Frequently Asked Questions about the DOI Reorganization

Regions & Reorganization Rationale

1. Why do you want to reorganize Interior?

Secretary Zinke’s vision is to:

  • Plan for and modernize the Department for the next 100 years of land and water management, and better coordinate collaborative conservation, recreation, and permitting
  • Shift resources to the field; with more focus on local decision-making and less emphasis on Washington, D.C.
  • Improve collaboration and coordination across our bureaus, and with other agencies to facilitate better coordination of collaborative conservation, recreation, and permitting
  • Empower the field to more easily resolve conflicts and be more responsive to the public on regional resource issues.

2. How and why is Interior changing long-standing regional boundaries?

We followed the philosophy of John Wesley Powell, the second director of the U.S. Geological Survey (1881-1894), in taking a science-based approach looking at watersheds, wildlife corridors, and ecosystems to propose boundaries generally following state lines in these areas.  We asked for employee, Tribal, State, and Congressional input on this proposal.

This modernization will result in:

  • Reducing bureaucratic barriers to serving the American public.
  • Sharing departmental resources more effectively.
  • More efficient use of program dollars for mission activities.
  • Improving collaboration and coordination among federal, state and local agencies
  • Facilitating joint problem-solving and effective decision-making
  • Increasing authority, decision-making, responsibility, and resources in the field.

3. The proposed regional boundaries split the Navajo Nation between two regions.  How will this impact service delivery to the Navajo Nation?

Tribal consultations are currently in progress to discuss this issue directly with Indian Country.  If tribes do not want to participate in the reorganization, then they will not be required to participate.

Job Security and Relocations

4. Will people lose their jobs or be asked to relocate due to the reorganization?

No one will be forced to move. We believe that the reorganization will facilitate inter-bureau coordination, training, and experience and could enhance employees’ career development and movement of employees among bureaus.

The Department has absolutely no plans to run a Reduction In Force (RIF).

5. Will the Department use Voluntary Early Retirement Authority (VERA) and Voluntary Separation Incentive Payment (VSIP) to facilitate the reorganization?

To the extent OMB and OPM authorize us to use early outs and buyouts, we may consider doing so.

6. Will bureau headquarters functions be moved as a result of the reorganization?

The FY19 President’s Budget included a request for funding to support the migration of bureaus to unified regional boundaries and in some instances to begin shifting some headquarters resources in BLM and FWS west to an as yet unidentified location in order to gradually establish western headquarters for those agencies.  In addition, a few more headquarters positions in the Bureau of Reclamation may be moved to Denver, where many of the Bureau’s central functions are located already.

Interior Regional Directors (IRDs)

7. IRDs will be put in place to address inter-bureau conflict.  What kinds of conflicts are sparking this change?

Overlapping responsibilities and geographic frames of reference often create unnecessary confusion for citizens, businesses, and government.  The various bureaus at the Department oversee a broad range of resources and assets, often close or overlapping, many times with conflicting missions.  Navigating this complex environment can be unduly difficult and time-consuming for all stakeholders. One goal of the reorganization is to create mechanisms within the Department to streamline communications and decision-making.

8. Bureaus often produce conflicting decisions or recommendations because they serve different missions.  How will IRDs resolve this as, ultimately, bureau staff are still accountable to their specific mission? Will front-line supervisors in bureau field offices report to a different superior as a result of the new regional boundaries?

Existing chains of command will stay the same. Conflicts in decision-making will be resolved on a case-by-case basis.  IRDs are there to facilitate a problem-solving environment among bureau regional directors to discover the best way to move forward, supporting all bureau missions.  IRDs will help facilitate regular and frequent communication and coordination among bureaus.

9. What will be the role and scope of responsibilities for each IRD?

The IRD will coordinate the mission and administrative functions that are common to more than one bureau within the region.  The particular responsibilities will likely vary from region to region, as a function of the work of the bureaus within a given region.  The IRD will not have line authority or budget authority. They are there to convene, mediate, and help drive progress within the region, as needed. IRDs will also supervise and administer shared services within the region.  Bureau directors and assistant secretaries will continue to have authority over national policy, budget, personnel, training, uniforms, workforce planning and related functions, as well as line authority over mission areas that are unique to particular bureaus.  IRDs do not change the existing authorities or chains of command within bureaus, since their primary mission is to enhance regional coordination and resolve conflicts.

10. Who will serve as IRDs for these new unified regions?  

Existing bureau SES leaders will serve as IRDs on a rotational basis.  The current chains of command will stay the same.

How Will Unified Regions Work?

11. How will the bureau regional directors coordinate with their counterparts in other bureaus in the same region?

Bureau regional directors will continue to work with their colleagues in other bureaus following regular procedures.  If a conflict arises between bureaus, or if additional support is required to move a project forward, IRDs will be able to assist with coordination, communication and joint decision-making.

12. How will the new regional boundaries affect how employees do their every day jobs in the field? How will the Department ensure that institutional knowledge is preserved and applied appropriately through the reorganization process?

The new regional boundaries should have very little impact on field operations. Employees can expect more leadership support for taking steps to coordinate more closely with other bureaus or other federal agencies.  This transition will take place over time. Colleagues you currently work with will still be available for consultation throughout the transition period so that no institutional knowledge is lost.

13. Considering most DOI bureaus have fewer than 12 regions, this would increase the number of SES Regional Directors.  Would this require hiring more SES positions?

Currently, not all bureaus have senior leadership in each of the proposed unified regions.  During the first year or so of the transition period it is likely that an SES leader from one region could have virtual responsibilities in another region.  In the future, the total number of bureau SES leaders could increase so that each region has a senior executive where a bureau has a significant presence.

14. Different regions have different priorities (e.g., invasive species vs. wildland fire prevention, etc.).  How will these variations be addressed?

While the President and the Secretary will set national goals for the Department, bureau directors will continue to have the ability to apply and interpret policies and set priorities, based on the local conditions as appropriate, within their regions. The needs of the public will be of paramount importance.  The unified regions will be better suited to address as yet unforeseen issues that will arise in the future.

Shared Services

15. What services will be shared?

We are looking at potentially sharing HR, IT, and procurement.  Other activities could be considered for shared services in the future.  We will be able to identify specifically which ones as the new unified regions begin working together.  

16. How will this impact bureau and office budgets?

We are considering how to coordinate permitting, recreation, and collaborative conservation activities within each region. We are also considering shared services to reduce administrative redundancies by sharing core services across bureaus, which will maximize the use of program dollars for program activities.

17. How will this impact employee access to core services (HR, IT, etc.)

Our goal is to improve efficiency while maintaining or improving service.  Employees should experience an increase in service accessibility and quality.