On March 3, just one day after arriving at his new post on horseback and wearing a cowboy hat, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke addressed his staff at the agency’s Washington headquarters. He spoke of building teamwork, having the right tools for the job and needing to reorganize the department for future challenges. The former Montana congressman and Navy SEAL also vowed to “fight” his boss, President Donald Trump, on the looming Interior Department budget cuts. “I’m going to fight for the budget,” Zinke told his employees. “I looked at the budget. I’m not happy. But we’re going to fight about it, and I think I’m going to win at the end of the day and make sure that our values are articulated, too.”
“America’s public lands are our national treasures and the President’s budget sends a strong signal that we will protect and responsibly manage these vast areas of our country ‘for the benefit and enjoyment of the people,’” he said in a statement, quoting President Theodore Roosevelt, of whom Zinke is an “unapologetic admirer and disciple.” “Before serving in government,” Zinke added, “I served on the front lines for 23 years as a military officer. I can say for certain that this budget allows the Interior Department to meet our core mission and also prioritizes the safety and security of the American people. From supporting tribal sovereignty and self-determination across Indian country to investing more than $1 billion in safe and reliable water management in the western U.S., to budgeting for wildland fire
ZINKE: Mr President, thanks for seeing me today, but I must object to your proposed budget for Interior. A 12 percent cut is politically unacceptable and is, quite frankly Sir, unfair to me and my agency.
TRUMP: Unfair? Mr. Secretary, do you know that EPA is being cut by 31%, State by 29%, Ag 21%, Labor by 21%, and that a total of 9 departments received a larger cut than yours?
ZINKE: Well, uh, no Sir, I wasn't aware...
TRUMP: And isn't the first item in the SEAL CODE, "Loyalty to Country, Team and Teammate,"
ZINKE: That's correct.
TRUMP: Then I strongly suggest that you and Teddy's ghost march right back to Interior and be thankful that certain members of my family intervened or you really would have received your "fair" share of the cuts!
ZINKE: Yes, Sir.