Thursday, April 06, 2017

DuBois column

Budgets, Bureaucracies, Bundys and biased reports

Budget blues

On his first full day as Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke rode a horse to work. That was promising, even though it was an ugly Park Service horse. Not so promising was his remarks to an audience of Interior employees.

In an apparent attempt to curry favor Zinke told the gathering he had seen the President’s proposed budget cut of 10 percent and he was “not happy.” “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.” In retrospect, Zinke should realize how inappropriate, indeed how stupid, it was for him to say this.

President Trump has released his budget blueprint, and what a dandy it is, proposing to decrease federal spending in many of the agencies. Here are the top ten agencies based on the size of their cuts:

EPA -31%
State -29%
Ag -21%
Labor -21%
HHS -18%
Commerce -16%
Edu -14%
HUD -13%
Transp. -13%
Interior -12%

That’s right sports fans. After “fighting” with the President Interior’s cut went from 10 percent to 12 percent! And what does Zinke say now? “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.”

We would have loved to witness the meeting between Zinke and the President. In my imagination it probably went something like this:

ZINKE:  Mr President, thanks for seeing me today, but I must object to your proposed budget for Interior. A 10 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. 

The budget blueprint doesn’t have specifics yet, so we don’t know how it will affect the BLM, USFWS,  Forest Service and other land management agencies. The blueprint did, however include this language:

The Budget requests an increase in funding for core energy development programs while supporting DOI’s priority agency mission and trust responsibilities, including public safety, land conservation and revenue management. It eliminates funding for unnecessary or duplicative programs while reducing funds for lower priority activities, such as acquiring new lands.

That means the Land and Water Conservation Fund is a “low priority” for the President and would decrease by $120 million.

And the President wasn’t done.

E.O. on Reorganization

On March 13 the President issued an Executive Order requiring a comprehensive plan to reorganize the executive branch of the federal government. Announcing the order in the Oval Office and surrounded by his Cabinet members, the President said, “there is duplication and redundancy everywhere.”  Agency heads will have 180 days to submit efficiency plans and reorganization proposals to OMB. The public will also have the opportunity to suggest improvements to the executive branch. After the public comment period, OMB will have 180 days to submit a document to the president. “The proposed plan shall include, as appropriate, recommendations to eliminate unnecessary agencies, components of agencies, and agency programs, and to merge functions,” the order reads. The order also says the proposed plan “shall include recommendations for any legislation or administrative measures necessary to achieve the proposed reorganization.”

The White House statement also included the following information about previous attempts on this type of effort:

The Executive Branch has failed to fully follow through 53% of the time, failing to act on 243 of the 459 GAO recommended actions to reduce bureaucratic duplication and waste.
Congress has failed to fully follow through 62% of the time, failing to act on 53 of the 85 GAO recommended actions to reduce bureaucratic duplication and waste.
In 2016, the GAO identified 92 additional actions to reduce duplication and waste.

The implication being that this time, by golly, there would be follow through. Best watch for the dates when the public will have the opportunity to comment.


Last month I wrote there were three Bundy-related trials happening. I forgot about the bench trial of the four Oregon defendants on the misdemeanor charges, so there are a total of four trials to be watching. Here is the status of those trials as I write this column.

On the felony charges against the remaining four defendants in the Oregon standoff, the jury found two guilty of conspiracy and two were found not guilty.  One was found guilty of carrying a firearm in a federal facility and two were found not guilty, and two were found guilty of depredation of government property.

On the misdemeanor charges against the four Oregon defendants, the judge, after denying them a jury trial, found all four defendants guilty of trespass and tampering with vehicles and equipment.

On the charges against the attorney, the prosecution has recommended all charges be dropped, and the judge has so ordered.

In the trial against the initial “lesser” defendants in the Nevada standoff trial, the prosecution has just rested and the defense has begun to make their case. We may have a verdict before this column is published.

On law enforcement and biased reports

Some things just stick in my craw.

Recently, a group of sportsmen’s organizations has initiated a high-level campaign against H.R. 622, which would transfer police authority from the BLM and Forest Service to local law enforcement. The group, which includes such entities as the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the Back Country Hunters & Anglers, is opposed to turning over what they say is this “difficult job” to local authorities, and say it will result in more abuse of the federal lands.

