Let’s Move Washington Out of Washington
Congress is considering several proposals to move federal agencies out of Washington, DC and spread them across the country. The Los Angeles Times recently reported, “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, into the western United States. As ninety-nine percent of the nearly 250 million acres of land managed by the Bureau of Land Management is west of the Mississippi River, there’s an obvious logic to such a move.
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.”
Many, including the LA Times, tend to wave off such notions out of hand, dismissing them as part of a greater set of outsized “plans to reinvent and reimagine government.” But outsized plans are the only viable options at this point. Government at every level is broken and unless we’re willing to think big, a proverbial moon-shot plan to fix what’s wrong, the quagmire of the status quo will continue to swallow up more modest reform proposals.