Examining the Department of the Interior's Spending Priorities and the President's Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Proposal
STATEMENT OF SUSAN COMBS
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR POLICY, MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
BEFORE THE HOUSE NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE
ON THE PRESIDENT’S 2021 BUDGET REQUEST
MARCH 4, 2020
Chairman Grijalva, Ranking Member Bishop, and Members of the Committee, I appear before you today to discuss the President’s 2021 Budget Request for the Department of the Interior (DOI). Interior’s 2021 budget totals $12.8 billion in current authority, and the Department will have access to additional emergency suppression resources through the wildfire suppression cap adjustment in the event of a severe wildland fire season.
Our 2021 budget proposes two significant legislative proposals: a package of legislative reforms to improve forest management and reduce wildfire risk, and another to address infrastructure needs in our national parks and wildlife refuges, other public lands, and Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools.
2021 BUDGET PRIORITIES
Interior’s 2021 budget reflects the Administration’s efforts to promote balanced stewardship of our public lands, enhance the safety of our communities, increase energy security, and promote America’s prosperity. At the same time, the budget meets the Administration’s broader economic objective to manage Federal spending with restraint. This budget focuses our resources to take care of the assets we have, expand public access to our lands, and invest where Interior can make a significant contribution to national objectives.
President Trump has been clear in his direction and priorities, setting ambitious goals and challenging Federal agencies to deliver better results. With the overarching goal of supporting continued economic growth and prosperity, his vision for the Department is reflected in a series of Executive Orders and Presidential Memoranda, which are incorporated into our 2021 budget.
This budget invests in wildfire risk reduction through active forest and range management and stronger long-term capability to meet wildfire challenges. The budget promotes economic prosperity through the stewardship of America’s natural resources; expanded opportunities for hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation; and increased access to broadband in rural and Tribal areas.
The 2021 budget prioritizes caring for Interior’s lands and resources by leveraging collaborative conservation partnerships and enhancing the visitor experience at our sites. This budget invests in important operational reforms—revisiting outdated and redundant processes and regulations, strengthening Interior’s ethical culture, and transforming internal administrative operations to deliver better service to Interior’s customers and employees.
My testimony highlights the key investments of Interior’s Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2021.
PROTECTING OUR PEOPLE AND OUR BORDERS
Protection of public safety, Tribal communities, and America’s natural and cultural resources are important elements of Interior’s natural resource and trust mission. This responsibility encompasses a wide range of activities, including emergency response and rescue at our national parks, refuges, and public lands; cooperation with Federal drug intervention efforts; earthquake, flood, drought, and volcano monitoring; and fighting and mitigating the threat of wildland fires affecting communities and natural resources.
Investing in a Stronger Fire Program – Interior’s wildland fire management program faces increasing challenges. The fire season is changing – the period of actively burning wildfires has increased by 60 days, from 5 months to 7 months. Wildfires are also becoming larger. The average number of acres burned from 2000 to 2019 was double the number from 1980 to 1999. Wildfire risk has increased as more people move into communities prone to wildfires—areas referred to as the wildland urban interface (WUI). Since 1990, the WUI acreage has grown by 40 percent, and with it an extraordinary increase in public risk as wildfires encroach on communities.
One of the primary factors driving wildfires is accumulated vegetation. To address this threat, President Trump issued Executive Order (EO) 13855 in 2018, directing active management of America’s forests and rangelands as a comprehensive strategy to reduce wildfire risk. Last year, Interior’s land management bureaus exceeded all the FY 2019 wildfire risk reduction targets set in the EO. This success was due to the hard work and dedication of Interior’s wildland fire employees.
The 2021 budget includes $1.0 billion for Wildland Fire Management activities across Interior, a $50.8 million increase from 2020. The budget supports DOI’s Plan to Transform the Firefighting Workforce to build a more stable and permanent wildland fire workforce better aligned with the challenges of the prolonged period of wildfire activity and the need to more aggressively implement active vegetation management. The 2021 investment focuses on Fire Preparedness and Fuels Management activities to strengthen DOI’s long-term capacity to mitigate wildfire risk.
