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Detailed Information on the
Emergency Watershed Protection Program Assessment

Program Code 10002448
Program Title Emergency Watershed Protection Program
Department Name Department of Agriculture
Agency/Bureau Name Department of Agriculture
Program Type(s) Direct Federal Program
Assessment Year 2006
Assessment Rating Adequate
Assessment Section Scores
Section Score
Program Purpose & Design 80%
Strategic Planning 88%
Program Management 100%
Program Results/Accountability 27%
Program Funding Level
(in millions)
FY2007 $11
FY2008 $0
FY2009 $0
Note
 
Funding dependent on natural disaster supplementals.

Ongoing Program Improvement Plans

Year Began Improvement Plan Status Comments
2006

Improve data management to increase program accountability and efficiency, improve financial reporting, and increase cost-effectiveness.

Action taken, but not completed Database development is underway as part of USDA's Grants Line of Business Project. The database is slated for deployment in September 2008.
2008

Conduct a review of the unobligated EWP commitments, reevaluate States' needs, and reallocate funds if necessary.

No action taken

Completed Program Improvement Plans

Year Began Improvement Plan Status Comments
2006

Update the EWP manual to provide guidance on how to implement a cost-effective and efficient program.

Completed The manual was updated in July, 2006.

Program Performance Measures

Term Type  
Long-term Outcome

Measure: Percent of project sites that require EWP restoration more than twice in a 10-year period.


Explanation:This measure reflects new program policy designed to eliminate continually restoring the same sites, and is measured as the percent of project sites that require EWP restoration more than twice in a 10-year period. This measure directly supports the NRCS Mission Goal of "Clean and Abundant Water" and USDA Strategic Plan Objective 6.1 - Protect Watershed Health to Ensure Clean and Abundant Water."

Year Target Actual
2005 Baseline 1%
2012 1%
2015 0%
Long-term Outcome

Measure: Percent of completed EWP measures that require remedial repair.


Explanation:This measure reflects improvement in EWP projects as measured by a reduction in the percent of completed EWP measures that require remedial repair (not including repairs made before completion of the restoration, or due to subsequent natural disaster events). This measure directly supports the NRCS Mission Goal of "Clean and Abundant Water" and USDA Strategic Plan Objective 6.1 - Protect Watershed Health to Ensure Clean and Abundant Water."

Year Target Actual
2004 Baseline 2%
2010 1%
2012 1%
Annual Efficiency

Measure: Percent of local disaster recovery agreements that are by local sponsors.


Explanation:This measure reflects the efficiencies gained by local project sponsors' participation for administration of local agreements. The EWP Program is collateral duty for NRCS state employees and directly impacts implementation of other NRCS programs when conducting natural disaster recovery efforts. Encouraging sponsors to undertake the work, with NRCS oversight, allows NRCS to implement other programs without delay.

Year Target Actual
2004 Baseline 20%
2005 20% 20%
2006 27% 80%
2007 30% 83%
2008 35%
2009 40%
Annual Efficiency

Measure: Percent of recovery measures for natural disaster events completed within required timeframe.


Explanation:This measure reflects NRCS's commitment to respond to natural disaster events in a timely manner.

Year Target Actual
2006 97% 100%
2007 98% 95%
2008 98%
2009 98%
Annual Output

Measure: Percent of NRCS State Office Emergency Recovery Plans that meet national standards.


Explanation:This measure reflects NRCS's emphasis on being prepared to respond to natural disaster events by ensuring that State Office Emergency Recovery Plans meet national standards.

Year Target Actual
2004 100% 100%
2005 100% 100%
2006 100% 100%
2007 100% 100%
2008 100%
2009 100%
Annual Efficiency

Measure: Acres protected using EWP Program activities per $1 million (by watershed).


Explanation:This measure reflects the total acres within watersheds protected using EWP activities per $1 million. The actual acres protected may vary significantly from year-to-year as indicated in the actual data for 2002-2005 due to the location and project types (e.g., aerial sedding in burned or drought impacted areas covering large acreage versus bank stabilization projects which only protect limited acres within the watershed). The target of 5,000 acres/$1 million was selected based upon these variances to reflect what could typically be achieved.

Year Target Actual
2002 N/A 7,000
2003 N/A 6,000
2004 Baseline 2,200
2005 5,000 25,000
2006 5,000 1,350
2007 5,000 276
2008 5,000
2009 5,000
Annual Output

Measure: Average number of days from allocation of EWP Program dollars to state offices and completion of local disaster recovery projects.


