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NPS Fundamentals Essentials: Administration, Business Operations and Information Technology

Overview

Whether you are a new employee or interested in employment with the National Park Service, understanding how the organization functions is vital to your success. Are all parks the same?  How is the work divided?  How are the sites managed?  What do the different divisions do?

Known as “Essentials,” these topics provide insight into how the National Park Service manages the entire system of parks and programs to accomplish its mission.  Reading through each topic gives an overview at the most basic level with opportunities to link to more in-depth, specific information.

Introduction

Teams of people working together are essential to accomplish the park, and ultimately the NPS, mission. Each person has a role in helping the park/program/region/NPS reach its goals. Employees in Administration and Business Practices and Information Resources ensure appropriated funds are made available to the parks and programs; that the right people are in the right place doing the right job; track, account and evaluate how funds have been used; assist programs in acquiring services, supplies and products; “connect” us to each other and to our customers through technology; and design and develop opportunities for professional growth in the employees’ chosen career.

Although not usually seen on the front line, employees in Administration, Business Practices, and Information Resources play a vital role in helping to accomplish the NPS mission. They facilitate training opportunities and use technology to keep employees connected with each other and our customers.

Park employees in these fields also ensure the work unit complies with federal regulations and departmental and bureau policies. It is important to the mission of the NPS to demonstrate to Congress and the American public that we hold ourselves accountable:

  1. To the effective and efficient use of tax payer dollars
  2. For adherence to public policy
  3. For the equitable and fair treatment of employees, contractors, partners, stakeholders and our visitors

Effectiveness and efficiency helps us justify budget requests to Congress and demonstrate transparency and open competition for contracts/agreements and hiring practices to the American people.

Employees in Administration and Business Practices work in:

  • Administration (administrative support clerks/assistants, administrative assistants/technician/clerks, administrative officers/business managers)
  • Human Resources (payroll, leave and earnings, hiring, performance management, equal opportunity)
  • Learning & Development (training, career development)
  • Budget and Finance (budget planning, tracking/reconciling expenditures, account management)
  • Acquisition/Contracting/Procurement (purchasing, contracts, uniforms, servicing, vendors)
  • Information Technology (IT) (computers and software, network servers, phones, communication lines)
  • Property (property numbers, inventory, sensitive property, surplus)
An NPS employee buckles on a vest before getting on the boat on Diablo Lake.
Administration helps procure equipment and supplies

Functions

Human Resources (HR)

Personnel offices have been consolidated to centralize various operations:

  • Human Resources Operations Center (HROC):  Central office is located in Denver, Colorado. HROC assists human resources offices across the Service for the classification of all position descriptions, length of service awards, employee benefits, and records management. They also produce servicewide notices on a variety of HR topics.
  • Servicing Human Resources Office (SHRO): Processes vacancy announcements and new hires, personnel actions, promotions, timekeeping, disciplinary actions, etc. SHRO reduced the number of offices from 74 to 23. (e.g. Arizona SHRO is located in Flagstaff, Arizona for all parks in Arizona).
  • Seasonal Recruitment Operations Center (SROC): Central office at Mather Training Center in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Processes and recruits seasonal employees.
  • Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO): The administration office assists with recruitment of diverse candidates, and may be the lead for the park’s EEO program.
  • Ethics: Administration’s responsibilities also include ethics, ensuring that new employees are trained and adhere to the DOI’s ethics guidelines.
  • Travel: All travel is done through Concur. Government travel requires training and a travel card.
  • Training: The park’s training program is typically administered though the administration division. They coordinate trainings to be held within the park, assist with distance learning and process travel and funds associated with training.

Budget

The budget cycle is based on a fiscal year (October 1 to September 30). The NPS operational budget is approved and allocated by Congress each year. The administrative division ensures the park’s money is allocated and tracked to various divisions for personnel services (payroll), equipment and supplies, utilities, contracts and services, travel and training, etc.

Fee Management is connected with administration with the rules and regulations regarding money handling and accounting. Each year the division coordinates servicewide. Comprehensive Calls for PMIS-funded projects which may come from fees and other sources.

Payroll is processed through the administrative staff in two week periods referred to as a “pay period.” Employees enter their time worked in Quicktime.