Interior’s wildland fire management program has grown increasingly dependent on temporary personnel and contract firefighters, a workforce structure that limits the program’s ability to quickly and effectively respond to the extended threat of wildfire. This budget will enable Interior to shift toward a workforce with more full-time professionals and career seasonal employees, strengthening Interior’s ability to maintain its initial-attack success rate, provide effective wildfire response throughout the fire year, and accelerate proactive wildfire risk reduction through increased active vegetation management.
The 2021 budget includes $368.1 million for Preparedness and $227.9 million for Fuels Management activities, a combined program increase of $58.9 million from the 2020 enacted levels for these programs. This includes $50.0 million to strengthen the wildland fire workforce as well as support high-priority fuels treatments on roughly 1.4 million acres of Interior and Tribal lands. These investments will put Interior’s fire program on a more aggressive footing not only to battle wildfires as they occur but also to help impede fires from taking hold, growing in severity, and threatening people and communities. In further support of the Administration’s active forest management strategy, the 2021 budget includes $123.1 million for Bureau of Land Management (BLM) forest and timber management activities and $54.1 million for Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Tribal Forestry programs.
Complementing these investments, DOI and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are working to improve coordination of vegetation management activities. The budget proposes legislation to provide both agencies with the tools necessary to expedite timber salvage operations in response to wildfires, insect and disease infestations, and other disturbances. The legislation would provide categorical exclusions on Interior lands for active forest management, including the ability to harvest dead, dying, or damaged trees along with proactive fuels management such as fuel breaks. Currently, the Department has limited availability of these necessary categorical exclusions for fuels management work.
Law Enforcement – The 2021 budget includes $930.6 million for Interior’s law enforcement programs. The Department of the Interior is home to approximately 4,000 Federal law enforcement officers with duties as varied as the bureaus’ missions. The 2021 budget continues to support law enforcement and public safety operations – which vary from search and rescue in remote public lands, to specialized units in three major cities and law enforcement officers on Tribal lands. Our law enforcement officers have removed millions of dollars’ worth of opioids and other drugs from our communities, locked up drug dealers and criminals, helped protect the border, and saved lives. The 2021 budget continues to support these important missions and includes $3.0 million to address the epidemic of violence and missing persons in Indian Country.
The budget also invests in the communications infrastructure needed by DOI’s emergency response officers, with $4.8 million in the BLM to improve national emergency response communications for all bureaus. This funding will expand and expedite efforts to modernize Interior’s radio infrastructure in the Southwest and deploy FirstNet radio communications as part of a nationwide broadband network to support first responders. This investment also supports the Administration’s objective to expand rural broadband access by enabling Interior’s radio tower infrastructure for use, as feasible, to support commercial broadband services servicing rural communities. BLM is taking other actions to support rural broadband, such as streamlined permitting for cellular tower rights-of-way, which also create lower-cost opportunities to strengthen Interior’s radio communications networks. The budget includes a total of $16.5 million in BLM, the BIA, and the BIE to expand access to broadband in rural and Tribal areas.
Natural Hazards – Interior’s unique science programs support public safety, by helping communities and land managers prepare for and address the aftermath of natural hazard events. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) produces earthquake-monitoring information indicating the severity of events and data helpful in assessing the potential of further risks. USGS’s scientific information is used by emergency responders, policymakers, and the public to mitigate risk from earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, landslides, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, wildfires, geomagnetic storms, and drought. The 2021 budget includes $138.0 million for the USGS Natural Hazards programs to maintain important nationwide monitoring networks and technical assistance. The budget also includes $109.0 million for the USGS Water Observing Systems program, including streamgages. This program maintains a nationwide network of streamflow and water-level information for more than 8,400 sites with data available online—most in near-real time—to meet the needs of natural resource managers, scientists, and community emergency managers.
