WASHINGTON, D.C. ― Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, responded to the Interior Department Office of Inspector General (IG) report he requested on the reassignment of Senior Executive Service (SES) staff members in 2017.
Udall has repeatedly asked Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke for an explanation of the decision to move the senior career staff members, and he has yet to receive a full answer. The IG report can be found HERE. Senator Udall’s letters to the IG and Zinke can be found HERE, HERE and HERE.
His statement follows:
“The Inspector General’s report on the Interior Department reassignment of career Senior Executive Service employees is deeply disturbing. It’s now clear that agency leaders embarked on a campaign to reassign dedicated, career public servants that they perceived as threatening. This report backs up my concern that Interior Department leaders identified employees for reassignment as a way to punish career staff who were working on issues that contradicted the administration’s anti-science agenda, particularly its climate denial campaign. Twelve of the SES employees who were reassigned did work on climate change, energy, or conservation. These career public servants were only doing their jobs and should be celebrated for their service without regard to the administration they serve.
“These moves also disproportionately impacted Native Americans, with 11 Native American employees targeted in this wave of reassignments. I have said it before and I’ll say it again: Diversity is a good thing. The Interior Department should be looking to cultivate and celebrate, not denigrate, its diverse workforce.
“We have now seen repeated examples like this in which the Interior Department – and the administration – have followed a ‘shoot first, explain later’ approach to decision-making. The Interior Department and other Trump administration agencies have failed repeatedly to document decisions in an apparent attempt to avoid scrutiny by Congress, the Inspector General and other watchdogs, and ultimately the American taxpayers. The report shows that the department carried out these moves without regard to even the most basic questions, such as cost to the taxpayers or whether the employee was a good fit for the new position. And members of the agency’s executive resources board admitted they had no criteria for evaluation and no information beyond basic biographical information of the affected staff when they made decisions.
“I look forward to Secretary Zinke’s appearance before the Interior Appropriations subcommittee in a few weeks to answer questions on this report as well as the Interior Department’s larger reorganization proposal. This report is Exhibit A for why Congress must receive thoughtful and detailed plans before the department proceeds with any further reorganization actions.”