Purchasing

There are many rules and regulations governing how the NPS makes purchases. Some may be in the form of large contracts and services, whereas others are smaller individual acquisitions.

The Major Acquisition Buying Office (MABO) employ contracting personnel who used to be located in the parks/work units, but now have been semi-centralized into MABO offices across the country.
Many smaller purchases are called “micro-purchasing” which have a limit of $3,000.

Property must be labeled, tracked, and inventoried. Excess/surplus property is typically sold or disposed of by a Board of Survey.

Information Technology Management

Information Resources employees ensure connectivity and communication with other employees and the public through best business practices in technology. Besides overseeing and inspecting NPS information technology practices, these employees provide the NPS and the public with usable information and secure and accessible technology. There are two centers of Information Resources: the National Information Technology Center which handles networks, active directory, telecommunications, wireless technology and the central help desk and the National Information Services Center which identifies information needs, organizes and stores information, and develops information products and services (e.g., web portals, digital image/library services).

Housing

Parks, especially in remote areas or in areas where outside housing is difficult to find, may provide housing for employees, concession staff, and partners. Housing officers manage these units, establish rents and collection, coordinate with supervisors to house employees, work with maintenance staff to provide repair and renovation work, etc.

Three employees smiling for the camera
Administration assists in hiring

Concessions

If there are concessions operations in a park, the administration staff may include a concessions management specialist who monitors the concessions services and activities provided. They will:

  • Develop/renew concession contracts as needed.
  • Work with maintenance to repair/rehab their facilities.
  • Work with visitor resource protection rangers to provide law enforcement and medical services to their staff and customers.
  • Work with resources management to ensure vegetation and wildlife are not impacted by their operations.
  • Work with interpretation to provide staff training and ranger programs for the public.

Cooperative Agreements/Partnerships  

If there are partners (cooperative associations, schools, non-profit organizations, etc.) associated with the park, the business practices staff is responsible for monitoring and developing cooperative agreements and MOU’s (memorandum of understanding).

Issues and Challenges

Budget/Sequestration: As the federal government reexamines budgets and funding allocations in future years, the NPS, budget offices, and administration divisions are tasked to examine ways to economize and enhance efficiencies of spending and operations. Reduced budgets could affect seasonal hiring, payroll, purchases, travel/training, special programs, etc. which would impact visitor services and preservation of resources.

Workforce Management: as the US population continues to become more diverse, the makeup of NPS and park’s staff should also change in order to remain relevant and inclusive to a changing public. Effective recruitment and retention strategies are necessary to maintain a diverse and productive workforce.

Delegation representing conservation efforts in Mongolia visited HOAL
Valuing diversity in the NPS workforce

Accountability: all employees have administrative responsibilities and personal accountability as employees of the NPS. Employees must spend the government’s (and tax-payers’) money according to policies regulation. Paperwork must be completed promptly and accurately. All funds and property are “for official government” use only. Examples include but are not limited to:

  • Travel and travel cards
  • Micro-purchase card (government credit card)
  • Government property (vehicles, equipment, tools, IT equipment, etc.)

Changing Systems as the government continues to become more efficient. There are increasing changes to administrative support systems such as FBMS, Bison Connect, travel, hiring, purchasing/contracting, etc. Time is required to adequately train administrative staff and NPS employees to learn and properly use these new systems. This could result in delays, errors, and confusion in the early stages of adaptation.

Whereas operations such as interpretation and visitor resource protection primarily serve external “customers” (visitors, schools and communities), administration and business practices customers are primarily internal (park employees, concessions, etc.). Administration operations are an essential function and support all park operations with funding, hiring, contracting, informational services, etc. In turn, administration directly and indirectly works to accomplish the mission of the NPS.

Additional Resources

Career Development

A variety of education is found in these career fields. The Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM’s) job website is a good source of information for determining educational requirements and experience in any career field. The job announcements will identify requirements including education and experience.

Other resources include:

Budget and Finance

Acquisitions, Contracting, Procurement and Financial Assistance

Information Technology

NPS Technology and Information Resources Management Home Page (This resource is available to NPS users only)

Property

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