Oversight: "Policy Priorities at the Department of the Interior and the Administration's Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Proposal"

Full Committee Date: Thursday, March 15, 2018 Time: 10:00 AM Location: Longworth House Office Building 1324

OVERSIGHT HEARING ON:

  • Policy Priorities at the Department of the Interior and the Administration's Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Proposal”

TOPLINE MESSAGES:

    • Reports of questionable spending by Secretary Zinke have raised significant questions about the Department of the Interior’s stewardship of taxpayer dollars.
    • The public deserves a detailed accounting of these questionable expenses, particularly now that the Secretary is before Congress requesting additional funding.
    • Some examples of questionable spending include $138,670 to replace doors in the Secretary’s office; taxpayer-funded helicopter rides in the DC area to accommodate, among other things, horseback riding with Vice President Pence; and taxpayer-funded travel to areas where the Secretary attended political fundraisers (prompting an Inspector General investigation).
    • The numerous examples of questionable spending by the Secretary are especially troubling given the fact that he is simultaneously proposing significant funding cuts for important programs serving the American people.
    • Secretary Ryan Zinke is requesting 14 percent less funding for the Department, despite billions of dollars’ worth of outstanding, critical repairs needed on public lands.
    • Other notable cuts include:
      • Cuts to core climate research and science programs at the U.S. Geological Survey and other agencies, which will make us less prepared to mitigate the impact of global climate change.
      • Deep cuts to operations and other critical accounts at the National Park Service (NPS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service.
      • Drastic cuts to western drought funding – including a 64 percent cut to the WaterSMART Grants program and a 91 percent cut to the Title XVI Water Reuse Program.
      • Deep cuts for the construction of rural water projects, which deliver drinking water to rural and tribal communities without reliable drinking water.
      • A 90 percent cut from fiscal year 2017 levels to land acquisition through the Land and Water Conservation, a popular bipartisan program that Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) refuses to renew despite its impending September 30th expiration.
    • Before we cut vital programs, the public has a right to know whether their money is being spent frivolously on other expenses.
    • The administration’s budget request also includes a lack of serious funding to address sexual harassment, despite thoroughly documented abuses at multiple DOI agencies and at the Department level, preventing us from adequately protecting Department workers’ right to a safe workplace.

    Witnesses

    1. Denise Flanagan
      Director, Office of Budget
      U.S. Department of the Interior
      Washington, DC
    2. Olivia Barton Ferriter
      Deputy Assistant Secretary, Budget, Finance, Performance and Acquisition
      U.S. Department of the Interior
      Washington, DC
    3. The Honorable Ryan Zinke
      Secretary
      U.S. Department of the Interior
      Washington, DC