FROM THE ARCHIVE
Dropping performance blamed on weak leadership
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MONDAY, APRIL 8, 2002

Performance rates at the Department of Interior fell 8 percent during the first year of the Bush administration, a drop attributed to a lack of leadership.

In her annual report to Congress, Secretary of Interior Gale Norton said the department met or exceeded 62 percent of its targets in fiscal year 2001, which ended in September. This represented a drop from the last year of the Clinton administration, she said.

Performance measures defined as "key" fared worse under Norton's watch. According to the report, the department met less than half of its major targets, a drop of 18 percent from the year prior.

The report downplayed the significance of the failures, which included decreases in four out of six strategic areas. A total of 317 performance targets were measured, a 22 percent increase from fiscal year 2000, according to department statistics.

But Norton wasn't afraid to assign blame to the lack of leaders at her major bureaus, agencies and offices. "Most bureaus were without permanent directors during much of the fiscal year," the report states.

As a result, mid-year reviews weren't conducted, according to the report. "[F]ew of our bureau leaders were able to respond to the review findings," Norton tells Congress.

Norton and other department officials have frequently tied their first-year hurdles to the lack of confirmed political appointees. Whether it was Indian trust or drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, leadership was missing in many areas, they said.

Still, the delay didn't appear to affect the performance goals tied to Indian Country. As previously reported, the Bureau of Indian Affairs met 60 percent of its targets, a rate virtually unchanged from the final year of the Clinton era.

Other strategic areas didn't fare as well, Norton admitted. Even though the department had new goals to meet, it didn't handle these any better than its long-standing targets.

"[P]erformance related to new measures was equal to or worse than performance among existing measures," the report states.

During the first few months of her regime, Norton was "home alone" because the Senate didn't confirm any of her political aides until July. Assistant Secretary Neal McCaleb was the first to pass muster, followed by a wave of others, including Deputy Secretary J. Steven Griles, the department's lead on trust reform, and Solicitor Bill Myers, who provides legal advice to the department.

Prior to McCaleb's arrival, Indian issues were handled by two career employees who kept the BIA at levels comparable to the Clinton administration, according to the report statistics. James McDivitt was acting Assistant Secretary while Sharon Blackwell was Deputy Commissioner, a post she will be leaving in June.

Special Trustee for American Indians Tom Slonaker was retained by the Bush administration to oversee the Indian trust system. Nominated by former President Bill Clinton, he was confirmed in July 2000.

Get the Report:
FY 2003 Annual Performance Plan, FY 2001 Annual Performance Report (DOI March 2002)

Get Budget Documents:
Interior Budget in Brief [DOI] | Budget Highlights: Service to American Indians [DOI] | Budget Highlights: Bureau of Indian Affairs [DOI] | Interior Overview [OMB] | Interior Details [OMB]

Related Stories:
BIA Budget: Doing more with less (3/26)
Bush budget cuts funds for new tribes (3/20)
Bush school proposal faces tribal debate (3/19)
Trust drives small increase in BIA budget (2/5)
Bush proposal strips BIA of education (2/5)

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