Rhea S. Suh was nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in the spring of 2009 as the Chief Financial Officer and the Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget at the U.S. Department of the Interior. The Department of the Interior is a cabinet level agency in the U.S. government which is responsible for management of the nation’s natural and cultural resources and public lands, and for the nation’s trust responsibilities to indigenous peoples. Assistant Secretary Suh oversees the human capital, fiscal, business and budgetary management of the Department of the Interior, with a $12 billion budget and more than 70,000 employees. She also provides policy leadership on international affairs and for Secretarial initiatives on land conservation, sustainability, youth engagement and employment and diversity.
During her tenure at the Department, Assistant Secretary Suh has led diplomatic negotiations for an international agreement that will permanently protect the Flathead River basin ecosystem in the U.S. and Canada from oil, gas and minerals development. She has also helped to elevate the Department’s engagement in a number of important multilateral processes including the Arctic Council.
In the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Assistant Secretary Suh co-led the strategic planning to reorganize the former Minerals Management Service. In this reorganization, she assumed responsibilities for the Office of Natural Resource Revenue, which collects oil and gas royalties and fees (averaging $10 billion annually) on behalf of the federal government.
Prior to her current assignment, Assistant Secretary Suh served as a program officer and manager at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and as a program officer at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. In those positions, she planned and managed multi-million dollar conservation initiatives. Most notably, she led the successful effort to help protect 21 million acres of coastal temperate rainforest, known as the Great Bear Rainforest, in British Columbia.
Her extensive work experience includes teaching high school-level Earth Sciences in the New York City public school system, serving as a consultant to the National Park Service in New England, and, during the Clinton administration, service as a senior legislative assistant on the staff of Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, where she worked on public lands management and regulatory issues affecting energy, air and water. Her efforts there included interacting with both political parties to negotiate collaborative approaches on legislation that directly affected the Presidio Trust, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, and the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation area.
Suh is a graduate of Barnard College, Columbia University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree, and the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University, where she earned a Masters of Education, Administration, Planning and Social Policy. She was the recipient of both a Fulbright Fellowship and a Marshall Memorial Fellowship.