Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s days in Washington may be numbered, but another lawmaker already has taken up his idea to move more federal agencies out of the nation’s capital.
Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, on Thursday introduced the Federal Government Decentralization Commission Act (H.R. 2112), which would establish a commission within the General Services Administration to study the relocation of federal agencies outside of the Washington, D.C., region and submit a plan on the issue to Congress by September 2019.
The bill would prioritize new locations with “low income communities” and areas with expertise in the mission of an agency. The commission also would consider national security implications, and it would be required to perform economic and workforce development studies on how moving would impact a new location.
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Ryan said in a statement that with the advent of the Internet and other modern communication tools, there is less need for agencies to be concentrated in the D.C. region. Major federal tenants could go a long way to help revitalize struggling cities like Cleveland or Detroit, he added.
“Our country should be proud of our capital city and the role it plays in our history and the running of the federal government,” Ryan said. “But the Founding Fathers could not have imagined our current federal government system, with more than 300,000 federal workers in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area in 190 federally owned buildings and 500 leased buildings. Our government belongs to all Americans, and communities across the United States should be able to benefit from the economic boost these employment centers could bring, especially to economically distressed places.”
In January Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, introduced a resolution, H. Res. 38, expressing the “sense of the House” that federal agencies should look for more chances to move their offices and workers outside of the D.C. region. It called on all agency heads to recommend alternate locations for their headquarters.
Chaffetz said at the time that moving federal agencies elsewhere could be an economic boon to other communities, as well as save the federal government money.
Chaffetz’s resolution was marked up and voted out of the oversight committee last month by a 21-19 vote. It is still awaiting hearings before the House Armed Services Committee and its Subcommittee on Readiness.
Our poll seeking suggestions for implementing Chaffetz’s—and now Ryan’s—idea is still open.