EXPANDING RECREATION AND ACCESS ON PUBLIC LANDS
Expanding recreation and access on public lands helps strengthen the connection of Americans to these special places and brings economic opportunity to neighboring gateway communities. The millions of Americans visiting Interior’s Federal lands seeking peace and recreation are also helping to grow the booming outdoor recreation industry. Interior’s Economic Report for FY 2018 indicates an estimated 486 million visits to Interior lands in FY 2018 supported roughly $58.1 billion in total economic output.
Expanding Access to Recreation Opportunities – The 2021 budget emphasizes increased opportunities for the American public to access and enjoy their public lands. Public access to recreation is a priority for DOI and Secretary Bernhardt has directed our bureaus to consider the potential impact to the ability for people to hunt, fish, camp, and recreate on Federal lands as part of bureau land management decisions. We recently finalized the 2019–2020 Hunt-Fish Rule, adding new or expanded hunting and fishing opportunities at 77 national wildlife refuges and 15 national fish hatcheries on more than 1.4 million acres across the country. Interior is adding new trails for motorized and nonmotorized recreation, restoring and expanding access to miles of rivers and streams that provide recreation and fish habitat, and adding historical and cultural sites that tell the American story.
The 2021 budget supports the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act and its emphasis on increased public access for recreation. This important public lands legislation enjoys the broad support of the recreation industry, and we have established a task force to ensure its timely and coordinated implementation.
The 2021 budget supports limited and targeted investments leveraging small but key acquisitions to connect areas and expand access for Americans to enjoy existing Federal lands. The budget redirects available prior year land acquisition project funding to invest $10.0 million to acquire public access to DOI areas for recreation. The 2021 budget also proposes $10.0 million to continue the National Park Service (NPS) American Battlefield Protection acquisition grants to local and State governments and non-profit organizations. The 2021 budget does not request funding for line-item land acquisition projects, allowing DOI to focus resources on managing existing lands and assets.
The 2021 budget continues to support permanent funding for the NPS State Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) grants program and does not request additional discretionary funding for this program. In 2021, an estimated $117 million will be available for State LWCF grants through revenue from offshore oil and gas sales in certain areas in the Gulf of Mexico. These grants encourage outdoor recreation and land conservation at the State and local levels.
Enhancing the Visitor Experience – Just as critical as increasing recreational access to Interior lands and historical areas is ensuring visitors have a positive experience during their stay—an important part of Interior’s stewardship responsibilities. In 2021, the budget includes $5.0 billion for land management operations, a healthy 39 percent of the entire 2021 request. This total includes funding for annual maintenance and repairs, management of natural and cultural resources, law enforcement, and visitor services, including interpretative displays and materials, volunteer programs, and concession management. Of that amount, $453.3 million supports visitor services and recreation programs in the BLM, Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and the NPS.
An important component of the visitor experience is the condition of our facilities—their safety, state of repair, cleanliness, and appearance. The repair and enhancement of Interior’s infrastructure remains a priority. Interior manages an infrastructure asset portfolio valued at more than $300 billion, ranging from large dams and canals in the West to iconic national landmarks. In total, the Department is responsible for roughly 43,000 buildings, 100,000 miles of road, and 80,000 structures. Operations, maintenance, recapitalization, and modernization of infrastructure are a significant part of Interior’s annual cost requirements. The 2021 budget includes $1.5 billion for infrastructure requirements, including $1.2 billion for maintenance activities and $334.6 billion for construction programs across the Department.
At the end of FY 2019, Interior reported $17.3 billion in deferred maintenance and repair needs. The Department remains committed to addressing these long-term asset requirements, and the Administration continues to support legislation to establish a fund, derived from a portion of unallocated energy revenues over the next five years, for needed repairs and asset replacement. As part of this effort to address the agency’s long-term construction and maintenance issues, Interior is focusing attention toward appropriate asset management and fiscal accountability across the enterprise.
