In budget hearings, a pathway to a leaner Interior

Zinke hints at more boots on the ground and fewer lawyers in Department shakeup.

 

Earlier today, the Senate held a hearing on the Trump administration’s proposed Department of Interior budget, which would cut Interior’s funding by $1.8 billion, or 13 percent, compared to last fiscal year.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke hinted at plans to reduce the department’s budget through reorganization, though no specifics were forthcoming. Interior’s current organization reduces cooperation across different agencies, Zinke said, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Reclamation. He also confirmed his interest in moving the Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters to the West, where much of the bureau’s responsibilities lie. In the past, Zinke has expressed interest in reorganizing Interior into 13 joint management areas that function similarly to interagency fire management teams. Some senior staff already have begun receiving notice of new assignments that may begin as early as the end of June.

Zinke repeatedly indicated plans to hire more staff at the front line, which seems to include visitor services positions and field scientists, and reduce staff in regional offices and administrative roles. “We need more scientists in the field and less lawyers,” he said. To that end, Zinke said, he has maintained a hiring freeze in Washington, D.C., and the Denver area, the home of one of eight regional offices, while ending it for other parts of the country and for non-management positions.

The Department of Interior’s budget hearing continues on Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Thumbnail image credit: Matthew Bisanz.

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