Explanation:This measure will reflect the average timeframe necessary to complete EWP projects based on a year-to-year analysis of NRCS EWP workload including the number of projects complete and number of days for completion. This measure will also include analysis of the reason a project exceeds the allowed timeframes to better understand challenges associated with threatened and endangered species compliance, wetland permitting, staffing limitations, contractor availability, etc. Reported days reflect the timeframe for all phases of a project. Although portions of a project may be completed within required timeframes, the project timeline can include a waiting period, prior to funding subsequent phases of the project.

Year Target Actual
2004 Baseline 407
2005 350 394
2006 330 452
2007 330 621
2008 330
2009 330

Questions/Answers (Detailed Assessment)

Section 1 - Program Purpose & Design
Number Question Answer Score
1.1

Is the program purpose clear?

Explanation: The Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program has two primary purposes: (1) to relieve imminent hazards to life and property created by natural disasters, and (2) to alleviate future flood water risk. EWP has historically been a natural disaster recovery program, whose primary purpose is to provide assistance through runoff retardation and soil erosion prevention to safeguard lives and property from sudden watershed impairments. Congress amended the program's statute in 1996 to authorize EWP to also purchase floodplain easements to alleviate future flood water risks on land that has been recently flooded.

Evidence: Evidence is contained in the statute, regulatory, Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) and policy. Training was conducted for NRCS state and field staff in July 2005 and the training materials also clearly identify the program purpose. Evidence is also contained in the NRCS EWP web page information, which includes the training materials.

YES 20%
1.2

Does the program address a specific and existing problem, interest, or need?

Explanation: The EWP program's primary function is that of an emergency recovery program that responds to areas that have been recently damaged by natural disasters, such as floods, wind storms, drought, and wildfires. The assistance EWP provides remains necessary on an annual basis because new natural disaster every year. The utilization of the program varies depending on the number and extent of natural disasters that occur throughout the country. NRCS state offices are only provided funding based upon needs associated with natural disaster events. A Damage Survey Report (DSR) is completed to determine eligibility for recovery funds and forwarded by the state conservationist with a request for funding. The DSR is a decision document that includes National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), endangered and threatened species, Clean Water Act, National Historic Preservation Act, and other appropriate Federal compliance statements. The DSR was approved by OMB 2005.

Evidence: Evidence is contained in the statute, regulatory, Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) and policy. Training was conducted for NRCS state and field staff in July 2005 and the training materials also clearly identify the program pupose. Evidence is also contained in the NRCS EWP web page information, which includes the training materials. Evidence is contained in the DSR and fund request form.

YES 20%
1.3

Is the program designed so that it is not redundant or duplicative of any other Federal, state, local or private effort?

Explanation: While there are other federal and state disaster recovery programs, the gaps in the non-federal provision of disaster aid are large enough to warrant an Emergency Watershed Protection Program. NRCS has designed EWP well enough so that it meshes with other federal and non-federal disaster recovery programs. Under the program's emergency recovery purpose, NRCS has established EWP policies to minimize duplication for emergency recovery activities. In cases where the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and NRCS are responding to a natural disaster, FEMA is the lead and the agencies determine which has the more appropriate program to address the specific situation. NRCS established procedures with the Corps of Engineers regarding levee repair to specify which agency should conduct the repair. EWP will not provide assistance for long-term conservation practices that are eligible under the Farm Service Agency's Emergency Conservation Program. Under the program's second purpose to alleviate future flood risk, NRCS targets its purchase of floodplain easements at lands that have recently been flooded (within past 12 months) or have a history of flooding (flooded at least twice in past ten years). This focus on flood-prone acres reduces the potential for redundancy with other USDA programs (such as the Wetlands Reserve Program and Conservation Reserve Program).

Evidence: Evidence is contained in the regulation, PEIS and NRCS EWP policy, including MOU's with the Corps of Engineers and FEMA.

YES 20%
1.4

Is the program design free of major flaws that would limit the program's effectiveness or efficiency?

