07 June 2024

Forest Service Grants and Agreements: New Agreements Season

Since I began my internship in January, colleagues have been talking about how the G&A workload significantly increases for the last two quarters of the fiscal year. Now that I am in the thick of it, I can say they were a 100% right. This year, many of the new agreements the G&A Unit is working with correspond to sources of funding such as Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) or the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Both sources of funding are historic for the Forest Service and are geared towards reducing climate change effects specifically in urban areas and areas at high risk of wildfires. The challenge with these agreements is that they need to be processed as soon as possible to meet time constraints. However, before we get there, there are a lot of important steps that need to be completed so the agreement can be executed, and the award letter can be sent to the recipient.

First, all project proposals and supporting forms need to be revised by all members of the G&A unit. This includes verifying project narrative, budget, and all required FS forms. In my case, when revising budgets I prefer to use (you guessed it!) Excel. This way I can keep the numbers organized and double check my calculations. Excel helps me reduce errors as I can revise multiple budgets in a day and keep track of all the details. These revisions take time, and the G&A unit must meet to discuss the multiple times. Once everything is verified and found to be correct, then it’s time to create the proposal in the FS G&A platform, (called I-Web). This is another critical step that only Grants Management Specialists (GMS) can execute. This platform is essential for all FS G&A units as it keeps track of ALL agreements the agency has ever processed. Once the agreement is created, the GMS makes sure the proposals information is uploaded correctly, that funds are obligated and committed to the corresponding agreement, that all required documents are correct, among other things. Simultaneously, an award letter must be drafted detailing all the Forest Service and the recipients’ responsibilities, authorities and required provisions. After the award letter is completed, recipient and FS staff signatures are procured and once both parties agree with the award and the letter has all signatures, only then can the agreement be executed in I-Web and copy of the letter is sent to the recipient for their records.

This is a short summary of a very long process that goes through different people and offices, all making sure that the agency is complying. It takes a lot of effort from all FS units to keep track of all the information, requirements, and updates necessary to execute agreements. At IITF, the key is that all units consult with each other to make sure they are all on the same page and working towards a common goal. As an intern, I am especially grateful for my supervisor, who takes the time to explain all the processes in detail, has given me the trust to lead tasks and values my input when discussing agreements. As for this new season at G&A, I look forward to the challenges that might arise as I know they will continue to shape my internship and my career. For now, I am doing everything I can to keep myself organized so that I keep up with all the incoming information and will continue assisting the G&A unit in any way that I can. 


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