Simpson Remarks at FY24 Budget Hearing for the Department of the Interior (As Prepared)
The committee will come to order.
Madam Secretary, thank you for being here today. And thank you for our conversation last week in advance of this hearing. I look forward to our discussion on several important issues facing the Department of the Interior.
While I don’t agree with all of your decisions or the Administration’s policies, I am glad that we have been able to work together on many bipartisan issues, like working to meet our treaty and trust obligations with American Indians and Alaska Natives and implementation of the Great American Outdoors Act.
I am thrilled to return as Chairman of this subcommittee after serving on it over the last two decades. This subcommittee oversees funding for public land agencies like the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, and the Forest Service, and as chairman I have a unique opportunity to influence federal policies that directly impact Idaho.
Since nearly two-thirds of Idaho is federal land, our federal land management policies have a direct impact on our state’s economy and on the lives of Idahoans who live, work, and recreate on or near federal land. This is why, as a lifelong Idahoan, I have spent my career in Congress working to ensure that land management agencies are good neighbors and have the tools to manage our lands effectively and efficiently.
As you know well, your Department has also the sacred responsibility for meeting the Federal Government’s commitment to Indian country.
This Subcommittee—under both Republican and Democratic chairmen—has committed to addressing the greatest Tribal needs including education, Tribal land management, and law enforcement issues. These continue to be non-partisan subcommittee priorities. We welcome your active involvement working with us and our American Indian and Alaska Native brothers and sisters.
I know my colleagues also have a lot of priorities that they will want to discuss with you today, but I want to quickly mention a few things.
One is ensuring that we are not dependent upon on our adversaries for critical minerals. During our meeting, you discussed the work being done to identify those resources in the United States, which is a good step, but we also must work together to get them out of the ground. Here in the U.S., that can be done safely and in a way that protects the environment better than anywhere else in the world.
And in terms of the budget -- The President has requested almost $17 billion in discretionary funding for the Interior Department. At a time when our federal deficit continues to rise – in fact, it has doubled since I first joined this committee – we need to have a serious discussion about how to do more with less.
I will be looking for ways to increase efficiencies, reduce duplication, and ensure that federal dollars are spent wisely with a demonstrated benefit.
I know there are many stakeholders and partners involved in the Department’s work and I appreciate the leverage that nonfederal partners provide for so many programs and projects.
I look forward to talking more about this and many other issues that our members will want to discuss with you today. And with that, I’d like to yield to Ranking Member Pingree for her opening statement.