This West Is OUR West

Interior plans to move thousands of workers in the biggest reorganization in its history

By Juliet Eilperin and Darryl Fears

January 10, 2018

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke launched an unprecedented effort Wednesday to undertake the largest reorganization in the department’s 168-year history, moving to shift tens of thousands of workers to new locations and change the way the federal government manages more than 500 million acres of land and water across the country.

The proposal would divide the United States into 13 regions and centralize authority for different parts of Interior within those boundaries. The regions would be defined by watersheds and geographic basins, rather than individual states and the current boundaries that now guide Interior’s operations. This new structure would be accompanied by a dramatic shift in location of the headquarters of major bureaus within Interior, such as the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Reclamation.

As part of the reorganization, Zinke brought 150 Senior Executive Service staffers to Washington this week to explain his proposal, get their input and split them into working groups that discussed ways to streamline the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Fish and Wildlife Service and other key agencies. Participants identified alternative cities outside Washington, Denver and Albuquerque where thousands of employees could live with suitable schools and homes they can afford. The department has 70,000 employees.