Strengthening the Department’s Ethical Culture

To: All Department of the Interior Employees

This morning, my first briefing upon swearing-in as Secretary was with the Department’s Designated Agency Ethics Official. I was reminded of the trust placed in each of us to conduct ourselves with integrity and a focus on ethics. As servants to the American people, we have the distinct honor and responsibility of stewarding our Nation’s public lands and natural resources for the good of all Americans. Our understanding and observance of Federal ethics rules are essential to maintaining that trust and carrying out our mission.

As one of his first actions upon taking office, President Trump signed an executive order with ethics guidelines for executive branch appointees. As your Secretary, I pledge to adhere to the principles outlined by the President and in our ethics statutes, the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch, and the Department’s supplemental agency ethics regulations. The first general principle outlined in the Standards of Ethical Conduct is that public service is a matter of public trust and I intend to continue to live that example here at the Department. Indeed, all fourteen general principles contained in the Standards of Ethical Conduct form the solid foundation on which we will build a stronger ethical culture within the Department.

In recent years, much attention has been given to lapses in judgment by a few employees. While issues have been raised and, in some cases, actions have been taken to address them, similar problems seem to reemerge. I expect us to do better. We must conduct ourselves at all times with integrity and a focus on ethics.

During my tenure as your Secretary, I intend to make holding one another accountable to the highest ethical standards a top priority. As such, I have asked the Deputy Secretary (a) to consult with the Designated Agency Ethics Official, the Solicitor, and the Office of the Inspector General and (b) to report to me 30 days from today on actions to improve the Department’s adherence, oversight, and accountability regarding the Federal ethics rules.

My core values were shaped by my family and community in Montana and they were strengthened during my 23 years serving as a U.S. Navy SEAL. Integrity, personal responsibility, and respect are chief among them. I look forward to working with you on promoting an ethical culture we can all be proud of here at the Department of the Interior.

Secretary Ryan Zinke