Interior plan reduces travel, IT spending

The Interior Department seeks to reduce spending on employee travel and information technology and to boost investment in renewable energy and climate change initiatives in fiscal 2011, Secretary Ken Salazar announced on Monday.

President Obama's proposed $12.2 billion budget for Interior in fiscal 2011 is $38.7 million below the level approved by Congress in 2010 and includes $750 million in cost-saving program reductions and terminations. During a briefing on the budget, Salazar highlighted several priority areas that will receive more funding in 2011.

The budget request includes $4.6 million for fixed-cost increases such as employee benefits, pay raises and other business expenses in Interior's smaller offices; the department's bureaus, however, will absorb cost increases totaling $108.7 million.

The proposal reflects cuts in travel and IT spending, Salazar said, including $82 million in management efficiencies from the President's SAVE Award contest proposals. The additional $668 million in reductions and terminations will target areas such as the National Park Service's Save America's Treasures and Preserve America grant programs and abandoned mine payments -- programs that lack clear management structure or no longer contribute to core missions, according to budget documents.

"We're not Defense," he said, adding the cuts are significant for a department the size of Interior's. "[The budget] continues to support us in key initiatives."

The budget reflects "tough economic times and tough choices," Salazar said. "We at Interior know we must make the most of every dollar we spend."

The proposal recommends $73 million for renewable energy initiatives, an increase of $14.2 million from 2010. Climate change adaptation programs, including research and monitoring, would receive an additional $35.4 million over last year for a total $171.3 million. The plan contains an additional $36.4 million for a new water conservation strategy, dubbed WaterSMART, which would boost the program's total to $72.9 million in fiscal 2011.

Education, conservation and tribal relations are also among Interior's priorities in 2011, Salazar said. The budget recommends $45.4 million to engaging and employing youth, $9.3 million more than in 2010. An additional $106 million and $71.4 million would go to land and water conservation fund projects and ecosystem restoration, respectively. The administration also seeks to invest $2.6 billion in the Bureau of Indian Affairs to increase "self-determination, opportunity and prosperity" for tribes.

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