Department of the Interior

Bruce Babbitt, Secretary

Mission Statement

The Department of the Interior's mission is to protect and provide access to our nation's natural and cultural heritage and honor our trust responsibilities to tribes. In accomplishing our mission, we will:

Summary Budget Information

FY 1993 (Actual) FY 1996 (Budgeted)
Budget Staff Budget Staff
$7.078 billion 76,880 $6.948 billion 67,150

Reinvention Highlights

In the winter of 1993, I stood before a room packed with land managers who had gathered from all over the Pacific Northwest to try to resolve the timber/spotted owl crisis in the Cascade Mountains.

These would be my first public remarks since taking office only days before, and I looked out over the hushed audience members. They were eager to learn what was expected of them as experienced professionals. Their pride showed in their neatly pressed clothing, and I could make out nearly a dozen different badges on their hats and sleeves: Bureau of Indian Affairs, Oregon Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, Bureau of Land Management, Washington Department of Forestry, California Fish and Game Agency, Bureau of Reclamation, and so on.

I knew my words must set the right tone, give them a monumental challenge, and lay out an agenda for them to follow in the critical weeks and months to follow.

I cleared my throat, and said: "Take off your uniforms." Hundreds of jaws dropped, and the earnest expressions on the faces fell. "That's right," I continued. "In your mind, I want you to rip off the uniform badge of the specific agency or bureau that signs your paycheck and sets you apart, because that uniform will only get in the way of the task we have ahead of us. That uniform is too often a barrier to our common goal of protecting and restoring the natural landscape that we all must share and which binds us together."

Call it reinventing government. Call it common sense. Whatever the name, it has been for me and for my Department of the Interior the first order in policy, the first step of many to come. And we haven't turned back once, any more than the 13 loosely affiliated colonies turned back after declaring themselves, for the first time, the United States of America.

Through this process of an open forum, broken bureaucratic walls, unified brainstorming, and the guidance of sound ecological science, we were together able to forge a landmark agreement to protect old-growth forests while adding value to the sustainable logging carried out elsewhere. Independent scientific associations endorsed the plan. Courts backed us 100 percent. And both employment and growth in the region have hit a 30-year high. We were able to restore the Cascades to their sustainable richness and character.

Creating Partnerships. We then turned reinventing government on the Florida Everglades, where the extraordinary plant, fish, and wildlife of that region were dying off at an accelerated rate. True, there were many concerned agencies seeking to resolve the problem. Trouble was, they were each working in complete isolation from one another.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in charge of the animals, demanded cleaner water flowing into the National Park, which needed changes from the Florida Sugar Industry, which blamed historic changes on the Army Corps of Engineers, which blamed demands of the South Florida coastal cities, where population had doubled in the last 30 years and needed more water as well.

It was only when we ripped off all the badges, halos, white hats, and uniforms that we were able to build consensus to resolve the 50-year-old battle. We pooled our resources, agreed to a goal, and forged the Everglades Forever Act. Critics called this reinvention a sell-out. We called it a good start. Two years later, we were proved correct, as the momentum shifted to back this initial progress with more funds and resources from all parties involved.

Finally, consider California, where Mark Twain once observed: "whiskey's for drinkin' and water's for fightin'." More than a century later, little had changed. Even federal agencies were opposed to one another, and the state agencies stood apart from them. We set to work at once and chipped away at the walls between organizations and founded a reinvented group we called Club Fed.

By 1995, weary of conflict, failed legislative proposals, and grandiose water export schemes, California's cities, agriculture, and environmental groups came to our table and stayed there until, working together, we hammered out an agreement. Using the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act as backstops, we decided how to manage the statewide water system to leave enough "in the stream" to protect salmon runs and migrating waterfowl, and how to restore the fisheries of San Francisco Bay. The result was the Bay Delta Protection Plan, acknowledged by California's governor as the state's equivalent to the Middle East peace accord.

Delegating Authority. By breaking down barriers and building partnerships, our people are working more effectively to get the job done. We are using information technology to save time and money. We are empowering our employees by giving decisionmaking authority to field offices. And we are getting back to basics by concentrating on our core programs, which include managing and protecting our national parks and public lands, providing leadership in natural resource sciences, and fulfilling our trust responsibilities to Native Americans. We are shifting our resources to field offices on the ground to help meet our customers' needs.

For example, the National Park Service has reorganized to move people and resources out of headquarters offices and into the parks. The Park Service has already reduced its central office staff by 25 percent, reduced its 10 regional offices to seven field offices, and moved hundreds of employees out to the parks. The Park Service is putting its resources where they are needed -- in the parks, serving visitors.

Here's another example. The Bureau of Reclamation, once the government's premier dam builder, has fundamentally reinvented itself into a customer-oriented water management agency. Reclamation has reduced its budget, tripled its supervisory ratio, and reduced management layers from five to three. What do these changes mean to Reclamation's customers? Water users will see quicker decisions on the certainty of water supplies. Safety inspections of dams throughout the West will happen faster. Projects to aid salmon migration will be planned and built with less delay. In other words, Reclamation's customers will receive quicker, more responsive service, and more decisions will be made by field-level staff who are directly responsible for projects.

These are just a few examples of how we are reinventing the Interior Department. We will continue to embrace the concepts of customer service, empowerment, and partnership as we change the way we do business.


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