By Scott Florence
In the late 1990s, most of the BLM went from a 3 tier (State Director/District Manager/Area Manager) to a “2 tier” organization (State Director/Field Manager). My recollections of what drove this was the Clinton-Gore “Reinventing Government” initiative. As I remember it, the push was to save costs and gain efficiencies by “flattening” federal agencies and eliminating layers of management and supervision. Hence, a part of this was also increasing average supervisor to employee ratios (from 5:1 to sometimes 15 or 20:1). Outside of the fire organizations, the increased supervisor to employee ratios pretty much remain to the present time.
The Oregon/Washington BLM went to what was called a “modified 3 tier organization” because there were some 10 districts and over 2 dozen area managers, too many field managers for one State Director to directly supervise. Essentially this meant the only difference in Oregon was changing the titles of Area Managers to Field Managers with all the District Managers retained.
Within 10 years or so from the initial re-organization, it was realized that 2-tier just wasn’t that effective or efficient because so many issues went directly from the field office to the State Director with no line officer in between to help make higher level decisions, among other things. As a result, in the early 2000’s the entire BLM abandoned the effort and went back to a 3 tier organization. The only remaining change was that rather than go back to the title of Area Manager, the title of Field Manager was retained.