Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wants to restructure his department and relocate tens of thousands of government workers closer to the regions they oversee, The Washington Post reports.
The overhaul would be the largest undertaking the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) 168-year history. Zinke’s plan divides the U.S. into 13 regions and moves bureau headquarters into the heart of each. The moves would improve Americans’ access to government officials, especially in the West, and make Interior more cohesive as a whole.
“If you look at the way we’re presently organized, all the bureaus under Interior have different regions … and are not aligned geographically,” Zinke told WaPo.
As agency boundaries and responsibilities are currently structured, five bureaus could have a stake in managing a small section of a stream. The stream itself, the wildlife and any structures such as dams fall under the purview of different parts of the administrative state, Zinke explained.
Former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who served in the Obama administration, disagreed with Zinke’s assessment and questioned the need for such a massive undertaking.
“[Waste would] come from moving people, giving up leases before maturity, potential severance costs, and substantial disruption to productivity,” Jewell told WaPo in an email. The restructuring would also disrupt the “mission of Interior.”
Lawmakers are considering a proposal similar to Zinke’s plan, though on a smaller scale moving just one agency out of the nation’s capital. A plan to move the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) headquarters out West, where the vast amount of territory it manages exists, has found bipartisan support in Congress.
Democratic Reps. Ed Perlmutter and Jared Polis of Colorado and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona all support moving BLM headquarters to Denver, Colo., and Perlmutter and Sinema have co-sponsored a bill by GOP Rep. Scott Tipton to do just that.
Zinke met with 150 Senior Executive Staff members over the weekend to discuss his plan and get feedback from agency professionals. The massive undertaking requires Congressional approval and funding, which Zinke will lobby for throughout the upcoming budget process.
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