SOURCE: The Guardian

DATE: August 17, 2018

SNIP: The US interior department administers over $5.5bn in funding to external organizations, mostly for research, conservation and land acquisition. At the beginning of 2018, interior secretary Ryan Zinke instated a new requirement that scientific funding above $50,000 must undergo an additional review to ensure expenditures “better align with the administration’s priorities”.

Steve Howke, one of Zinke’s high-school football teammates, oversees this review. Howke’s highest degree is a bachelor’s in business administration. Until Zinke appointed him as an interior department senior adviser to the acting assistant secretary of policy, management and budget, Howke had spent his entire career working in credit unions.

[T]he policy, which has been in place for six months, is already crippling some research. One of the largest programs affected is the Climate Adaptation Science Centers, a network of eight regionally focused research centers located at “host” universities across the country.

“Funneling every grant over $50,000 to a single political appointee from departments that range from the Bureau of Indian Affairs to the [US Geological Survey] to the Bureau of Reclamation suggests a political micromanagement approach,” said David Hayes, an interior deputy secretary in the Obama and Clinton administrations who now directs the State Energy and Environmental Impact Center at the NYU School of Law. He described it as “political interference” that is “both unprecedented and pernicious”.

“It’s hard to have any conclusion other than the administration is looking to steer the science in a political direction,” Hayes said. Many scientists affiliated with the climate adaptation centers concurred.