WASHINGTON – The Trump administration’s decision to move the Bureau of Land Management headquarters from Washington to Grand Junction, Colorado has resulted in high vacancy rates at the agency as veterans – especially African Americans – are fired rather than moved. said in a report released this week.
Senior Interior Department officials under President Donald Trump argued the move was necessary to bring senior officials closer to the agency’s federal land, much of which is in the western half of the United States.
But a report from the Government Audit Office criticized the decision, saying the agency did not have a “strategic workforce plan” to guide its decision-making. As a result, the move forced many employees to leave rather than move to Colorado, the report says.
Out of a total of about 560 employees, 134 have left the Bureau of Land Administration following the announcement of the move in 2019. Of the remaining 176 people were asked to move, but 135 people refused.
The report, previously reported by The Washington Post, said other decisions at the agency at the same time – such as changes in its organizational structure – led to additional departures and increased dependence on “details” or employees of other agencies. who are temporarily appointed to fulfill their duties in the vacated position.
The result, the report says, was “a loss of headquarters staff, an increase in headquarters vacancies, a loss of experienced staff, and a decrease in the representation of staff from certain races and nationalities. The increase in the number of vacancies and the details used to temporarily fill those vacancies sometimes led to confusion and inefficiency. “
In September, Home Secretary Deb Haaland announced that she had decided to reverse the Trump administration’s decision to move the headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management.
But MP Raul M. Grihalwa, an Arizona Democrat and chairman of the House of Representatives’ Natural Resources Committee, requested a report from the State Accountability Service. He asked the accounting department to look into changes in the bureau’s staff following the Trump administration’s decision.
The authors of the report said it was difficult to assess the full impact of the move and other changes at the 8,800-person agency, as officials did not maintain comprehensive data on vacancies and other personnel issues.
Since the move to headquarters, the report says there have been only minor changes in the racial and ethnic makeup of the entire agency.
Before the move, about 83 percent of the bureau’s staff were white, about 8 percent Hispanic, about 3.3 percent black, and the rest Native American, Asian or otherwise. Since that change, there have been 80 percent of whites, 9.5 percent of Hispanics, 3.1 percent of blacks, and a slightly larger proportion of people from other racial and ethnic groups.
But the report says the changes in the racial makeup of the headquarters staff were much more significant.
Black employees made up more than 21 percent of the staff at the Bureau of Land Administration headquarters – possibly reflecting the population of Washington, D.C., which, according to the 2019 census, is about 45 percent black. The report says the race changed after moving to Colorado.
“By January 2021, following the completion of the move, the number of black or African American headquarters staff had more than halved, accounting for 12 percent of the total headquarters staff,” the report said.
The authors encouraged the Bureau of Land Administration to closely monitor vacancies among its staff so that they can better understand the implications of its management decisions.
They also encouraged senior agency officials to draw up a strategic plan to guide them for future changes to its staff.
“BLM does not have complete and reliable data on vacancies and details, and therefore does not have a complete understanding of its staffing needs,” the report says, citing the Bureau of Land Management. “Without such job data and detailed agency-wide information, BLM officials do not have the full information to make decisions about vacancies and initiate details that will help the agency achieve its mission and goals.”
Representatives of the bureau said in response to the message that they intend to make these changes.
“Moving forward, BLM intends to establish a more standardized process for tracking vacancies and details across the office,” Laura Daniel-Davis, Senior Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Mineral Administration, wrote in an agency response.
She added that the agency is “currently in the process of developing a strategic workforce planning process across the entire office.”