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Zinke Rips Staff Loyalty, Notes God's 'Sense of Humor'

Interior secretary estimates 30% of staff 'not loyal to the flag'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 26, 2017 7:54 AM CDT

(Newser) – Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Monday that nearly one-third of his department's workers aren't loyal to him and President Trump, adding that he's working to change the regulatory culture to be more business friendly. Zinke, an ex-Navy SEAL, said he knew when he took over the 70,000-employee department in March that "I got 30% of the crew that's not loyal to the flag," the AP reports. In a speech to an oil industry group, Zinke compared the Interior Department to a pirate ship that captures "a prized ship at sea and only the captain and the first mate row over" to finish the mission. "We do have good people," he said, "but the direction has to be clear and you've got to hold people accountable." Zinke's comments echo complaints by some White House allies that a permanent "deep state" in Washington has sabotaged Trump's efforts to remake the government.

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Zinke didn't go that far, but he noted: "There's too many ways in the present process for someone who doesn't want to get (a regulatory action) done to put it a holding pattern." To remedy that, Zinke said he's pursuing a major reorg to push much of the agency's decision-making outside DC, moving several agencies to undetermined Western states. Besides moving employees, Zinke noted he wants to speed up permits for oil drilling, logging, and other energy development that now can take years. "The president wants it yesterday," Zinke said, referring to permits for energy development. On other topics, Zinke said the Endangered Species Act has been "abused" by bureaucrats and environmental groups, and he also offered a quirky defense of fracking. "Fracking is proof that God's got a good sense of humor and he loves us," Zinke said, without explanation. (Read more Ryan Zinke stories.)

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