Explanation: EWP's historical funding mechanism "supplemental appropriations" inhibits the program's ability to perform. Because the program does not have a predictable funding source, NRCS is sometimes delayed with implementation of the program. While EWP's historical funding mechanism is primarily through supplemental appropriations, this funding has allowed NRCS to continue its efforts to respond to natural disasters. Once an EWP list of funding needs develops, Congress generally has provided funding within a few months to a year after natural disasters occur, and in some cases two supplemental appropriations have been provided within the FY. While in some cases NRCS and sponsors must wait for funding, NRCS maintains a level of funding which allows funding for exigency situations. Notwithstanding the historic lack of funding support from the Department of Agriculture and Administration, NRCS has very effectively managed limited funding to ensure all exigency situations are addressed which allows NRCS to respond immediately and initiate recovery efforts for exigency situations, including after the hurricanes impacted the Gulf Coast in 2005. Any excess funding from authorized projects is returned to NRCS NHQ for redistribution to states for exigency needs. Fund accountability is managed through the use of state drawing accounts which ensures financial and technical assistance funding ratios are maintained. An NRCS Oversight and Evaluation (O&E) study in 1997 identified several areas in need of improvement. All of the recommendations from the O&E study have been adopted and incorporated by regulation or policy. This included the development of a PEIS which allows NRCS to comply with NEPA in a more efficient manner allowing NRCS to rapidly complete DSR's and proceed with recovery efforts.

Evidence: Evidence is contained in the O&E report, EWP regulation, PEIS, NRCS policy, and drawing account information

NO 0%
1.5

Is the program design effectively targeted so that resources will address the program's purpose directly and will reach intended beneficiaries?

Explanation: NRCS developed regulations that identify funding priorities which are ranked in order of importance: exigency situations; sites where there is a serious, but not immediate threat to human life; and sites where buildings, utilities, or other important infrastructure components are threatened. NRCS further considers whether federal and state listed threatened and endangered species, cultural resources, prime farm land, wetlands, water quality, and other sites of unique habitat will be affected when ranking the previously listed priorities. NRCS developed this ranking approach due to concerns identified in the 1997 Oversight and Evaluation Report which found that NRCS did not have a consistent, objective analysis to fund projects. In some cases sponsors determined which projects would proceed based upon factors that were not consistent with addressing the most urgent needs first. NRCS revised the Damage Survey Report (DSR) to allow for an objective analysis and prioritization of sites based upon the regulations. The EWP program is only utilized when natural disasters strike. NRCS works in partnership with units of state and local government, including Indian tribal governments, to determine needs as a result of the natural disaster. All EWP recovery measures must meet the eligibility criteria. NRCS modified the Damage Survey Report in 2005 to ensure NRCS staffs conducted eligibility determinations in a consistent manner. For the floodplain easement component of the program, NRCS works directly with private landowners impacted by the natural disaster who wish to voluntarily enroll their lands into the program.

Evidence: Evidence is contained in the regulation, PEIS, and NRCS policy. Evidence is also contained in the DSR.

YES 20%
Section 1 - Program Purpose & Design Score 80%
Section 2 - Strategic Planning
Number Question Answer Score
2.1

Does the program have a limited number of specific long-term performance measures that focus on outcomes and meaningfully reflect the purpose of the program?

Explanation: The EWP Program has two long-term measures that reflect the program's main purposes, which are to relieve imminent hazards created by natural disasters and to alleviate future flood risks. The program also has an additional long-term measure under development that will track the program's improved performance in responding to natural disasters in a timely manner once emergency funds are appropriated. The measures include goals to reduce the number of times a site is repaired using EWP funding. The intent of this measure is to track the program's progress towards reducing the federal government's financial involvement with sites that are prone to damage due to natural disasters. Another long-term performance measure has a goal of reducing the number of EWP sites that require remedial repair. The intent of this measure is to ensure that NRCS adequately evaluates the damaged areas and initially prescribes the correct solution to avoid failure of the recovery efforts due to engineering design, wrong type of recovery measure, etc.

Evidence: Two long-term performance measures developed by NRCS.

YES 12%
2.2

Does the program have ambitious targets and timeframes for its long-term measures?

Explanation: NRCS has established appropriate targets for its long-term performance measures. NRCS set the target for reducing the percent of sites requiring EWP restoration more than twice in a ten-year period at 0 percent by 2015. For its other long-term measure, NRCS set the target to reduce the percent of completed measures that require remedial repair was established at 1 percent by 2010. The agency has developed baselines and targets for an additional long-term measure that addresses the average number of days from allocation of EWP funding until completion of disaster recovery efforts.

Evidence: Three long-term performance measures developed by NRCS.

YES 12%
2.3

Does the program have a limited number of specific annual performance measures that can demonstrate progress toward achieving the program's long-term goals?

Explanation: NRCS developed annual performance and efficiency measures that reflect the purposes of the program and relate to the program's long-term measures. These measures will track the EWP Progam's performance on: whether NRCS state office's have emergency recovery plans that meet national standards; the degree to which the program restores disaster-impacted watersheds to pre-disaster conditions; the percentage of local agreements that are administered by local sponsors; the total acres protected using EWP per $1 million; and the percentage of disaster recovery measures that the EWP Program completes within required regulatory time frames.

