Note: Gary G. Marsh retired from BLM in 2011 after a 35 year career with the Bureau.
Thanks to Greenwire and the Public Lands Foundation, we have more transparency than we have had, so we can comment on the value of this proposal/implementation. Some of this proposal, in my view could have been slowly phased in, i.e., moves, retirement, incentives, relocation – without major disruption and controversy. It appears this is moving very quickly and cannot be stopped.
My thoughts, and only my thoughts, off the top of my head, as a 35 year BLM veteran. Perhaps it will trigger some other views, comments, or thoughts.
I tried to be objective on the pros and cons, below:
Those westerner WO employees who moved/not forced to DC to gain experience and promotion will get to move back west and get a bonus plus paid moving costs.
Will increase State Offices and perhaps one District office table of organization with staff and manager expertise.
Will benefit realtor agents and moving companies in the DC area and affected western states where employees relocate (sale and purchase).
Lower leasing and utility costs in vacated DC office spaces. Office furnishings and equipment can be transferred or sold by GSA to other agencies/entities.
Will save travel and per diem costs for those WO employees who travel to western areas for meetings, coordination,training, conferences, evaluations, etc…
WO expertise will be closer to SO, districts, Service Center, and the national training center.
Dismantles and reorganizes the WO BLM managers and staff and distributes/decentralizes to at four or more western states/areas, which is a never tried before prototype/precedent. I no of no other federal agency HQ located in the west.
Is viewed and perceived as a purely political decision vs. a sound public land management decision through public involvement as mandated by FLPMA to serve those publics/partners/constituents the BLM serves. Resource management decisions will be viewed as being made in DC by political appointees, not by input from career staff.
Disruption of talented employees and their families to force them to move and relocate to areas without freedom of choice or of timing (real estate, transfer children in schools, additional costs of moving).
Greater costs associated with moving as opposed to a phased in relocation/transferring employees. Increased infrastructure costs of either constructing a new HQ office or adding on to the existing district office in Grand Junction. Planning and construction bidding process will take longer than 120 days, thereby requiring leasing immediate equipped and/or sufficient space.
Uncertainty of how a Grand Junction HQ would actually work or benefit the agency.
Cannot easily coordinate with other WO sister agencies, Executive Branch, Congress, Secretary, OMB, Federal Register, etc. Diminishes support to the Secretary and may involve more trips/travel to DC from the west.
Higher graded transferees will disrupt and force re-organization of those affected State Offices tables of organization due to integrated higher graded personnel, unless segregated out as WO employees/staff/structure.
If the BLM Director is re-located to Grand Junction with his/her staff how will the Director coordinate with State Directors, Interior Secretary, partner agencies in DC, Congress, and Executive Branch?
The cost of providing a 25% relocation bonus/incentive/buyouts should be to help only those employees whose moving is a hardship; and assist with realtor/moving, transfer costs, not as an incentive to those employees who were planning to retire or move back west anyway.
The sample letter to Planning and Resources Directorate is insightful to those having to move to Salt Lake City, but one needs to see the other letters to other Directorates, to see where other staffs are being moved, e.g., Reno, Santa Fe, Denver?
30 days to make a lifetime professional decision may be too short given family factors.