Committee Reviews Proposals to Reorganize and Modernize DOE and DOI

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today chaired a hearing to examine the administration’s efforts to reorganize and modernize the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of the Interior (DOI).

“It’s our responsibility to look at the structures of government and determine whether they are as efficient and effective as we expect,” Murkowski said. “Putting ideas on the table for improvements is a good thing – something we should encourage. And from there, it’s on all of us to consider those ideas, help refine them, and then move forward on those that best serve the American people. I appreciate Alaska being a pilot for many of these ideas, and look forward to continuing to work with the agencies as these efforts move forward.”

In March 2017, President Trump issued an Executive Order directing all agencies, across the federal government, to evaluate their structures and identify ways to reduce waste and inefficiencies to improve accountability. Since then, both DOE and DOI have taken steps to meet that directive. While Murkowski expressed opposition to certain aspects of the Office of Management and Budget’s recent blueprint for reorganization, including any weakening of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), she also welcomed efforts to modernize and streamline departmental operations.

Susan Combs, senior advisor to the Secretary of the Interior, described some of the challenges Secretary Ryan Zinke is attempting to address, particularly plans to better align the department so employees are located closer to the people and places impacted by their decisions. Murkowski asked Combs about the level of tribal consultation Interior is having in Alaska and across the country.

“The Secretary is very mindful of the sovereignty of the tribes and very mindful that this is a government to government relationship, and so the initial phase of consultation is underway,” Combs said. “In every region that the tribes are in there will be a consultation, and those will all be completed by the end of August.”

In his testimony, Bernard McNamee, executive director of the Office of Policy at DOE, highlighted several components of the administration’s DOE-specific proposals. In response to a question from Murkowski, he also reiterated DOE’s strong opposition to Section 3111 of the FY 2019 NDAA bill, which would strip authority over the National Nuclear Security Administration from the Secretary of Energy. 

Murkowski is chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. An archived video and testimony from today’s hearing are available on the committee’s website. Click here and here to view Murkowski’s questions for witnesses.

Related Issues: Energy