The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Caitlin MacNeal,COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER,(202) 347-1122,

MMS Reforms Must Dig Deeper


"Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's split of
the Minerals Management Service (MMS) will only work if the agency also
addresses its deep cultural problems," said Project On Government
Oversight (POGO) Executive Director Danielle Brian.

Ms. Brian, in testimony
submitted to the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources,
warned that the well-intentioned structural reforms to remove the
conflict of mission plaguing MMS will only succeed if Congress stops
the revolving door problem and reduces the agency's dependence on
industry. This is the first congressional hearing to focus on the
proposal to restructure MMS.

She cited the example of the National Ocean Industries Association's
current and past presidents being former MMS Directors as a disturbing
indicator of the cultural problems at the agency that fed into its
recent failures.

"When the former Director of MMS joins a trade association whose
explicit mission was to secure a 'favorable regulatory and economic
environment,'" said Brian, "taxpayers have to question whose interests
were actually being served when he was at MMS. It's unclear whether he
was always ideologically opposed to the agency's mission."

President Barack Obama said Tuesday night that the problems at MMS
ran much deeper than Secretary Salazar realized. In the testimony, POGO
called for Interior to look beyond the usual suspects in industry and
in MMS to head up the proposed new bureaus. The recent appointment of a
former Inspector General, Michael R. Bromwich, fits the mold of POGO's
recommendation and could provide the kind of critical outside
perspective this agency needs. Bromwich's reputation as a tough
investigator with experience cleaning up troubled organizations bodes
well for his potential to reform the agency--and his lack of ties to the
oil and gas industry could be a tremendous asset in changing the
culture of coziness with industry.

The hearing on the reorganization should provide him with a roadmap for implementing much-needed reforms.

"This agency has broken the public's trust, and must increase
transparency to restore it," said Brian. "Interior's willingness to
increase its openness in the wake of the Gulf disaster should be
considered a real acid test as to how committed the Administration is
to the kind of transparency measures that will help citizens hold the
federal government and industry accountable."

"After covering MMS for more than 15 years, I can tell you from experience that these reforms are long overdue," Brian added.

Brian's testimony calls for a number of specific legislative
revolving door reforms, including creating a publicly accessible
revolving door database; reconsidering the pay and GS scale of
inspectors to attract people with more expertise; and passing the
Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, H.R. 1507.

POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian testifies before the
House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources on Thursday, June
17. The hearing begins at 10 am, and will also feature testimony from
BP whistleblower Ken Abbott.

The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is an independent nonprofit that investigates and exposes corruption and other misconduct in order to achieve a more effective, accountable, open and honest federal government.