In another reversal of its predecessor’s policies on federal personnel, the Biden administration will largely reverse the shift of Bureau of Land Management headquarters from Washington, D.C. to Grand Junction, Colo.
That move “failed to deliver promised jobs across the West and drove hundreds of people out of the agency” and “led to a significant loss of institutional memory and talent,” said an announcement by the parent Interior Department. The Grand Junction office will remain open and serve as a sort of sub-headquarters, but many of the top positions will return to the national capital, it said.
The Trump administration had argued that the move would save costs and would put agency decision-makers closer to the people whose decisions they affected most—the same argument it used in moving two Agriculture Department research entities to the Kansas City area. However, in both cases that argument was in part undercut by the then OMB director’s statement that another desired effect was that many of the employees would resign or retire rather than move.
That proved to be the case with both departments, with Interior saying that of the of the 328 positions moved out of Washington, D.C., only 41 of the affected people relocated, said the announcement; the Agriculture Department’s experience with its two relocated agencies was largely similar.
“The headquarters transition will be conducted with a goal of minimizing further disruption to employees and their families,” it said, saying that apart from some “core leadership positions, the BLM does not plan to require employees to relocate.”
Other initiatives announced at the same time include establishing a foundation to support the bureau’s efforts and to help build new partnerships, strengthening relationship with Indian tribes boosting capacity to implement clean energy projects.