Congress is considering an idea that Common Good Chair Philip K. Howard advocated a year ago in an op-ed in The Daily Beast – moving federal agencies out of Washington, DC and spreading them across the country. In it, he wrote, “The culture of Washington is totally unchangeable. But we can breathe new life into government agencies by taking them out of Washington.”
As the Los Angeles Times now reports, “There hasn’t been so much buzz about getting ‘Washington’ out of Washington since Franklin D. Roosevelt sent 30,000 federal workers to the Midwest.” The buzz has increased, according to the Times, as a result of a plan by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a Montanan, to move the headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Reclamation out of Washington.
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) held a hearing this month to examine Secretary Zinke’s plan, which Western politicians like Sen. Corey Gardner (R-CO) are cheering. Gardner wants the Bureau of Land Management headquartered in his state, and Colorado’s Democratic governor, John Hickenlooper, has joined Gardner’s lobbying campaign.
Earlier this year, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee passed a “Divest D.C.” resolution calling on all agencies to investigate moving out. In addition, Rep. Tim Ryan, a Democrat from Youngstown, OH, wants to create a commission to identify parts of the bureaucracy that could move to economically distressed regions like his. Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH) has mounted a parallel bureaucracy migration push called the “Drain the Swamp Act.”
In his Daily Beast op-ed – titled “We Can’t Change Washington—So Let’s Dismantle It and Spread It Around” – Philip Howard proposes that “The FDA could move to Boston or San Diego, both cities with a cohort of scientists. The IRS could move to Dallas. Some people might move with the agencies, but the goal is to replace a failed culture by reorganizing government with new people willing to take responsibility for results.”