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Should DHS Move to Des Moines?

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, proposed an interesting idea Monday. As Eric Katz reported, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman plans to push for a resolution expressing the “sense of the House” that federal agencies should seek more opportunities to move their offices and employees outside of Washington.

Specifically, Chaffetz said, the Homeland Security Department could relocate to Des Moines, Iowa, and save the government a significant amount of money. We’re not sure how Chaffetz calculates the savings—DHS employees need to work closely with other Washington-based agencies and flights between Des Moines and D.C. could add up quickly, plus there’s that $10.2 billion new headquarters campus.

Nonetheless, the idea has us thinking outside the National Capital Region. Why not move more agencies out of the overcrowded, overpriced region? Do Agriculture and Interior need to be headquartered in Washington? Health and Human Services? There must be more than one National Park Service headquarters employee who’d happily trade the commute on Interstate 95 for one less enervating. For the most part, agency missions are not geographically bound. Why should their headquarters be?

Tell us what federal agency you’d move out of Washington, where you...

Lawmaker: New Congress Is 'A Moment to Reimagine the Federal Government'

For decades, political players have invoked the so-called “Washington Monument” strategy of threatening to close the capital city’s tallest structure to win a budget battle.

This Wednesday, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., head of the Republican conference, offered a new twist on the strategy as she appeared with Vice President-elect Mike Pence to usher in the 115th Congress.

“It’s a moment to think big. It’s a moment to reimagine the federal government and put people back at the center of it,” she said. “You know, just down the road is the Washington Monument, and right now it’s closed to visitors. You think about families, individuals that travel from all around the country. From Eastern Washington it’s a long trip, maybe a once in a lifetime opportunity to visit the Washington Monument, and yet they’ll be met with a ‘closed’ sign, because the federal government is going to take more than two years to fix an elevator.”

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Rogers likened the elevator repair to another roadblock in everyday American life. “This is how the government has come to operate,” she said...

Remembering Veterans on Pearl Harbor Day

Seventy-five years after Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor slaughtered 2,403 Americans and launched an unprepared nation into World War II, that conflict remains for many, the “good war.” The war was unavoidable (though the U.S. long tried to avoid it); the stakes and battle lines were clear, and it accelerated the American Century.

For good reason, public officials have used the occasion to laud the nation’s veterans. As Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the ranking House Armed Services Committee member, put it:

“Today, we commemorate the heroism and sacrifice of the more than 2,400 Americans who lost their lives in the attack on Pearl Harbor. We will never forget them or their deeds, nor those of the millions more who fought to defeat fascism and forge a new international order that helped to secure peace around the globe. It is our profound duty to continue honoring them, by providing for our veterans and ensuring that we care for our men in women and uniform second to none.”

Few would disagree with Smith on the need to honor veterans. But in a nation where few serve in the military, too often that duty is tainted with...

A Gingrich Commission to Reorganize Government?

Former House Speaker and erstwhile presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has ruled out serving in Donald Trump’s cabinet, saying he’ll “be focused on strategic planning.” This week the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page weighed in with a proposal for the kind of planning Gingrich could be involved in: heading an effort to “modernize and shrink the federal government.”

The Journal’s editorial writers made the case for a Gingrich Commission, modeled on the Hoover Commissions of the 1940s and 1950s. Those two panels made hundreds of recommendations for reorganizing federal agencies and overhauling government operations, many of which were — against all odds — actually adopted. (Subsequent commissions and reform efforts have been long on ideas and short on implementation, often because of partisan wrangling.)

On the other hand, the Journal opined, “a Gingrich Commission would have an opening for greater progress with a GOP White House and Congress. There’s always a chance that the effervescent Mr. Gingrich would veer off course by proposing a military base on the moon. But he talks all the time about updating government for the 21st century, and he published a book on “winning the future” that covers everything from education to balancing...

What Should Trump Seek in a Budget Director?

News reports this week have President-elect Donald Trump considering Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn to head the Office of Management and Budget.

Unclear from Cohn’s Wall Street background is whether he would meet basic criteria that two past and prominent budget directors laid out at a Thursday lunch talk put on by the nonprofit Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

The crusading anti-federal-debt group showcased its three co-chairs: former Rep. Tim Penny, D-Minn.; former Clinton administration budget director Leon Panetta (who also chaired the House Budget Committee long before serving in the Obama Cabinet); and former Indiana Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, budget director under President George W. Bush and now president of Purdue University. 

All expressed disappointment that the national debt and rising budget deficit were not discussed more in the presidential campaign, and all acknowledged that little is known about Trump’s fiscal leanings—indeed, the coming new administration, Daniels said, “is still finding out about itself.”

But all agreed that significant action to assure a fiscally healthy government for future generations will require the new president, not just the hydra-headed Congress, to make living within the government’s means a priority.

Asked what traits Trump should look...

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