Interior’s mission requires balanced stewardship of natural resources to meet both the Nation’s economic needs and our responsibility to protect and conserve the wildlife, habitat, and natural vistas of Interior’s lands. Nearly all of Interior’s bureaus have dedicated conservation, natural resource, or wildlife habitat management components.
Emphasizing Recovery – FWS works to conserve wildlife and habitat under specific statutory authorities, including the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and Migratory Bird Conservation Act (MBCA), and manages a network of national wildlife refuges, including some near or in urban areas. FWS biologists actively monitor species populations and their habitat, and the bureau works with sportsmen and sportswomen, States, Tribes, and other partners to restore and enhance tens of thousands of acres of habitat, supporting healthy populations of migratory birds, aquatic life, and many other species.
The 2021 budget emphasizes species recovery programs and proactive conservation partnerships to prevent the need to list species as endangered or threatened. The budget includes $98.4 million for species recovery, $28.6 million for a range of species and habitat-specific conservation and restoration programs to help prevent the need for listing, and $57.2 million for the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, which supports local, non-Federal efforts to leverage the Federal investment.
Balancing habitat conservation and responsible development of resources ensures the best outcome for the people and wildlife that rely on our Federal lands. Interior is working with States and other partners to improve the habitat quality, winter range, and migration corridors for antelope, elk, and mule deer. This work demonstrates that resource development can occur while maintaining important habitat for game species in the West. The 2021 budget includes $23.4 million across Interior bureaus to support Migration Corridors, including USGS work to map how large game animals migrate seasonally across the landscape.
Managing Interior’s Natural Resources – The 2021 budget includes $249.5 million for Wildlife and Habitat Management programs across the 568 units that make up the National Wildlife Refuge System. More than 70 national fish hatcheries also contribute to the FWS mission to conserve, restore, and enhance aquatic species. The FWS budget includes $156.1 million for Fish and Aquatic Conservation programs, with $82.1 million to operate and maintain the national hatcheries and $18.3 million to fight aquatic invasive species, such as Asian carp and zebra mussels, that threaten recreational fisheries, infrastructure, and native fish and wildlife.
The Department’s conservation efforts would not be possible if not for the millions of sportsmen and sportswomen in America who make up the backbone of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. Increased access to hunting and fishing on public lands supports conservation of those lands. Sportsmen and sportswomen help to leverage, roughly two-to-one, the Federal contribution for Interior’s North American Wetlands Conservation Act Grants. The 2021 budget includes $40.0 million for those grants, which support projects to improve the health of wetlands, migratory birds, and nearby water quality. The 2021 budget also includes $31.3 million for State and Tribal Wildlife Grants supporting State and Tribal projects that benefit local wildlife and their habitats through planning and restoration.
The 2021 budget for NPS includes $326.9 million for natural and cultural resource stewardship programs to ensure the national park system of natural, historical, and cultural units remains protected and accessible to all. NPS works to balance the need to protect and conserve the natural resources in its care with the desire to make them available for the enjoyment of the visiting public. NPS actively manages wildlife, habitat, invasive species encroachment, and wildfire risk reduction through active land and forest management for the protection of the resources and the visiting public.
The BLM has a multiple-use mission: to ensure conservation of wildlife and their habitats, unique landscapes, and cultural resources on the public lands, while also managing active resource development and land use, such as for grazing or transmission lines. The 2021 budget includes $493.0 million for land resources, habitat management, resource protection and maintenance, and management of the National Conservation Areas.
The 2021 budget for BLM takes steps to address the current untenable state of the Wild Horse and Burro (WH&B) program. WH&B burro populations on the range have exploded, far exceeding what is healthy for the land and the animals, degrading ecosystem function, and limiting the water and forage available for domestic and wildlife species. The number of animals in off-range facilities and off-range pastures has also exploded, driving up the cost for BLM to care for those animals and consuming most of the program’s resources.
