President Trump Looks To Slash Nearly 4,000 Interior Department Jobs
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
President Trump wants to slash the size of the federal government. Agencies have until the end of the week to come up with proposals for overhauling their workforces. One of the biggest cutbacks would be at the Department of the Interior, where thousands of jobs could be cut. NPR's Brian Naylor reports.
BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: In testimony last week before a Senate panel, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke outlined his plans to cut spending at the department by some 13 percent.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
RYAN ZINKE: This is what a balanced budget looks like. I want to repeat that. This is what a balanced budget looks like.
NAYLOR: What it looks like is 4,000 fewer employees at Interior, some 3,800 positions cut at the EPA, more than 2,000 at the State Department. J. David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest government workers union, looks at the scene with dismay.
J DAVID COX: The Trump administration is trying to make the federal government go away one bite at a time, one chip at a time.
NAYLOR: Cox says the cutbacks add up to more than 27,000 federal job cuts government-wide. Within the Interior Department, it means 1,000 fewer positions at the Bureau of Land Management, the agency that's tangled with those like Cliven Bundy who believe the federal government controls too much western land. Jeff Ruch is director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a watchdog group. He says the proposed cutbacks at BLM run counter to other goals of the Trump administration.
JEFF RUCH: BLM, even though it's one of the most thinly staffed agencies in federal service, is also central to the Trump plans to increase energy production on public lands. So I don't understand how they do that by taking almost one quarter of the cuts just out of this agency.
NAYLOR: An agency that oversees public lands the combined size of Texas and Montana. The National Park Service would be similarly hard-hit by the proposed budget cuts. Some 323 million people visited the national parks last year. Interior Secretary Zinke says there's now too much bureaucracy at his department.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
ZINKE: We have too many middle management and above and too few in the parks.
NAYLOR: But Jane Lyder, an Interior Department official in the Obama administration who did a stint as acting superintendent at the Grand Canyon National Park, says that's not true. Zinke's cuts, she says, will mean fewer rangers in the parks.
JANE LYDER: They're the people that make sure you're safe. They're the rangers. They're the people who greet you. Those aren't mid-level managers. And those are the positions that are being cut.
NAYLOR: It won't be until Congress sets the department's budgets that the exact scale of the personnel cuts will be determined. Many of the cuts are likely to come through leaving retirement and other vacancies unfilled. Cox of the government employees union says voluntary buyouts come after that.
COX: But if they don't get enough people to volunteer, then they start reductions in force, which is a very, very disruptive process to an agency.
NAYLOR: It's not clear how much job cuts at Interior and other departments will save the government because other agencies, including Defense and Homeland Security, are set to see even bigger increases in hiring. Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington.
(SOUNDBITE OF SYLVAN ESSO SONG, "COFFEE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.