The relocation of two Agriculture Department subcomponents last year from Washington, D.C. to Kansas City, Kansas, resulted in a reduction in staffing of about two-thirds in each, the Congressional Research Service has found.
The moves of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Economic Research Service were among the major changes carried out to date under a 2018 Trump administration government reorganization plan and were controversial. That was especially so after the then-OMB director, in a talk to a conservative group, cited staff reduction as a major benefit—undercutting the stated reasons of reducing real estate costs and putting the agencies closer to agricultural producers.
The cost-benefit analysis produced by USDA last May showed that 294 of the then-315 employees at NIFA and 253 of the then-329 at ERS would be relocated. However, by last September when employees had to make a decision, the former was down to 250 employees and the latter to 239 as employees retired, took other employment or otherwise resigned. As of February of this year, each agency was down to just above 100 employees.
“In March 2020, USDA reported that over 150 active recruitments are in process for ERS and NIFA and that it is using additional tools to help ensure mission continuity: using re-employed annuitants, short-term contractors, and employees on detail from other agencies. USDA conducted a virtual career fair in April 2020,” it said.
The report did not examine the results in detail but said that “NIFA grantees have experienced delays in receiving awarded funds” of many months and “media reports citing USDA internal memos suggest that ERS has delayed or discontinued numerous reports.”
Agency Relocations Proposed (Dec 3)