Salazar Names Senior Interior Officials to Lead Minerals Management Service Restructuring

Last edited 09/29/2021

WASHINGTON, DC - As the federal government continues its comprehensive response to the Deepwater Horizon incident and investigates the cause of the explosion and oil spill, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today directed Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget Rhea Suh and Senior Advisor Chris Henderson to oversee a restructuring of the Minerals Management Service that will ensure the independence of the agency's inspections and enforcement mission.

Salazar also sent a letter to Congressional leaders asking for their ideas and input on his plan to reform the agency.

“We have a responsibility to ensure that the operation and oversight of offshore operations are following the law, protecting the workers, and guarding against future incidents and spills,” Salazar said in the letter to Congressional leaders. “The reforms will change the way the Department of the Interior does business in the offshore program to ensure that we fully attain these goals,” the Secretary said. “We are increasing inspections, investigating the root causes of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, expanding our review of exploration plans, and planning a restructuring of the Minerals Management Service.”

Salazar said the changes to the organization of MMS will achieve the following principles:

  • Independent safety enforcement function;
  • Full enforcement authority;
  • Priority attention to safety and environmental values; and
  • Application of best technology and cutting edge science.

“I want to solicit your input on our plans to restructure MMS operations to separate the inspection, investigation, and enforcement operations from the leasing, revenue collection, and permitting functions,” Salazar said in his letter to Congressional leaders.

Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget Rhea Suh and Senior Advisor Chris Henderson will bring valuable experience and expertise to the restructuring, said Salazar.

“Rhea and Chris are the caliber of leaders we need to help reorganize MMS,” the Secretary said. “They have outstanding organizational, strategic planning, business administration and performance management experience in the public and private sectors that will be invaluable in restructuring this agency.”

As Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget, Suh oversees programmatic, administrative and financial policy for the Department, including the organization of the department, its bureaus and its $12 billion annual budget. Before becoming Assistant Secretary, she served as a manager at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

Senior Advisor Henderson currently oversees Interior's investment of more than $3 billion under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Following a career as managing director of Vestar Capital Partners, a leading private equity firm managing more than $7 billion in capital, he served as the chief operating officer for Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper from 2006 until coming to Interior in 2009.

On May 11, Salazar also announced that the Administration submitted to Congress a proposal to provide an additional $29 million for inspections, enforcement, studies and other activities. This includes approximately $20 million for increased inspections of other platforms, engineering studies, and enforcement of safety regulations for other offshore platforms, another $7 million for more comprehensive evaluations of policies, procedures and actions that may be needed in light of the Deepwater Horizon incident, and $2 million for the Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey or others to conduct general environmental studies.

The Administration also is proposing to eliminate a 30-day congressionally-mandated deadline for the Minerals Management Service (MMS) to act on exploration plans that oil and gas companies submit. Changing this 30-day mandatory deadline to a 90-day timeline that can be further extended to complete environmental and safety reviews, as needed, would provide MMS more time to conduct additional environmental analysis on an exploration plan.

Among the major actions Secretary Salazar has taken in response to the Deepwater Horizon incident, he has

  • Ordered immediate inspections of all deepwater operations in the Gulf of Mexico. The inspections of deepwater drilling rigs found Incidents of Non-Compliance (INC) on two rigs. Those violations were corrected and no other violations were found. To view the inspection report, click here. Inspections of deepwater production platforms is ongoing.
  • Issued a safety notice to all operators, reminding them of their responsibilities to follow MMS regulations and to conduct full and thorough tests of their equipment.
  • Established the Outer Continental Shelf Safety Oversight Board within the Department of the Interior with top officials to strengthen Outer Continental Shelf safety and improve overall management, regulation, and oversight of OCS operations.
  • Launched a joint investigation of the incident with the U.S. Coast Guard to determine what happened.

More than 13,000 responders are working to stop and contain the oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon, including 568 employees of the Department of the Interior. Salazar also has dispatched several top Interior policy officials to command posts along the Gulf Coast to coordinate Interior response efforts and activities and support and assist other federal, state and local agencies.

Information on the federal response effort is online at Images from the Houston visit today will be available online at


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