- In the past 3-5 years, two federal agencies, the Forest Service (FS) and the National Park Service (NPS), have initiated pilot programs in concessioner-operation of developed-site government recreation facilities, specifically family campgrounds and related facilities. These programs have been generally successful by agency measure, and consequently, both agencies have modified previous operating policy (in varying dimensions) to authorize expansion of the concessioner-operation program.
The purpose of this paper is to document a study of the policy analysis and decision-making processes of the two agencies, specifically the processes that the agencies employed in moving from one established policy in recreation management, i.e. agency operation of government-owned facilities, to the current policy of continued government operation of some recreation facilities while providing for private-sector operation of selected government-owned facilities. This study draws heavily upon established decision-making theories such as Lindblom's (1959) study of incrementalism, and the rationalcomprehensive and mixed scanning decision-making theories as detailed by Anderson (1984). For the purposes of this paper, however, a policy analysis framework (which essentially mixes some of the characteristics of the rational-comprehensive and the mixed scanning theories) proposed by Vars (1985) is used as a baseline policy analysis/decision-making model for comparison of individual agency processes (important to note is Vars definition of policy analysis, i.e. policy analysis is something written designed to change some existing policy). The Vars framework was used as a baseline for comparison of agency analyses because of the logical, yet realistic, nature of the model and the ability of the model to accomodate varying time frames (i.e. short and long range problems).
The framework proposed by Vars (1985) includes the following steps: 1) Establishing the context of the problem requiring policy action; 2) Generating alternative courses of action; 3) Predicting probable consequences of the alternatives; 4) Evaluating the probable outcomes of the alternatives; and 5) Making a decision and proceeding with the implementation of that choice.
This paper examines Forest Service actions first by establishing historical precedents in the agency and developed site recreation management policies, then discussing recreation management policies in effect in 1981 and 1985, exploring the agency analysis supporting the policy change, and comparing the agency processes to the Vars framework (in a retrospective fashion). The National Park Service actions are considered in a similar manner (as detailed above for the Forest Service). The study concludes with a comparison of the actions and situations (i.e. similarities and differences) of the two agencies and suggestions for further investigation.