Department of the Interior

Department of the Interior (Interior) officials reported sequestration affected Interior’s ability to manage the nation’s natural resources in fiscal year 2013. Interior officials said they faced challenges in planning for sequestration, such as limited flexibility and knowledge of how to apply the reductions. Interior took a number of actions to help mitigate the effect of sequestration, including utilizing carryover balances and reprogramming funds. Still, Interior found it necessary to institute a department-wide hiring freeze among other actions to implement sequestration. Interior officials stated that the hiring freeze adversely affected the department’s ability to hire seasonal employees who are critical to conducting field work activities, such as monitoring and data collection, during the summer––the most active period for Interior’s major land management bureaus and offices. Interior officials stated that the effects of sequestration on natural resources due to Interior’s inability to perform field activities may take years to materialize. In addition, Interior officials said that sequestration led to reduced fiscal year 2013 revenues from fees paid for federal land use. For example, Interior postponed certain oil and natural gas lease sales because it did not have adequate staff to devote to processing new leases. Sequestration also delayed royalty payments to a number of states for mineral activities conducted on federal lands within their borders.