Evidence: Evidence is provided in the PART performance measure section, regulation, PEIS, and NRCS policy.

YES 12%
2.4

Does the program have baselines and ambitious targets for its annual measures?

Explanation: The EWP Program has developed appropriate targets for its annual performance measures. In addition, the agency is developing baselines and targets for a new annual measure - the data will be available later this year.

Evidence: Evidence is provided in the PART performance measures section, regulation, PEIS, and NRCS policy.

YES 12%
2.5

Do all partners (including grantees, sub-grantees, contractors, cost-sharing partners, and other government partners) commit to and work toward the annual and/or long-term goals of the program?

Explanation: NRCS' efforts focus primarily on completing the project in a timely manner due to the emergency nature of the program. A sudden impairment that is an imminent threat to life or property must exist to qualify for program assistance which drives NRCS, sponsors and contractors to complete the recovery measures promptly. Sponsors sign an agreement with NRCS which requires their compliance with timeframes to obligate funding and complete work. The EWP regulation requires certain time frames be met, 10 days for exigency situations and 220 days for all other emergency recovery.

Evidence: Evidence is provided in the regulation, PEIS, and NRCS policy.

Yes 12%
2.6

Are independent evaluations of sufficient scope and quality conducted on a regular basis or as needed to support program improvements and evaluate effectiveness and relevance to the problem, interest, or need?

Explanation: In 1997 NRCS conducted an extensive in-depth, internal Oversight and Evaluation (O&E) study of the EWP program and found several deficiencies. The review covered all aspects of the EWP Program. NRCS staff from the Strategic Planning and Accountability office prepared the report and was not involved in program delivery and conducted an independent, extensive review of records and interviews with NRCS staff and sponsors in states that had experienced frequent natural disasters. The review also involved on-site investigations. The report provided a number of findings and recommendations for improving the program, and nearly all of these recommendations have been incorporated either into the program's guidance documents or into the final regulation. Ultimately, all of the recommendations will be accomplished; however, NRCS is still in the process of finalizing the EWP Manual this FY. The objectives of the review included: site eligibility; time frame to obligate and complete projects; whether the work reduced a threat consistent with the statute and regulation; and whether the program is equitably and efficiently administered. Under each of these objectives several findings, a total of 13, were made that required NRCS to revise the program to ensure the program is administered consistent with the statute, regulation, and policy. As a result, the revised regulation and Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement were finalized in 2005. In addition, USDA's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) conducted a review of EWP in NRCS' Arizona state office in 2000. NRCS intends to perform another O&E Team review of EWP in FY 2006/2007. The House Appropriation staff are conducting an ongoing investigation of programs and funding for the hurricane recovery efforts. EWP is a part of this investigation. USDA OIG is currently reviewing the EWP program and funding for the hurricane recovery efforts. OIG has conducted interviews with NHQ staff and TX, LA, and MS staff including on-site investigations. This investigation has not been completed, however, a preliminary meeting with OIG regarding their findings in May 2006, indicated that the EWP Program is being administered in accordance with the statute, regulation and policy within Louisiana and Mississippi regarding Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts.

Evidence: Evidence is contained in the NRCS O&E report, regulation, PEIS and NRCS policy. Future evidence will be available in the House Report and USDA OIG report.

YES 12%
2.7

Are Budget requests explicitly tied to accomplishment of the annual and long-term performance goals, and are the resource needs presented in a complete and transparent manner in the program's budget?

Explanation: The 2006 Budget did not request regular appropriation funding for EWP. Historically, the Administration or Congress have funded the program through emergency supplemental appropriations, typically after a significant backlog of eligible EWP work has been determined, and NRCS uses the supplemental dollars to fund projects on an as needed basis. The Administration and Congress request the EWP funding needs list and supplemental funding is typically provided, and sometimes specifically linked, to the list not allowing for an allocation explicitly tied to an accomplishment based funding prioritization. The lack of available funding has undermined and inhibits NRCS' ability to effectively and efficiently manage the EWP Program making tying accomplishments to budget requests a moot issue. NRCS has developed long-term and efficiency measures in addition to the annual timeframe requirements found in the regulation, PEIS and policy.

Evidence: Data is contained in the EWP fund appropriations for the last ten years. Evidence is found in the performance measures, regulation, PEIS and policy.

NO 0%
2.8

Has the program taken meaningful steps to correct its strategic planning deficiencies?

