For years National Parks have been required to go through a directed budgetary exercise called Core Ops. This process involved a trained team of facilitators coming to a park for several days to lead the park’s management staff through a budgetary process to focus their attention on the core mission of the park. This process has a well meaning description, but the underlying purpose was to force park superintendents to make deep cuts into already strapped budgets and staffs. The visiting teams and regional offices were never satisfied until the teams identified major expenditure cuts and reductions in staffing.
A park superintendent who was already doing an outstanding job in managing their budget and keeping all funded operations directly related to their mission were still required to make even more cuts to satisfy the money gods in Washington. The park rangers and other employees in the field were left with the perception that the underlying purpose of this program was to show politicians that the National Park Service could do with less money and thus look good.
It is interesting all the emotions that the Core Ops topic brings out. I remember going through a very painful few days of a Core Ops workshop on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Although the park's managers could exhibit reams of cost saving measures that had already been taken and lists of positions (as many as 60 permanent jobs in this one park) that were being left vacant the team wanted more and more cuts no matter what the cost to the mission of the agency. One division became defensive and after a breakout session decided that everything they did was core mission and that they should suffer no cuts and money should be taken from other divisions to support their operations. The result was not a team building exercise but the creation of derision within the park. The budget processes that the Core Ops team kept pressing were already dogma on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
With the limited budgets that parks are given, managers are making core mission decisions on a daily basis. If they are not basing decisions for expenditures based on the agency’s mission, then why are they in their positions?
As tax payers we want our government to be conscious of frivolous spending and our officials responsible to the job they were hired to do. Core Ops was a very expensive overkill to obtain political budgetary compliance.
The final result of my experience with Core Ops was a huge bill to the park to pay for the Core Ops Team, their multiple trainees, and special observers and guests from the regional office visit Asheville, N.C. Where is the money savings in that?
John Jarvis the Director of the National Park Service has put an end to Core Ops. I say bravo to Director Jarvis for putting this expensive politically popular giant to bed. National Parks will not longer be subject to this expensive and painful process.
To learn more and have a better understanding to the subject, go to the National Parks Traveler web site at: