Congressman Introduces Plan to Decentralize the Federal Government

Ohio Democrat Tim Ryan is hoping to move federal jobs to the heartland by moving agency headquarters outside the federal city. The Federal Government Decentralization Act seeks to create a 10-member Commission, led by the General Services Administration, to study the relocation of select executive agencies outside the Washington metropolitan area.

While the text of the legislation has not yet been released, Rep. Ryan has announced that the commission would be tasked with identifying new potential locations for agencies in economically distressed areas or areas with expertise in the mission of the agency.

Rep. Ryan explained, “The Founding Fathers could not have imagined our current federal government system, with more than 300,000 federal workers in the Washington, DC metropolitan area in 190 federally-owned buildings and 500 leased buildings. Of course our country should be proud of our capital city and the role it plays in our history and the running of the federal government. But our government belongs to all Americans, and communities across the United States should be able to benefit from the economic boost these employment centers bring, especially for economically distressed places in the heartland.”

Rep. Ryan also noted that modern technology can assist agencies in conducting seamless cooperation and coordination with each other, even if they are located in distant areas of the country.

According to Ryan, “This is a commonsense way to help cities like Youngstown, Detroit, and Gary, Indiana share in the economic development that comes from housing federal government agencies.”

The commission would also be directed to take into account any national security concerns that would arise from the change.

Upon deciding on a possible new location for an agency, the GSA commission would then be required to produce an economic and workforce development study on how the relocation would impact the new area.

Ultimately, Rep. Ryan argues some agencies should be able to do their work without being inside the Beltway.

A similar issue was raised last year when Department of Agriculture Secretary Sony Perdue announced plans to relocate the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), USDA’s primary source of competitive grants for academic research, and the Economic Research Service (ERS), its major in-house research and statistical office, outside of D.C. The department has already received 136 bids from cities hoping to host the agencies.

In a letter to appropriations committee leadership, a group of over 100 agriculture and research groups expressed concerns with the plan.

The House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee plans to hold a hearing on the issue this week.

Posted in From the Hill

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