing a better job of communicating the importance of its research to both internal and external customers. An internal review by R&D in response to a USFS Executive Leadership Team request in 2015 found that improved coordination between the regional research stations and Washington Office R&D was needed to better align research activities with the management needs of internal customers, National Forest Systems and State and Private Forestry. In 2018, House and Senate reports directed USFS to take action to strengthen its research enterprise.

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Project Description

USFS contracted with the National Academy of Public Administration (the Academy) to undertake an eight-month independent assessment of the USFS R&D function. The Academy’s assessment of USFS’s R&D function has three main scope elements.

  1. Identify opportunities to improve USFS’ ability to coordinate its research, with a focus on coordination between Washington Office R&D and USFS regional research stations as it relates to aligning research with the Agency priorities and the management needs of internal Agency customers;
  2. Identify opportunities to improve how USFS communicates with internal customers (i.e., Forest Systems and State and Private Forestry) and external stakeholders, especially Congress, about its research activities, their alignment with Agency priorities and management needs, and their impact, with an emphasis on communicating with non-technical audiences; and
  3. Develop actionable recommendations that can inform USFS efforts to strengthen its research enterprise.


If you have any questions or comments regarding our prospective study panels, please contact Brenna Isman, Director of Academy Studies, at 202-204-3625, or

Study Fellows