“You can’t make this stuff up.”
WASHINGTON — A week after taking over the Department of the Interior, Ryan Zinke inquired about redesigning the agency’s flag, according to internal emails HuffPost has obtained.
The department flag is emblazoned with a bison and has gone largely unchanged for a century. The emails indicate that Zinke wanted to redesign the flags and make them bigger, so that neither his secretarial flag nor the agency flag would be smaller than the United States flag that flies atop the Interior Department’s headquarters on C Street in Washington, D.C. The emails do not indicate how he wants to redesign the flag.
The emails shine more light on Zinke’s revival of an obscure military flag-flying tradition. As The Washington Post reported last month, when Zinke enters the building, “a security staffer takes the elevator to the seventh floor, climbs the stairs to the roof and hoists a special secretarial flag.” When he goes home, the flag comes down.
Zinke was sworn in March 1 and arrived at his post the following morning sporting a cowboy hat and riding a horse. The flag inquiries by the former Montana congressman and Navy SEAL were part of a broader revamping at Interior that included outfitting his office with a slew of taxidermied creatures and a bronze bust of his hero Teddy Roosevelt.
The redesign seems to have left Interior staff scrambling and scratching their heads.
“You can’t make this stuff up,” Joe Nassar, director of Interior’s Office of Facilities and Administrative Services, wrote to several other Interior employees a few weeks later, referring to the pending delivery of a stuffed bobcat.
One week after Zinke took office, Elena Gonzalez, Interior’s deputy assistant secretary for technology, information and business services, sent an email to Douglas Domenech, then a senior adviser to the new secretary, addressing several flag-related queries.
“We think the Interior flags can be any size so long as they are not larger than the American flag,” Gonzalez wrote, adding that Nassar would look into current flag proportions. “I am not sure whether the Secretary can re-design either his flag or the Interior flag. Happy to find out if you need that information as well.”
“Great,” replied Domenech, who was later nominated and confirmed as Interior’s assistant secretary for Insular Areas. He requested the chapter of the agency manual on displaying and flying flags and wrote, “Yes find out if [Zinke] can change the DOI flag and how.”
In an email the next day, Gonzalez wrote that the questions about redesigning flags were “taking a bit longer to answer.”
“Apparantly [sic] not a common question,” she wrote…(CONTINUED)