Department of the Interior

The Department of the Interior oversees more than 500 million acres of land through the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, and the Fish and Wildlife Service. The department also houses the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Reclamation, which distributes subsidized irrigation water in 17 western states.

Interior will spend a net $12 billion in fiscal 2019, or about $95 for every U.S. household. The department employs about 66,000 workers and operates 290 subsidy programs. 

Department of the Interior Spending in Billions of Constant Dollars
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  • Bureau of Reclamation. The bureau operates dams and other water infrastructure in the western states. Its large subsidies for irrigation water combined with restrictions on water transfers are contributing to a growing water crisis in many areas.
  • Federal Land Management. The federal government owns a vast amount of land that would be better managed if privatized, given to state governments, or transferred to stand-alone trust organizations.
  • Indian Lands and Indian Subsidies. The Bureau of Indian Affairs has a long and troubled history, and it has been one of the most scandal-prone federal agencies. The path to prosperity for Indians on reservations is through greater independence and improved governance, not through subsidies and top-down regulations.
Timeline of Government Growth
Cato Experts
"Simply stated, short of a crime, anything goes at the highest levels of the Department of the Interior."

Earl Devaney, Inspector General, Department of the Interior, December 2006.

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