A long-running idea to shift more federal jobs from the national capital area to other parts of the country is showing signs of gaining traction in Congress, with the Interior Department potentially serving as a model.
A House subcommittee has held a hearing in support of the department’s interest in moving headquarters of three of its components–the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation and the Fish and Wildlife Service–to Western states on grounds that employees would be closer to those most impacted by their decisions.
A report from the panel noted that such a move would be consistent with President Trump’s executive order on reorganizing governmental functions. It said that a large percentage of the land Interior oversees is in the West and that by relocating there those agencies could better coordinate with local communities on issues such as water resources and roads.
A recent letter to the White House from the Republican chairmen of the Natural Resources Committee and all its subcommittees said that “federal employees should live around the people, lands and economies they regulate.” Democrats generally argued at the hearing, though, that moving jobs would be costly and would damage coordination with other federal agencies.
The most likely vehicle for making a formal proposal would be the budget plan the administration plans to send to Congress early in 2018 for the 2019 fiscal year.
About 15 percent of executive branch employees apart from the Postal Service and intelligence agencies are in the national capital area.