Trump’s Bureau of Land Management Offshoring Was Part of a Familiar Republican Handbook
In his 1981 inaugural address, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed, “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” The goal, plain and simple, was to portray the federal government as an unnecessary evil.
Reagan succeeded beyond his wildest dreams and those of his advisers, paving the political path for a Republican Party that has elevated anti-government grievances to an article of faith. The destructive impacts of the ensuing cuts to Medicaid, housing assistance, food aid, unemployment compensation and other crucial programs are still with us.
The Trump administration, despite vaguely unorthodox campaign rhetoric, has followed the same playbook. Trump’s chief of staff Mick mulvaneyMick Mulvaney Jan. Committee 6 issues latest round of subpoenas for rally organizers The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Alibaba – To vote or not? Pelosi faces January 6 infrastructure decision, subpoenas including Pierson and other rally organizers PLUS openly jubilee on how many federal employees he was going to kick out of jobs by making their lives miserable.
A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, released last month, offers first-hand information about the wrongs done by Trump and his lieutenants as they mistreated federal employees, both intentionally and grossly negligently. It sets out a very clear warning of what lies ahead the next time a Republican president uses that same playbook – a warning every American should heed.
Almost as soon as he took office, Trump appointed heads of federal agencies who openly disregarded the agencies they had been appointed to head. Energy secretary Rick perryRick Perry What We Learned From The Meadows Documents Trump’s War With The GOP Is Infiltrating Midterm Republicans Keen To Face Spanberger In Virginia MORE ran for president promising to abolish the department he later supervised. Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott pruittEdward (Scott) Scott Pruitt Understanding the barriers between scientists, the public and the truth Overnight Energy & Environment – Biden returns to the official boundaries of pre-Trump national monuments A member of the EPA’s board of directors Trump era sues for dismissal MORE got his job because he relentlessly pursued the agency as Oklahoma’s attorney general.
As chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, I have seen this unfold at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which manages over 245 million acres of public land, or one in 10 acres in the United States. To head the agency, Trump appointed a man named William Perry Pendley, who called BLM “the worst neighbor you can imagine” and, in a former position in the Reagan administration, had been caught undervalue coal mining leases for the benefit of industry at public expense.
One of Pendley’s primary goals under Trump was to move the BLM staff headquarters from the Washington, DC area to Grand Junction, Colorado. The plan was originally devised by the former Home Secretary Ryan zinkeRyan Keith ZinkeWatchdog: Trump official bolstered former employer in interior committee composition Overnight Energy & Environment – Biden formalizes return to pre-Trump national monuments boundaries Want to assess Donald’s judgment Trump? Listen to Donald Trump PLUS, who resigned amid several ethics inquiries less than a year after taking office. the reason given for the relocation of BLM was to bring staff “closer to the land and the resources they manage”, something Pendley spoke of with great urgency despite 97% of the agency’s staff already working in the field
The BLM is not as recognizable by name as the National Park Service, but the agency is extremely important to the fossil fuel industry, which leases millions of acres of public land for drilling and mining. . One of the few groups to applaud the movement was a fossil fuel pressure group called the Western Energy Alliance, which is pushing for more drilling and mining on federal lands, low environmental standards, and low public royalties.
When my committee colleagues and I asked for analyzes showing the need to relocate BLM’s headquarters, or plans to keep key staff in place to maintain institutional knowledge, or an understanding of the impact the move might have on black agency employees, over 40% of them worked at head office, we were either given superficial answers or met with total silence. The Committee sent letter after letter after letter after letter after letter ask for clear answers. In September 2019, we held a hearing on the plan in which Mr. Pendley testified. In each case, the administration dodged our questions and responded to our requests with irrelevant information or documents already public.
In March 2020, under the threat of summons, the administration finally sent the committee a note of approximately 20-page “Business Case” for the move. It offers little more than vague descriptions of the alleged public benefits of the move, no beyond wishful thinking workforce impact analysis (as documented by GAO), and no realistic snapshot of the damage. that the move ultimately caused.
As the Washington post First reported, GAO’s new analysis found that within a year of the move, BLM’s headquarters saw an increase of more than 200 vacancies, as the number of black employees was further reduced. half. BLM employees said the move hampered their ability to do their jobs, and those who had not yet resigned described a team without a sense of leadership and unable to function beyond day-to-day operations.
The sad truth is that it was republicanism in action. The BLM headquarters move was not designed to solve a real problem. Much like Reagan before him, Trump was happy to throw officials under the bus in the name of the angry anti-government philosophy that still drives party leaders in Washington today.
Dismissing dedicated career public servants and empowering big business and their lobbyists is not a good way forward, but it is what Republican leaders continue to promise and do. We should start paying more attention to the consequences and remembering that the alternative to a fairly treated, productive and hardworking federal workforce is not a free enterprise utopia. It’s the Robber Baron era again.
Raúl M. Grijalva chairs the House Committee on Natural Resources. He has represented southern Arizona in Congress since 2003.