Understanding the President’s Cabinet: Interior Secretary
Religion & Liberty Online

Understanding the President’s Cabinet: Interior Secretary

Note: This is the ninth in a weekly series of explanatory posts on the officials and agencies included in the President’s Cabinet. See the series introduction here.

Cabinet position:  Secretary of the Interior

Department:  U.S. Department of the Interior

Current Secretary:  Ryan Zinke

Succession: The Interior Secretary is eighth in the presidential line of succession.

Department Mission: “The Department of the Interior protects and manages the Nation’s natural resources and cultural heritage; provides scientific and other information about those resources; and honors its trust responsibilities or special commitments to American Indians, Alaska Natives, and affiliated island communities.” (Source)

Department Budget: $13.4 billion (FY 2017)

Number of employees: Approximately 70,000.

Primary Duties of the Secretary: The Secretary of the Interior leads an agency with more than 70,000 employees and 280,000 volunteers who are stewards for 20 percent of the nation’s lands, including national parks, monuments, wildlife refuges and other public lands. The department oversees the responsible development of conventional and renewable energy supplies on public lands and waters; is the largest supplier and manager of water in the 17 Western states; and upholds trust responsibilities to the 567 federally recognized American Indian tribes and Alaska Natives. The Secretary also serves on and appoints the private citizens on the National Park Foundation board.


Secretary Info

Secretary:  Ryan Zinke

Previous occupation:  U.S. Representative for Montana’s at-large congressional district.

Education:  B.S. in geology from University of Oregon; M.B.A. from National University; and M.S. in global leadership from the University of San Diego.

Previous government experience:  Along with being a U.S. Representative, Zinke served as a member of the Montana Senate.

Religious Affiliation:  Lutheran

Notable achievements:

• Co-author of American Commander: Serving a Country Worth Fighting For and Training the Brave Soldiers Who Lead the Way.

• Served as a U.S. Navy SEAL from 1985 to 2008, retiring at the rank of commander. He was also the first former SEAL to be elected to the U.S. House and the first to be appointed as a cabinet secretary.

• Awarded two Bronze Stars for meritorious service in a combat zone

• Is an adopted member of the Assiniboine Sioux Tribe at the Fort Peck Reservation in Northeast Montana.

Notable quotes:

On selling government land: “The federal government needs to do a much better job of managing our resources, but the sale or transfer of our land is an extreme proposal, and I won’t tolerate it.”


Previous and forthcoming posts in this series: Secretary of StateSecretary of the Treasury, Secretary of Education, Secretary of Labor, Secretary of Defense, Attorney General, Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary of Commerce, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Secretary of Transportation, Secretary of Energy, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Secretary of Homeland Security


Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).