An Optimization Modeling Approach to Awarding Large Fire Support Wildfire Helicopter Contracts from the US Forest Service

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The US Forest Service used contracted helicopter services as part of its wildfire suppression strategy. An optimization decision-modeling system was developed to assist in the contract selection process. Three contract award selection criteria were considered: cost per pound of delivered water, total contract cost, and quality ratings of the aircraft and vendors. Discrete optimization decision models were developed and solved to optimize each of these objectives or contract selection criteria independently. These solutions provided the basis for a weighted goal programming model that minimized the percent deviation from each of the three, incorporating relative preference or priority weights on deviations from the goals. Managers chose to assign a greater relative importance to the quality rating than the two cost measures, resulting in a solution with higher quality aircraft, but at a cost of $55 million more than if total cost had been the only contract selection criteria. These optimization models show promise as a means of supporting agency decisionmaking regarding firefighting helicopter contracts. FOR. SCI. 58(2):130‐138.

Keywords: assignment model; goal programming; government contracting; wildfire resource allocation

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: April 23, 2012

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