The 2021 BLM budget requests $116.8 million for the WH&B program, an additional investment of $15.3 million. This significant increase, following on the heels of a major boost in funding provided in 2020, will help slow the growth rate of the WH&B populations on the range and could lay the groundwork for implementation of a long-term strategy to reduce the on-range population and achieve appropriate management levels. The 2021 proposal is consistent with congressional direction to pursue a nonlethal management strategy. BLM will continue to emphasize herd gathers and removals of animals and the increased use of all fertility control measures. The bureau will continue efforts to promote more adoptions, including expanding the use of adoption incentive payments. The budget also proposes language to expand BLM’s existing authority to transfer animals to other agencies for work purposes.
FACILITATING RESPONSIBLE ENERGY RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
Interior plays a unique role to help strengthen America’s energy security and independence. As the steward of Federal energy resources—including oil, gas, coal, and other renewable energy resources (solar, wind, and geothermal)—Interior balances energy production with its other land management missions. Interior manages lands, subsurface rights, and offshore areas that produce approximately 18 percent of the Nation’s energy. The 2021 budget requests $796.1 million to encourage the safe development of oil and gas, coal, other minerals, and renewable energy and the strong management of associated revenue on behalf of taxpayers.
These activities generate revenue that directly benefits taxpayers. In 2019, the Office of Natural Resources Revenue disbursed $11.7 billion—nearly twice the FY 2016 total—in energy and mineral revenue from energy activities on Federal lands and waters and on Native American lands. Of that amount, $8.1 billion went either to the General Treasury or to other Treasury special funds (such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund), $2.4 billion was shared with States and local governments, and $1.1 billion was paid to Native American mineral owners.
Under President Trump’s America First Energy Plan, U.S. crude oil and natural gas production has hit all-time highs, with Federal leases generating $10.9 billion in revenue in 2019. United States net energy imports have fallen to their lowest levels since 1982, and the United States became a net exporter of natural gas in 2017. The Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook 2019 expects the United States to become a net exporter of energy overall, including petroleum and other liquids, in 2020.
Offshore Energy – The 2021 request includes $392.8 million to support the responsible exploration, development, and inspection of America’s offshore energy resources. Within this request is $188.8 million for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to manage development of the Nation’s offshore energy and mineral resources in an environmentally and economically responsible way. BOEM’s request includes $60.5 million for conventional energy, $26.5 million for renewable energy, and $75.9 million for environmental studies supporting all activities. BOEM also manages an Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) marine minerals program, making available sand and gravel resources to Federal, State, and local agencies for shore protection, beach and wetlands restoration projects, or construction projects funded or authorized by the Federal Government.
The 2021 budget includes $204.0 million for the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) activities to strengthen the Federal offshore oil and gas inspection program and ensure safe and environmentally sound offshore energy development. BSEE is committed to operating its inspection program at the highest level of effectiveness, while continuously exploring ways to increase the overall efficiency of the program. BSEE is enhancing its inspection program through an annual inspection strategy that includes risk-based inspections—refining permitting strategies based on risk to optimize safety.
Onshore Energy – The 2021 budget includes $195.5 million in current and permanent funding for BLM’s onshore oil and gas activities, of which $139.2 million is requested in direct appropriations. Funding will expand areas available for leasing, expedite permitting, and improve program management. BLM will continue work to streamline leasing processes and speed the review of Applications for Permits to Drill and expand development on the Alaska North Slope. The budget will also help expedite the processing of rights-of-way permits needed to move energy to consumers and industrial users.
The 2021 budget acknowledges the Nation’s continued reliance on Federal coal resources for a significant share of its energy needs. The 2021 budget includes $18.9 million for BLM’s coal management program to reduce permit processing times, simplify the lease application process, strengthen inspection and enforcement capacity, and improve the timeliness to complete lease sale fair market value determinations.
The 2021 budget includes $29.5 million for BLM’s onshore renewable energy programs. Funding supports the review and siting of geothermal resources, wind and solar energy projects on public lands, and rights-of-way applications to connect these projects to transmission lines.