Explanation: NRCS has a system for identifying strategic planning deficiencies and, in cases where it has identified concerns; the agency has acted to address the issues. NRCS uses independent Oversight & Evaluation (O&E) teams to review programs to ensure they are effective and have adequate management. An NRCS O&E review of the EWP Program identified several programmatic deficiencies, and based on this internal review, the program managers initiated significant changes to improve the program's delivery. These changes included revisions to the program's regulations to more clearly define program eligibility and tighten internal timelines for delivering disaster assistance. The agency also updated the program's Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, as well as improved its damage survey report (DSR) forms to ensure that field staff is collecting adequate project information to improve management.

Evidence: Evidence is contained in the NRCS O&E report, regulation, PEIS and NRCS policy. Training was conducted in 2005 which also identified steps taken by NRCS to improve program consistency and efficiency. The training materials are available on-line for NRCS employees.

YES 12%
Section 2 - Strategic Planning Score 88%
Section 3 - Program Management
Number Question Answer Score
3.1

Does the agency regularly collect timely and credible performance information, including information from key program partners, and use it to manage the program and improve performance?

Explanation: NRCS headquarters regularly collects timely state- and project-level dollar obligation and expenditure data to help to ensure EWP's effective delivery. The information is used for tracking purposes to explain the type of activities undertaken. NRCS uses the data to allocate (or re-allocate) dollars to disaster events, as well as to prioritize funding for exigencies. State conservationists submit monthly the status of their pending floodplain easement acquisition activities, including the number and acres of easements closed the previous month. EWP also collects end-of-year performance data to summarize the benefits of the program during the previous fiscal year (such as the value of property protected by the program, number of people benefited, amount of debris removed, amount of streambank stabilized, etc.).

Evidence: Data is contained in the benefit and accomplishment report summaries.

YES 14%
3.2

Are Federal managers and program partners (including grantees, sub-grantees, contractors, cost-sharing partners, and other government partners) held accountable for cost, schedule and performance results?

Explanation: NRCS managers and all employees have performance reporting requirements in their Individual Performance Plans. All performance standards are tied into strategic plan goals through business plans, which provide a roadmap to successful completion of performance goals. If goals associated with cost, scheduling, and performance are not met appropriate actions are taken, such as placing responsible individuals under opportunity-to-improve plans. When sponsors deliver Agency services, NRCS develops agreements to hold those partners to the same standards as Agency allowance holders. It is Agency policy that funds administered through agreements with partners meet the intended program purposes and objectives. Products and services specified in agreements must lead to specific accomplishments and are entered into the Agency performance reporting system. At the National level, the Deputy Chief for Programs, Conservation Planning and Technical Assistance Division Director, Water Resources Programs Branch Chief, and National EWP Program Manager, and other key staff are held accountable for appropriate National Performance Measures, through the National Business Plan and Individual Performance Plans. At the State level, NRCS designates key personnel in the State office to coordinate program delivery. NRCS State Conservationists are responsible and accountable for overall program implementation and results, including identifying, monitoring, and analyzing performance indicators and financial integrity. It is the responsibility of State Conservationists to report progress data on a daily basis for both Agency and partner contributions to specified goals. The Deputy Chief for Strategic Planning and Accountability provides national oversight. The draft EWP Manual provides specific responsibilities and timeframes for NRCS state staff involved with EWP Program activities. The EWP Manual is expected to be finalized this FY. NRCS requires that the construction of projects be completed and funds obligated within 10 days after receipt of funding for exigency situations and 220 days for non-exigency situations. NRCS requires that restoration activities on floodplain easements be initiated within the first year of easement acquisition and completed within 3 years. NRCS follows Federal Acquisition regulations and procedures for administering federal contracts. When the sponsor agrees to administer a contract, NRCS signs an agreement regarding implementation of the project. Any deficiencies found either through NRCS inspectors or NRCS oversight of the sponsor's work are immediately resolved to allow completion of the project within required time frames.

Evidence: Evidence is contained in the regulation, PEIS, and NRCS policy, including Federal Acquisition regulations. NRCS Headquarters tracks projects that are approaching the time frames and advises states of the "due date".

YES 14%
3.3

Are funds (Federal and partners') obligated in a timely manner, spent for the intended purpose and accurately reported?

