Get Out of Town

Agencies find greener pastures away from Washington.

For many years, pundits and politicians who fancy themselves Washington outsiders have made the case that we shouldn't just take for granted that the District of Columbia and its environs must be the center of gravity for the federal bureaucracy. Move government closer to the people it serves, they say, and away from the cloying confines of institutional Washington and the pernicious influence of lobbyists.

In a city where agencies jockey to be as close as possible to the White House, and are concerned about being located even across town, such arguments have never held much sway. And, of course, in the pre- Internet era, proximity really mattered. In order to be responsive to members of Congress and the president, and to work together when necessary, agencies needed to be headquartered near each other in a central location.

Now, such issues aren't nearly as significant as they used to be. And it's become clear that the concentration of agencies in the Washington area has serious adverse consequences. The daily commute, whether by car, train or bus, is a taxing grind. This is one of the main reasons lawmakers and Obama administration officials, not to mention rank-and-file federal workers, have become obsessed with promoting telework in government: Washington simply can't move all its federal employees efficiently into their centralized offices anymore.

There's another reason, too: Why should extreme weather, like last winter's devastating snowstorms on the East Coast, bring much of government to a screeching halt? Or even worse, what about a potential terrorist attack? In the post- Sept. 11 era, centralizing much of the government-especially defense and homeland security functions-in and around Washington poses a grave security risk.

All these factors have led agencies to consider shifting operations out of the Washington area. One city in particular has capitalized on the trend in a big way: Huntsville, Ala., which is featured on our cover this month.

In the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure round, the Defense Department was ordered to shift 5,000 jobs from the Washington area to Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville. That accelerated a trend launched in 1950, when the Army sent rocket scientist Wernher von Braun to the city to work on a ballistic missile program. He later became director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center at Redstone Arsenal. Soon, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the FBI, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and other agencies had set up shop in Huntsville.

Now, thousands of employees must decide whether to move, with their jobs, to Huntsville as the Pentagon shutters D.C.-area facilities. Maybe being stuck in an endless traffic jam or a sweaty Metro car will make their decision a little easier.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.