INTERIOR:

Salazar weighs agency reorganizations

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar today said he is considering a reorganization of the agencies he oversees -- with the Bureau of Land Management and the Minerals Management Service being prime targets.

Given recent scandals at MMS and reports by watchdogs showing major deficiencies in federal royalty collections, Salazar said he would concentrate on agencies that oversee energy resources. But even the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service will come under scrutiny, he told the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee.

Interior will ask "why do we have different regions, are we organized in the right way, would it make more sense to be organized along major watersheds or the different ways in which we can do that," Salazar testified. "I think it's important at the beginning of the administration to really take a hard look at those issues, and I will be doing that once we have our full management team in place."

After the hearing, Salazar said President Obama had instructed Cabinet members to look for ways to make government function more efficiently.

"So we will look at how we are organized to see whether we can do a better job, to see where there are places where we can reduce costs, to see where we can make a better investment," he said. "That's all part of what we're going to do with a broad management review of the department of Interior."

Salazar said he has some general ideas for restructuring agencies that collect royalties but did not offer specific proposals.

"The place where we are most focused on looking at potential reorganization has to do with MMS and BLM," he said. "And we don't have our people in place yet, so we're looking at different concepts but don't have anything specific."

While other agencies may face less dramatic changes, they still may see some significant shifts.

"I think, by and large, the organizations as they exist, the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, they will remain the same, with the exception that we may do some realignment, for example, of regions or allocation of resources. We should go through all our programs and see which ones make sense and see which ones may have outlived their usefulness. So we'll do that across the department."

Rep. John Olver (D-Mass.) had asked whether Interior plans to close a Park Service office in Boston, but Salazar said he was not aware of any effort to do so.

It may be some time before the secretary has his team in place to begin the management review. Besides Salazar, the Senate has confirmed one other Interior nominee, Tom Strickland as Interior assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks. A Senate bid today to bypass the "hold" on Interior deputy secretary nominee David Hayes by two Republicans failed by three votes.