The 2021 budget requests $25.7 million in BIA for Tribal energy and mineral development programs. The budget also proposes to realign the Minerals and Mining Resources program to improve coordination with the Office of Trust Services programs, such as the Indian Energy Service Center. Income from energy and mineral production is the largest source of revenue from natural resources on Indian trust lands. Interior recently updated regulations to simplify the process for Tribes to enter into Tribal Energy Resource Agreements (TERAs) with the Department to better take control of developing energy resources on their land. Although TERAs have been available since 2008, no Tribe has requested one because of the burdensome requirements. The final regulations were developed with input from Tribes during consultation.
In addition, the budget includes $1.1 billion for Bureau of Reclamation programs and operations which play an important role with regard to U.S. energy security. Reclamation owns 78 hydroelectric power plants and operates 53 of those plants and is the Nation’s second largest producer of hydroelectric power. Reclamation generates an average of 40 million megawatt hours of electricity per year, enough to meet the annual needs of over 3.8 million U.S. households.
Energy and Mineral Assessments – Within the USGS, the 2021 budget includes $91.2 million to conduct domestic energy and mineral resource assessments. These assessments inform domestic development and further reduce America’s dependence on foreign energy and critical minerals. For example, last year, USGS provided updated assessments that identified an estimated 214 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered, technically recoverable natural gas resources in the Marcellus and Point Pleasant-Utica Shale formations. USGS and an international research consortium are also evaluating gas hydrates as a potential future energy source.
The USGS budget includes $60.7 million to support mineral resources science, including $31.4 million to further identify U.S. critical mineral resource supplies. Of the mineral commodities tracked by USGS, 35 are now classified as “critical” to the Nation’s economic and national security, meaning those minerals lack viable substitutes and are at risk of potential supply disruption. These include minerals such as graphite, lithium, tin, and rare earth elements, needed for products like cell phones, computers, wind turbines, and electric cars. The budget continues support for the national-scale information needed to identify domestic critical mineral resources and improve the understanding of them.
UPHOLDING COMMITMENTS TO INDIAN COUNTRY AND INSULAR AREAS
Interior is committed to Tribal prosperity and self-determination and works with Tribes to support opportunities in economic development, education, and law enforcement to strengthen communities. The 2021 budget includes $2.8 billion for BIA and BIE programs, including $369.1 million to fully fund estimated Contract Support Costs and Tribal Grant Support Costs. This funding covers the costs of services provided by Tribes that administer under self-determination agreements Federal activities such as social services, natural resource development, and operating schools and detention centers. The budget maintains the separation of funding for BIA and BIE, as enacted in 2020.
The 2021 budget includes $1.9 billion for BIA programs. Proposed program levels reflect priorities identified through the Tribal-Interior Budget Council and focus resources where BIA uniquely serves Tribal needs. This funding advances self-governance and self-determination, fosters stronger economies and self-sufficiency, supports safe Indian communities through a wide range of activities, and provides stewardship of trust resources. In 2021, the budget includes $8.5 million to help expand broadband access to Tribal communities in areas with little or no connectivity. This effort responds to Tribal interest and supports President Trump’s Executive Order to encourage increased access to broadband in rural and remote areas.
The 2021 budget includes $423.7 million for BIA Public Safety and Justice activities, of which $390.4 million directly supports 191 law enforcement programs and 96 corrections programs run both by Tribes and by BIA as direct services. The 2021 budget continues to address the opioid and illegal narcotics crisis, which has been particularly devastating in Indian Country. The budget also includes $3.0 million to support the Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives, also known as Operation Lady Justice, established in November 2019 by President Trump. The objective is to improve response, address investigative challenges, and collect and manage data across jurisdictions. The Task Force will tackle the complex issues that have impeded progress in solving these cases and—in coordination and consultation with American Indians and Alaska Natives—will establish multijurisdictional cold case teams to develop protocols for approaching new and unsolved cases.
