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Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has a special flag that flies when he's in the office

"Is he trying to send a message?" a former Pentagon official wonders.
Ryan Zinke Flag
Photo: Getty Images

Showing up to work on horseback, displaying animal heads in his office, pressing commemorative coins with his name on them to give to visitors — Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has been skewing a little closer to sitcom character than most members of the cabinet.

True to form, Zinke has a special flag that flies at the Interior Department building when he's arrived at work for the day, the Washington Post reports. A staff member climbs to the roof to hoist the blue flag — which has the agency's bison seal and seven stars to signify the seven cabinet departments — and takes it down when Zinke has left the building. When Zinke's not there, a different flag is hoisted for Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt.

The Post calls it "an arcane military ritual no one can remember happening in the federal government." Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift said it was "a major sign of transparency," adding that Zinke is "restoring honor and tradition to the department, whether it's flying the flag when he is in garrison or restoring traditional access to public lands."

No other cabinet member does Zinke's flag thing. (Like all secretaries of state, Rex Tillerson has a personal flag, but it flies whether he's in the office or not.)

“We’re talking about Cabinet members and federal buildings, not the Queen of England and Buckingham Palace,” said Chris Lu, deputy labor secretary in the Obama administration, referring to the British tradition of heralding the queen's presence with her personal flag.

“Is he trying to send a message?” mused Retired Army Col. Steven Warren, head of Pentagon press operations before his retirement this year. “Is he big on pomp and circumstance, or is this a case of ‘Look at me?’"

Zinke, a former Navy SEAL and Montana Congressman, is under investigation for taking taxpayer-funded private jets on a mix of professional and personal business. In one instance, Zinke flew from Las Vegas to his home in Montana on an oil executive's private jet at a cost of $12,375. A commercial flight would have cost $300.