Washington, D.C. – Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) today wrote to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland urging her to return Bureau of Land Management (BLM) headquarters to Washington, D.C., from Grand Junction, Colo., where former BLM Director William Perry Pendley moved it during the Trump administration as part of a largely successful effort to undermine staff morale and force career experts to leave the agency.
The letter, available online at https://bit.ly/3elpaFD, underscores the importance of consulting career staff before executing wide-ranging plans for the agency’s future, which Trump officials very pointedly did not do. Grijalva notes that as a matter of operational efficiency, the distance between Grand Junction and Washington, D.C. – where BLM’s partner agencies, the Interior Department as a whole, and Congress are all located – “serves no legitimate purpose.”
Despite Pendley’s claims, the move to Grand Junction has always been widely regarded as an effort to force staff to leave the agency without any offsetting increases in efficiency or operational performance. In early 2019, Mick Mulvaney, then head of the White House Office of Management and Budget, said of a similar forced move of part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to Kansas City that it was explicitly designed to force staff to quit. Republicans in Washington at the time cheered the move and encouraged the Trump administration to make more federal jobs harder for career staff.
The Committee has sought cost-benefit analysis and other information on the rationale behind the move for several years. As Grijalva writes:
When the Trump administration first announced its intent to move BLM headquarters far outside Washington, D.C., the Committee was prepared to consider the case for its relocation, complete with data-driven justifications and a clear demonstration of benefits. As you no doubt recall, the planning materials BLM sent for the Committee’s review fell far short of making this case. While the Trump administration often rhetorically touted the benefits of the move, they never provided evidence for their claims.
Indeed, the Government Accountability Office found in a scathing review that the Trump administration failed to follow best practices in planning and executing the BLM reorganization and noted agency leadership’s failure to establish, let alone track, substantive goals for the move.
Information released by the Biden administration has shown that nearly 87 percent of the staff impacted by the move to Grand Junction quit, retired, or found other roles within the Department rather than move out West. Even today, a significant percentage of positions remain unfilled, and employee surveys have documented severe damage to staff morale and trust in leadership.
“From the very beginning of this effort, this move was a clearly political effort to dismantle a key public lands agency,” Grijalva said today. “It’s time to call a spade a spade and fix what the Trump administration broke. I applaud Secretary Haaland and her team’s efforts to ensure that staff are engaged and BLM can go back to doing its job. President Biden has set out an ambitious climate agenda, and that agenda will stall unless BLM is working as part of a united Interior Department with high staff confidence and a clear mission.”
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