Monday, June 19, 2017

New Interior secretary reassigns dozens of career officials, in an unprecedented shakeup

Ryan Zinke (Washington Post photo)
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a former Montana congressman, is reassigning dozens of longtime officials, a shakeup unprecedented in size, report Juliet Eilperin and Lisa Rein of The Washington Post.

The shuffle of career employees in the federal government's Senior Executive Service personnel classification appears to be the start of a broad reorganization of the department, which manages one-fifth of all land in the U.S. A politically appointed official can reassign those with the SES classification only after he or she has been in office 120 days, and that date for Zinke is June 28. "But the letters that three dozen or more Interior officials got Thursday night . . . provides them with 15 days notice of their job change," Eilperin and Rein write. "The notice means their reassignments could take place at the earliest date that is legally permissible. An official with the Senior Executives Association, which represents 6,000 of the government’s top leaders, said the reassignments at Interior could involve as many as 50 people."

The reassignments come just two weeks before federal agencies are to submit initial plans to the White House showing how they can streamline operations and save money. "The exact number of Interior letters sent was not immediately clear Friday, but the push appears much broader than what Republican and Democratic administrations have pursued in the past," Eilperin and Rein report. "Administrations usually wait until the Senate has confirmed appointees that oversee individual agencies within a department; at this point, Zinke remains Interior’s only Senate-confirmed appointee."

Some officials who received notices include the Interior’s top climate policy official, Joel Clement, and at least five senior officials of the Fish and Wildlife Service, nearly a quarter of that agency’s career SES staff, the authors note. "Among the Fish and Wildlife officials are the assistant director for international affairs, Bryan Arroyo; the Southwest regional director, Benjamin Tuggle; and the Southeast regional director, Cindy Dohner." Dan Ashe, who ran the Fish and Wildlife Service under the Obama administration and worked for the agency for more than two decades, told the Post that he has watched every presidential transition since Ronald Reagan took over for Jimmy Carter in 1981, and described the move as "unprecedented."

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