Energy & Environment

Interior looked at $200k estimate to fly secretary’s flag

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The Interior Department took estimates for setting up four flag poles outside its main building in Washington, D.C., to fly personal flags for Secretary Ryan Zinke at a cost as high as $200,000, according to internal emails released Monday by the agency.

The department ultimately decided against installing the new poles, the documents show, choosing instead in March 2017 to use three smaller, existing poles on top of its building. 


It approved the purchase of three flags at a cost of $189.51 each from the National Flag Company, according to the emails. The flags are 5 feet by 9.5 feet.

The emails were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and posted publicly by Interior.

Zinke has received media attention for his desire to fly specialized flags above the department that would signify his presence. Zinke is a former Navy SEAL. An Interior spokeswoman said he wanted to fly the flag as a way of restoring honor and tradition to the department.

“Secretary Zinke has a deep respect for tradition. Since his confirmation, the Secretary has made a concerted effort to uphold, and in this case, revive long-held traditions at Interior,” Spokeswoman Heather Swift told the Hill.

She confirmed that no action was taken on ordering a new pole.

Critics have mocked the use of the flags, comparing Zinke to the Queen of the United Kingdom.

The emails showed that the General Services Administration provided an estimate to Interior that placed the new poles to fly the specialized flags would cost $40,000 to $50,000 per pole. The new poles were needed because Interior intended to fly much larger flags, which the existing poles would not have been able to accommodate.

In one email released by Interior, Office of Facilities and Administrative Services Director Joseph Nassar wrote that the larger flags would have “compromised” the existing poles.

Nassar added in his email that the only viable locations for the new, larger poles would be at two Washington, D.C., parks located close to the department’s entrance. The parks are considered federal property, as are all parks in the city.

“The parks are the recommended choice because if we installed poles closer to the building (e.g., landscape beds or near steps), the flags would smack up against the building when it is windy,” Nassar wrote.

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