Explanation: OIG Audit Report 10601-0003-KC (January 2005) found that NRCS was not in compliance with the Improper Payments Information Act; however, the EWP Program was not included in the audit. NRCS completes EWP recovery activities through either a Federal contract or local agreement where the sponsor conducts the activity. In either case, NRCS is determining the cost of the project through its own design or reviewing the cost determined by the sponsor in the case of a local agreement. The local agreement is a detailed document which outlines the sponsor requirements and timeliness for completion of work. Funding for EWP projects is provided on an as needed basis only unlike other NRCS programs where FY allocations are based upon a number of factors and formulas. All bills of work are reviewed by the NRCS Contracting Officer to verify their validity, consistent with either the Federal contract or local agreement. In both cases NRCS either has an inspector on-site, either full time or part time, to ensure that projects are being completed as designed. In the case of cost overruns requiring additional funding, NRCS state offices must submit the request to NHQ for review along with justification. Periodic NRCS state office oversight reviews are conducted and specific audits are conducted, which include the EWP Program. An oversight review was conducted recently in the NRCS Florida office and one is scheduled for Oklahoma. An audit currently underway in Utah for a specific project funded through the EWP Program. Unlike most other NRCS programs that provide funding directly to producers or landowners, EWP Program recovery activities require a sponsor. Additionally, many sponsors have their own internal audits and NRCS NHQ is contacted several times a year by their auditors to verify funding provided. To ensure timely implementation, NRCS requires the construction of projects be completed and funds obligated within 10 days after the NRCS state office receives funding for exigency situations and within 220 days for non-exigency situations after the NRCS state office receives funding. Sponsors have 60 days to request assistance which NRCS believes is sufficient time for the sponsor to conduct damage assessments, secure a funding source, and identify they can fulfill all of the requirements for sponsor eligibility. For easement acquisitions, since a land appraisal is necessary, the funds are not obligated until the landowner accepts the easement offer and executes an option agreement to purchase. The landowner is given 15 days in which to sign the option agreement. NRCS requires that restoration activities on floodplain easements be initiated within the first year of easement acquisition and completed within 3 years. USDA OIG is currently reviewing the EWP program and funding for the hurricane recovery efforts. OIG has conducted interviews with NHQ staff and TX, LA, and MS staff including on-site investigations. This investigation has not been completed, however, a preliminary meeting with OIG regarding their findings in May 2006, indicated that the EWP Program is being administered in accordance with the statute, regulation and policy within Louisiana and Mississippi regarding Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts. NRCS Strategic Planning and Accountability office has scheduled to conduct an oversight and evaluation of the EWP Program during FY 2006/2007.

Evidence: Evidence is contained in the regulation, PEIS, and NRCS policy.

YES 14%
3.4

Does the program have procedures (e.g. competitive sourcing/cost comparisons, IT improvements, appropriate incentives) to measure and achieve efficiencies and cost effectiveness in program execution?

Explanation: EWP recovery measures and restoration activities are typically completed through a competitive bidding process following Federal contracting procedures and requirements. In cases where local sponsors conduct the emergency recovery measures through a local agreement with NRCS, similar competitive bidding processes must be followed as required by state law. In addition, the program has disaster assessment and dollar obligation timing targets to help to ensure that program funds are used efficiently.

Evidence: Evidence is contained in the Federal contracting regulations and procedures.

YES 14%
3.5

Does the program collaborate and coordinate effectively with related programs?

Explanation: Each NRCS state conservationist has developed an Emergency Recovery Plan (ERP) which identifies other agencies with similar programs to ensure effective and efficient coordination. When a natural disaster has been declared by the President, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is the lead federal agency to conduct natural disaster recovery. NRCS works with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and only conducts activities where FEMA's programs are not utilized or available. When the NRCS state conservationist declares a disaster, NRCS is the lead to coordinate with applicable federal and state emergency offices and coordination procedures are identified in the ERP. NRCS also coordinated with the Farm Service Agency in situations where its Emergency Conservation Program may overlap with EWP for the 2005 hurricane recovery efforts. NRCS/FSA developed a matrix to aid landowners and sponsors regarding which agency should be contacted for a particular land use or recovery activity

Evidence: Evidence is contained in the state Emergency Recovery Plans and MOU's with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA. NRCS/FSA matrix of EWP and ECP programs as it relates to hurricane recovery for H.R. 2863.

YES 14%
3.6

Does the program use strong financial management practices?