Now think about that. Their position is local law enforcement is competent to investigate murder and rape, but not recreation or wildlife infractions? They are capable of policing neighborhoods and areas where you and I live and work but not the areas where these guys hunt? How ridiculous. The position they are taking is really anti-law enforcement, as it is a slap in the face to the 765,000 state and local officers in the U.S.

Then along comes the Wilderness Society with a report titled “New Mexico Lands and Outdoor Opportunities Lost To The Highest Bidder”, which says we have a history of selling state lands and that’s why Federal lands should never be transferred.  I could make the same claim about the feds - that they have a history of disposing of the federal estate – even though everyone knows the current policy is retention. According to the State Land Office, in the last 25 years, 1991-2016, the state has sold 3,998 acres. That computes to 160 acres per year, or 0.00177 percent of the surface acres controlled by the state. At that rate, it will take 56,250 years to sell off the 9 million acres of state trust land.  What a distorted picture they paint.

Until next time, be a nuisance to the devil and don’t forget to check that cinch.

Frank DuBois was the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003, is the author of a blog: The Westerner ( and is the founder of The DuBois Rodeo Scholarship and The DuBois Western Heritage Foundation

This column originally appeared in the April editions of New Mexico Stockman and the Livestock Market Digest.  


Anonymous said...

Sir: Thanks for your blog and the flavor of your comments. I read this in the am and inevitably think of ol' Derry Brownfield.......Soapweed

Frank DuBois said...

Thank you.

Floyd Rathbun said...

Subject: DuBois column 04/06/2017

This column has some encouraging news about changes in federal agencies that can best be described as a good start. The smart people on these agency committees could have the whole job done in a couple of months if they would just follow the example of New Zealand. See the Hillsdale College Imprimis from April 2004 (Vol 33. No. 4) article by Maurice McTigue for a clear description of how they solved the problem of bloated government in New Zealand that was just like what we have in the U.S. President Trump is on the right path with the EO on reorganization but he will still have to deal with agency employees who refuse to do what the OMB tells them to do.

H.R.622 sounds like another interesting attempt to force federal agencies to fall in line with the original intent of the Declaration and later the Constitution. The article indicates that federal officials will transfer something called “police authority” to local government apparently meaning law enforcement authority rather than police power. However police power and law enforcement authority are not the same thing so I would hope that the legislators are careful with how they use the terms.

As far as I know the use of police power originally was specific to the power of was also referred to as state police power and the police power of the federal government was severely limited by the Founders in the Constitution. Federal police power originated in the form of a delegation of authority from the various states and can best be seen in the enumerated powers. There is no general delegation of law enforcement authority in the Constitution and Congress is clearly aware of this. For example the FLPMA contains a clause instructing federal officials to pay local law enforcement agencies to complete law enforcement on federal lands (Sec. 303 (1) and (2) of the Act in the Session Laws (see also in 43 USC 1733)). Congress didn’t do that to save money; they lack authority and jurisdiction for law enforcement or police power in any areas outside of a federal enclave and must depend on the jurisdiction of state and federal government.

Our problem comes from the multitude of definitions of the term “public lands”. BLM says any place they go is public land but Forest Service does not even use the term. We probably can solve the confusion by sticking with the definition provided by the US Supreme Court when it states in Bardon v Northern Pacific R. Co.: “It is well settled that all land to which any claims or rights of others have attached does not fall within the designation of public lands.”

That definition is repeated in well over 100 court cases and Congress fully understood what it meant as indicated by the Savings Clause of the FLPMA and other federal statutes. See for example FLPMA Title VII Section 701 (h) (also 43USC1701) “(h) All actions by the Secretary concerned under this Act shall be subject to valid existing rights“ Valid existing rights were created by entry onto what had been Federal Territory and upon establishment of claims or grants the jurisdiction of the federal government ended for the land in question.
It appears that the federal officials are generously offering to delegate authority to state and local officials that the do not have. They are trying to give powers to the states that already belong to the states and the real issue is how do we get the federal officials to stop doing things that are not specifically delegated to them by the Constitution.

That is the same question that they asked in New Zealand. When New Zealand asked each agency to identify things that they were doing which were not authorized by law and proceeded to eliminate any programs that were not necessary they reduced the government employment by 66% and the overall cost of government by half or more. President Trump can do the same thing and possibly better.