Energy & Environment

Dems ask GAO to investigate Interior staff reassignments

Democratic lawmakers are pressing the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to look into claims that numerous Interior Department employees have been reassigned for political reasons. 

In a letter sent to the GAO on Wednesday, eight Democrats expressed concern that as many as 33 members of the Senior Executive Service (SES) had been improperly reassigned after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke took office last year.

Federal agencies are allowed to reassign employees in SES roles with some limitations. For example, agency heads cannot reassign SES employees until 120 days after they take office.

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“Congress created the SES program to enhance the workforce at federal agencies by developing a group of professionals to ensure delivery of high quality service to the public,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter.

“We are concerned that mismanagement of this program could lead to premature retirements, lower morale within the federal workforce, higher costs for the Department, and discourage talented professionals from entering the SES.”

The letter was signed by Democratic Sens. Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Tom Carper (Del.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Tom Udall (N.M.) and Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Democratic Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. (N.J.), Elijah Cummings (Md.) and Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.).

Cantwell and Democrats on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee previously raised concerns about the reassignments after one Interior Department employee wrote in The Washington Post that he was reassigned for speaking about climate change.

The Interior Department’s inspector general launched an investigation into the reassignments in September in response to a letter from the committee Democrats.

Tags Claire McCaskill Elijah Cummings Frank Pallone Jr. Heidi Heitkamp Interior Department Maria Cantwell Maria Cantwell Ryan Zinke Ryan Zinke Tom Carper Tom Udall

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