Policy Analysis

Who We Are

The Executive Leadership Team (ELT) has historically relied on a small independent staff, not part of any program area and therefore not subject to programmatic bias, to conduct policy-related research. Forest Service leaders have used the results to inform discussions and help make decisions.

Located in Research and Development, Policy Analysis staffers represent a range of ages and backgrounds, from former line officers, to former congressional staffers, to researchers on detail, to student interns, to professors of forestry on sabbatical. Working individually or in teams, they provide a balanced, objective synthesis of information on issues facing the Forest Service, presented in a coherent, readable format.

Typically, the ELT has raised a question (such as “What are the options for carbon sequestration through forestry?”) and asked for a study. Policy Analysis staffers have then collected and analyzed pertinent information at the appropriate scale. The resulting products have varied in depth, length, and turn-around time, according to ELT needs.


  • Literature summary: Report on a book or article of interest to the Chief’s Office. Examples: Article predicting cooling in the North Atlantic in the 2010s; article on forests reducing the impacts of floods. 1 page, 1-7 days.
  • Issue brief: Encapsulation of a specific issue. Can later be combined with similar briefs for a broader overview of an issue. Examples: Carbon storage/sequestration in old vs. young forests; the impact of TIMOs and REITs on forest landownership. 1-2 pages, 1-7 days.
  • Speech support: Draft speech for the Chief/Associate Chief to give before external audiences. Can include a PowerPoint presentation. Example: Sally Collins, “Land Health and Restoration,” Aldo Leopold Forum, 3/25/06. 2-6 pages, 1-3 weeks.
  • Initiative support: Summary of useful information in a particular subject area. Example: State and regional climate action plans. 15-30 pages, 2-4 weeks.
  • Discussion paper: Published article by the Chief/Associate Chief outlining a Forest Service policy or policy-related position. Examples: Article on ecological restoration language; article on water-related issues. 6-12 pages, 2-3 months.
  • Formal policy analysis: A detailed analysis following a standard template for conducting policy analyses. Evaluates policy alternatives and predicts outcomes. Example: Policy analysis related to genetically modified organisms. 15-30 pages, 2-3 months.
  • Issue paper: An extensive report on a particular topic based on in-depth research. Can present a Forest Service policy position. Example: “Federal Income and Estate Taxes, and Private Forestry in the U.S.” 20-60 pages, 3-9 months.
  • Peer-reviewed publication: Published article by Policy Analysis staff. Typically reflects Forest Service policy positions. Example: Thomas Maness, “Carbon Sequestration on the Nation’s Forests: What’s the Goal?” accepted for publication by Journal of Forestry. Length and preparation time vary.


Contact Us

Director of Policy Analysis
Bill Lange