Explanation: NRCS completes EWP recovery activities through either a Federal contract or local agreement where the sponsor conducts the activity. In either case NRCS is determining the cost of the project through its own design or reviewing the cost determined by the sponsor in the case of a local agreement. The local agreement is a detailed document which outlines the sponsor requirements and timeliness for completion of work. Funding for EWP projects is provided on an as needed basis only unlike other NRCS programs where FY allocations are based upon a number of factors and formulas. All bills of work are reviewed by the NRCS Contracting Officer to verify their validity, consistent with either the Federal contract or local agreement. In both cases NRCS either has an inspector on-site, either full time or part time, to ensure the projects are being completed as designed. In the case of cost overruns requiring additional funding, NRCS state offices must submit the request to NHQ for review along with justification. Periodic NRCS state office oversight reviews are conducted and specific audits are conducted, which include the EWP Program. An oversight review was conducted recently for the NRCS Florida office and one is scheduled for Oklahoma. An audit is currently underway in Utah for a specific project funded through the EWP Program. Unlike most other NRCS programs that provide funding directly to producers or landowners, EWP Program recovery activities require a sponsor. Additionally, many sponsors have their own internal audits and NRCS NHQ is contacted several times a year by their auditors to verify funding provided. OIG Audit Report 10601-0003-KC (January 2005) found that NRCS was not in compliance with the Improper Payments Information Act; however, the EWP Program was not included in the audit. NRCS maintains the Financial Assistance funding at the national level and will provide the states funding once they have demonstrated the funding needs for eligible work. A portion of the Technical Assistance funding is also held and provided on an as needed basis. Both FA and TA are managed through the use of state/project drawing accounts. This ensures that funding is not expended for non-critical uses and conserves TA and FA for future projects, including exigencies. NRCS uses FFIS to manage state allocation of funding. The EWP drawing accounts were established in 1999/2000 and are managed similar to a checking account. States are provided the FA and typically 50 percent of the TA to facilitate initiation of the EWP recovery measures. The drawing accounts have proven to be an excellent tool to manage EWP funding, particularly TA. Requiring states to request the balance of TA only after they demonstrated the FA would be obligated ensures sufficient TA is available for any FA that may be returned by states as excess. USDA OIG is currently reviewing the EWP program and funding for the hurricane recovery efforts. OIG has conducted interviews with NHQ staff and TX, LA, and MS staff including on-site investigations. This investigation has not been completed, however, a preliminary meeting with OIG regarding their findings in May 2006, indicated that the EWP Program is being administered in accordance with the statute, regulation and policy within Louisiana and Mississippi regarding Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts. NRCS Strategic Planning and Accountability office has scheduled to conduct an oversight and evaluation of the EWP Program during FY 2006/2007.

Evidence: Evidence is contained in the EWP drawing accounts and FFIS.

YES 14%
3.7

Has the program taken meaningful steps to address its management deficiencies?

Explanation: An internal Oversight and Evaluation Study conducted in 1997 identified several areas in need of improvement. All of the report recommendations have been adopted and incorporated. NRCS finalized a revised regulation and Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement in 2005. An OIG investigation was conducted on a situation in AZ where a few landowners were paid through the EQIP and EWP programs for similar activities to address drought recovery measures. NRCS requested and received reimbursement from the landowners for the EWP program. Other states with the potential to conduct similar drought recovery measures were notified and advised to ensure that sponsors/landowners were not provided assistance for similar activities through two USDA conservation programs.

Evidence: Evidence is contained in the NRCS O&E and USDA OIG reports. Evidence is contained in the regulation, PEIS, and NRCS policy.

YES 14%
Section 3 - Program Management Score 100%
Section 4 - Program Results/Accountability
Number Question Answer Score
4.1

Has the program demonstrated adequate progress in achieving its long-term performance goals?

Explanation: While NRCS has adopted long-term performance goals for the EWP program in FY 2006, it has not provided evidence on its progress towards meetings its long-term targets. Until NRCS provides additional data to indicate the trend for the program's long-term performance, the program must receive a "no" for this question.

Evidence: Performance measures adopted, regulation, PEIS, and EWP policy.

NO 0%
4.2

Does the program (including program partners) achieve its annual performance goals?

Explanation: While NRCS has adopted annual performance goals for the EWP program in FY 2006, it has not provided evidence on its progress towards meetings its annual targets. Until NRCS provides additional data to demonstrate how the program has performed relative to its annual targets, the program must receive a "no" for this question.

Evidence: Performance measures adopted, regulation, PEIS, and EWP policy.

NO 0%
4.3

Does the program demonstrate improved efficiencies or cost effectiveness in achieving program goals each year?

