The decision to move the Bureau of Land Management headquarters to Colorado’s Western Slope should be viewed not as a one-off, but a good start, as far as some Senate Republicans are concerned.
GOP Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee introduced Wednesday legislation to move 90% of positions in 10 executive departments — including Agriculture, Education and Energy — to 10 states outside Washington, D.C., and “into the heart of economically distressed regions across the country.”
Mr. Hawley pointed to the Agriculture Department’s decision in June to move two of its agencies to the Kansas City area, bringing with them nearly 600 staff positions.
“Every year Americans’ hard-earned tax dollars fund federal agencies that are mainly located in the D.C. bubble. That’s a big part of the problem with Washington: they’re too removed from the rest of America,” Mr. Hawley said in a press release.
He said the Helping Infrastructure Restore the Economy (HIRE) Act would “move policymakers directly into the communities they serve, creating thousands of jobs for local communities and saving taxpayers billions of dollars along the way.”
The legislation calls for moving the Agriculture Department to Missouri and Education Department to Tennessee, the states represented by the bill’s sponsors, as well as moving the Commerce Department to Pennsylvania and Energy Department to Kentucky.
Under the bill, Health and Human Services would move to Indiana; Housing and Urban Development to Ohio; Interior to New Mexico; Labor to West Virginia; Transportation to Michigan, and Veterans Affairs to South Carolina.
“Moving agencies outside of Washington, D.C. both boosts local economies and lowers costs — that’s a winning combination,” Ms. Blackburn said. “This legislation would enable Americans across the country to have greater access to good jobs.”
The decisions to move the BLM and USDA offices outside the Beltway have met with pushback from unions and others over the disruption to federal workers and potential loss of clout for agencies that find themselves outside the nation’s power center.
The Public Lands Foundation, which represents retired BLM staffers and others, called on the Senate to block the BLM move to Grand Junction, Colorado, saying the relocation would prove “disastrous.”
“We fully believe this reorganization would functionally dismantle the BLM,” said PLF President Edward W. Shepard in a Sept. 25 letter to key Senate chairs.
Foes say the federal agencies will lose important experience as veteran staffers opt to remain in D.C. while the Senate Republicans said relocating agencies would save money, given the high cost of living in the Beltway.
“Retaining quality employees is easier when costs of living are low, commute times are short, and federal salaries are high relative to the region,” the press release said.