The 2021 budget includes $209.7 million for BIA Natural Resources stewardship programs supporting resource conservation, economic use, recreation, and protection of Tribal resource rights. Within that amount is $54.1 million for Tribal forestry programs in support of the Administration’s active forest management reforms. The budget also includes $11.2 million for the Tribal Management/Development Program supporting Tribal management of fish and game programs on Indian reservations. The budget includes $43.9 million for BIA Water Rights Settlements. At this funding level, BIA remains on track to meet current water settlement commitments within the legislated timeframes.
New in 2021, the budget includes $21.6 million for the estimated need for Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDEAA) section 105(l) facility leases as an indefinite current appropriation. This approach is consistent with the budgeting for Contract Support Costs—both requirements have unique legal authority and the actual costs are difficult to predict far enough in advance for budget formulation. The budget proposes one account, Payments for Tribal Leases, to administer both BIA and BIE 105(l) leases.
The 2021 budget for BIE requests $944.5 million to continue core Indian education programs. The budget prioritizes direct support for BIE school operations and services, focusing resources to improve the quality and efficiency of BIE schools. The budget continues support for BIE management reform efforts to deliver better services to schools by building capacity in acquisition, school safety and repairs, performance tracking, and technical support to the field. The budget includes $68.9 million to support facility construction, repairs, deferred maintenance, and capital improvements. The BIE budget also includes an additional investment of $5.0 million to expand and upgrade broadband access at BIE schools to provide a 21st-century learning environment.
The 2021 budget proposes to create the Bureau of Trust Funds Administration (BTFA) to report directly to the Assistant Secretary–Indian Affairs. The proposal positions Interior for the eventual termination of the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians (OST) in accordance with the American Indian Trust Funds Management Reform Act of 1994, reflecting the Department’s successful trust reform efforts. The budget includes $108.4 million for BTFA, which will become the new home for the ongoing essential functions currently performed by OST. The budget also proposes to consolidate and rename certain OST offices to gain efficiencies and reflect functional changes or operational emphasis under BTFA.
The 2021 budget includes $89.2 million in current appropriations for Office of Insular Affairs’ (OIA) programs. The request includes $5.0 million for compensation to the Republic of the Marshall Islands, authorized by P.L. 108-188. In 2021, OIA will continue to implement activities to bolster healthcare capacity, strengthen island economies, and fulfill obligations under the U.S. Compacts of Free Association. OIA will also participate in foreign policy and defense matters concerning the U.S. Territories and the freely associated states. An additional $530.0 million is available for the Insular Areas through permanent appropriations in 2021.
IMPROVING GOVERNMENT SERVICES
President Trump issued EO 13781 to modernize and reform the executive branch, and Interior continues to lead the way, developing and executing strategies to streamline processes and better serve the American people. The 2021 budget implements the President’s Management Agenda with continued investment in process improvement and efficiency, greater use of shared services, information technology security, and workplace reforms.
The 2021 budget supports DOI’s new regional structure and includes $1.5 million for Field Special Assistants (FSAs). The FSAs are working to coordinate region-wide efforts, encourage bureau collaboration, and leverage the new regional structure to innovate administrative processes and encourage expansion of shared services. The 2021 budget assumes the reorganization and relocation of many of the Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters functions closer to BLM’s program operations and customers out West is completed in 2020. This move adds accountability and shifts more decision making to the local level.
Implementing Efficiency 2020 – The 2021 budget implements the findings of third-party comprehensive evaluations of three key, Department-wide administrative functions—Information Technology, Procurement, and Human Capital Services—which identified opportunities to improve and increase the use of shared services across the Department. Through Efficiency 2020 we are moving forward to improve delivery of administrative operations to benefit both Interior’s employees and customers.
The budget includes $13.7 million to modernize and transform Interior’s administrative services to achieve long-term cost avoidance, which benefits Interior’s mission programs. Funding will improve IT interoperability across bureaus – making it easier for all DOI employees to connect to Interior’s network, bureau resources and local printers at any Interior location, while still keeping computer networks of bureaus secure. Other projects include implementing a single talent acquisition system to more efficiently manage DOI’s human resource needs, creating an electronic storefront for DOI’s IT purchases to leverage savings, and incorporating robotic process automation to reduce processing times and errors in repetitive work. Simpler, smarter, and faster operations will produce meaningful and lasting change that stands the test of time.