Explanation: NRCS has implemented a number of program reforms to improve its performance and efficiency. In 2005, NRCS promulgated a revised regulation, revised the Damage Survey Report (DSR), and finalized the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS). The regulation and PEIS identify revisions that provide for a more efficient and cost effective program which include prioritization, program clarifications, and flexibility. The main purpose of the PEIS was to allow NRCS state offices to tier to the PEIS allowing an efficient method to comply with NEPA requirements. Since implementation in 2005, several states, in particular Louisiana's Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts, have provided more efficiency with regard to completing the revised DSR and NEPA compliance. NRCS has also developed Emergency Recovery Plans for each state which allows for rapid initiation of recovery efforts and coordination with sponsors and other federal and state agencies. NRCS is currently finalizing the EWP Manual which provides additional information and policy guidance to allow NRCS staff to implement the EWP Program in an efficient and cost effective manner. NRCS adopted two efficiency performance goals for the EWP program in FY 2006. One of these measures will be implemented for the first time in 2006. For one its measures, NRCS can demonstrate that it is meeting its efficiency target for having local project sponsors assume more the project administration responsibilities in order to reduce federal assistance costs. In July 2005, NRCS conducted training to identify the program changes with emphasis on operating within the policy and procedures. Training/education serves to inform managers and staff about efficiencies and effectiveness responsibilities.

Evidence: Performance measures adopted, regulation, PEIS, and EWP policy.

SMALL EXTENT 7%
4.4

Does the performance of this program compare favorably to other programs, including government, private, etc., with similar purpose and goals?

Explanation: Limited information is available to compare with the EWP Program since only a limited number of federal, state or local programs provide similar assistance. NRCS contacted the Corps of Engineers and various state and local authorities to ascertain whether any performance measures would allow a comparison. None of the agencies contacted gathered similar performance measure information. NRCS believes that due to the relatively high benefit/cost ratio over that past several years (which include: 2002 1.0:5.9; 2003 1.0:3.2; 2004 1.0:5.4; and 2005 1.0:19.6), that the EWP Program would compare favorable or exceed other similar programs. NRCS compared the disaster recovery activities it delivers through the EWP program versus other similar recovery programs by examining the how timely its program provided recovery assistance. NRCS tracks accomplishments which we estimate far exceed the type and scope of activities most other disaster recovery programs responsible for runoff retardation and soil erosion prevention provide on private and state lands. Data are being collected for the recently adopted performance measures and the performance of the EWP program can currently be observed by reviewing the benefits and accomplishments. This allows a direct comparison with other federal natural disaster recovery programs regarding the benefit/cost ratio and any additional parameters shared between EWP recovery activities and other similar disaster recovery programs. The accomplishments of the EWP program, the end-of-year report identifies the recovery efforts completed, types of activities, financial information, and the public that benefited. Benefits and accomplishments vary greatly from year to year based upon the number, type and scope of natural disasters. NRCS also allocates funding and initiates work in a timely manner, including rapid response to exigency situations.

Evidence: Performance measures adopted, regulation, PEIS, and EWP policy. Data is contained in the EWP benefit and accomplishment fiscal year summaries. Evidence also includes the rapid response to exigency situations. NRCS allocated the fiscal year 2006 supplemental appropriation of $300 million as soon as funding was available to address the 2005 hurricane recovery efforts. NRCS typically receives high praise for EWP work and recent news articles for EWP recovery work in UT are provided.

SMALL EXTENT 7%
4.5

Do independent evaluations of sufficient scope and quality indicate that the program is effective and achieving results?

Explanation: NRCS conducted an in-depth performance review of EWP in 1997. The resulting report offered findings and recommendations for improving the program. The report identified that almost 80 percent of non-exigency recovery measures were completed within the required time frame. Nearly all of the recommendations were adopted and the EWP program was modified through the development of a Programmatic EIS, revised regulation and NRCS policy. Implementation of the recommendations began in 1999 and is on-going. An additional NRCS Oversight and Evaluation (O&E) study is scheduled for FY 2006 to determine whether the EWP program has achieved the results based upon the 1997 O&E recommendations. While this performance review lacked the independence required in this question, the high quality and broad scope of the information presented provides NRCS management to this day with an excellent source of material to evaluate the effectiveness and relevancy of the EWP as well as provide guidance for EWP strategic planning. USDA OIG is currently reviewing the EWP program and funding for the hurricane recovery efforts. OIG has conducted interviews with NHQ staff and TX, LA, and MS staff including on-site investigations. This investigation has not been completed.

Evidence: A follow-up O&E review is planned in FY06. Future evidence will be available in the House Report and USDA OIG report.

LARGE EXTENT 13%
Section 4 - Program Results/Accountability Score 27%


Last updated: 09062008.2006SPR