Friday, September 04, 2020

Interior misled Congress about BLM move, watchdog finds

"Top Interior Department officials misled Congress when they claimed high office rent in Washington, D.C., was a factor in the need to move the Bureau of Land Management to a new headquarters in Colorado, the agency’s internal watchdog found," Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill. "A report on Tuesday from Interior’s Office of Inspector General found that two officials overplayed the cost of BLM’s M Street SE lease near Nationals Park as a motivating factor in the move, as the agency already had plans underway to return to office space owned by the government."

The report found that the claims were misleading and that the future lease cost of the property was irrelevant. "Interior announced in July of last year that it would move more than 200 of BLM’s Washington-based employees to existing offices across the West, while putting nearly 25 of its top-ranking leaders at a new headquarters in Grand Junction, Colo. The move would leave just 61 of BLM’s 10,000 employees in Washington."

Interior's cost-benefit analysis was a two-page document that "did not weigh the costs of finding a new lease elsewhere in D.C. or within existing government office space, nor did it evaluate other potential locations," Beitsch reports.

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