Implementing shared services continues to be a vital component of our modernization efforts. Interior is collaborating with other Federal agencies as well as working across Interior to improve operations and meet mission needs. As part of this effort, we are deploying GrantSolutions, a shared service managed by the Department of Health and Human Services. GrantSolutions is an end-to-end grants management system, which will improve processing and tracking of grants and cooperative agreements. The 2021 budget includes $6.1 million to cover operating costs of the GrantSolutions enterprise system, budgeted directly in the bureau budgets based on an algorithm of use factors.
Strengthening Information Technology – Interior is taking an enterprise-wide approach to modernize IT systems, enhance IT security, and improve technology business management. The 2021 budget includes $18.0 million for Department-wide cybersecurity activities through the appropriated Working Capital Fund. This investment will accelerate Interior’s compliance with Department of Homeland Security-directed Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) cybersecurity requirements.
The Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) will also continue to implement the General Services Administration’s Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions agency-wide to improve the Department’s network infrastructure and provide a modern platform for our IT services and cloud email and collaboration. This investment lays the technology foundation needed to improve communication and collaboration across Interior bureaus and with our customers. In 2021, we will continue efforts to improve data management to leverage data across the agency to better support evidence-based policymaking for the accomplishment of our administrative and program missions.
Reforming Workplace Culture – We are working to change our workplace culture. The Department has taken steps to address sexual harassment and provide a safe work environment by conducting surveys, issuing policy, conducting investigations into sexual harassment allegations, requiring training, establishing an advisory hotline, and developing a tracking system. We have created a Workplace Culture Transformation Advisory Council, which I chair, to advance comprehensive culture change. Our work addresses issues raised in the annual agency-wide Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey—including antiharassment efforts, building positive work relationships, and building career paths across bureaus. In 2020, the Council is sponsoring 72 in-person training sessions and developing online training for all DOI employees focused on preventing harassing conduct and increasing respect, sensitivity, and inclusion in the workplace.
Secretary Bernhardt remains committed to transforming Interior’s ethics culture and strengthening DOI’s ethics program. Last year, he issued a Secretarial Order to restructure and realign DOI’s ethics personnel and clarify roles and responsibilities. The 2021 budget fully implements this Order by proposing to consolidate ethics staffing and funds from across Interior to the Departmental Ethics Office in the Office of the Solicitor budget. The 2021 budget shifts $14.9 million from bureaus and offices to the Office of the Solicitor to fully support the Departmental Ethics Office.
The 2021 budget also implements reforms to improve Interior’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Program. The budget includes $1.9 million to support a FOIA Office in the Office of the Solicitor to provide greater coordination, tracking, training, and support related to FOIA requests and litigation across Interior.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify on the President’s 2021 Budget Request for the Department of the Interior.
This budget advances key Presidential priorities within budget parameters. The budget invests in active forest management and other efforts to better protect communities from fire, U.S. energy security, ensuring a reliable supply of critical minerals, actions to address the problem of missing and murdered Native Americans and Alaska Natives, and improved broadband access to expand coverage in rural and Tribal areas.
Funding in this budget focuses on delivering Interior’s direct mission activities. The 2021 budget continues to prioritize taking care of the lands and resources Interior oversees, expanding access to those areas for public recreation and enjoyment, and making investments to improve the visitor experience at our sites. We remain committed to the care of Interior’s infrastructure. Complementing our budget request is the Public Lands Infrastructure Fund legislation to provide up to $6.5 billion over 5 years to address the deferred maintenance backlog in our national parks, wildlife refuges, other public lands, and BIE schools.
I look forward to working with you on behalf of the Secretary to support the President’s 2021 budget request. I am prepared to address your questions at this time.