It’s being reported today that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke estimates that around 30% of his agency is not “loyal to the flag.” After the #TakeTheKnee protest this weekend, one might think he literally means “the flag” but he’s talking about the leadership of the Executive Branch—President Trump and his Cabinet.
Like anything reasonable and true, this has the Left sputtering and fear mongering.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Monday that almost one-third of career bureaucrats at his department are “not loyal to the flag,” and not in lockstep with him and President Trump.
Zinke, a former Navy SEAL, took over the 70,000-employee department in March, and has since been working to change the department’s regulatory culture to be more business-friendly.
“I got 30 percent of the crew that’s not loyal to the flag,” Zinke said. “We do have good people, but the direction has to be clear and you’ve got to hold people accountable.”
Zinke alluded to some pretty radical changes, radical to the expectations of federal employees anyway. They balk at any hint of change or suggestion that their jobs and budgets are anything other than permanent.
Zinke made the remarks in a speech to an oil industry group and compared his department to a pirate ship that captures “a prized ship at sea and only the captain and the first mate row over” to finish the mission.
“There’s too many ways in the present process for someone who doesn’t want to get (a regulatory action) done to put it a holding pattern,” Zinke said, noting he is pursuing a major reorganization that would push much of the agency’s decision-making outside of Washington — and move several agencies like the Bureau of Reclamation and Bureau of Land Management to Western states.
Details of the move have yet to be revealed, but Zinke has a strategy.
“Push your generals where the fight is,” Zinke said in his speech to the National Petroleum Council, an advisory committee that includes leaders of the oil and gas industry. “It’s going to be huge. I really can’t change the culture without changing the structure.”
Zinke also said he wants to work to speed up permits for oil drilling, logging and other energy development that now can take years.
“The president wants it yesterday,” Zinke said, referring to permits for energy development. “We have to do it by the law.”
Speaking of holding patterns, expect myriad forces within Washington to do everything in their power to thwart that sort of change. The suggestion that some power be moved out of D.C. is heresy to the denizens of the Beltway bog.
Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) naturally opposes the idea and falsely suggests that federal employees are politically neutral. I suspect she knows better but the civil servants who work in Washington, D.C. skew Democrat and are far from disinterested worker bees, especially when it comes to issues like controlling public land.
— Sen. Maria Cantwell (@SenatorCantwell) September 26, 2017
Cantwell without a hint of cognitive dissonance accused Zinke of not understanding the role of federal civil service.
“Secretary’s Zinke’s comments yesterday betray a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of federal civil service,” the Washington senator said. “They are non-political employees charged with implementing and enforcing laws passed by Congress and have incredible domain expertise in their areas of responsibility.”
The problem is that the role of federal employees does not always square with the actual behavior of the bureaucracy they serve. “Enforcing laws passed by Congress” today means creating reams of regulations based on vague and nebulous legislation. As I said earlier, they are far from non-political, and they are supposed to work for whomever occupies the White House. They are to implement the agenda given to them, not set their own.
Democrats used to like reminding people that elections have consequences. For some odd reason they’ve changed their minds.