White House Chief of Staff Offers New Reasoning for Relocations

White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney changed the narrative this weekend on the administration’s plan to relocate federal employees out of the nation’s capital. Originally, the proposal to move several agencies was explained for logistical reasons. This weekend, Mulvaney described it as a desire to encourage federal employees to quit their positions.

The Trump administration has proposed moving bureaus within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of the Interior out of Washington D.C. Specifically, the plan invlolves moving the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to Kansas and Missouri, respectively, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to Colorado.

USDA Deputy Secretary Steve Censky previously attributed this decision to several factors, including that both USDA bureaus were currently located in rented space outside the department headquarters where rent was high and the lease was expiring.

Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management at Interior Joe Balash attributed their move to “the need to align the Department’s personnel footprint and resources with its physical footprint and resources, which continue to be primarily based in the West” in a 17-page letter to Congress last month.

Balash noted that the move would produce benefits from “more informed decision-making to increased efficiency and coordination among stakeholders and the Department.”

Mulvaney’s statements this weekend present a different possible motive.

During a Republican party event in South Carolina, Mulvaney noted, “Now, it’s nearly impossible to fire a federal worker. I know that because a lot of them work for me. And I’ve tried. And you can’t do it. But simply saying to the people, you know what, we’re going to take you outside the bubble, outside the Beltway, outside this liberal haven and move you out into the real part of the country, and they quit. What a wonderful way to streamline government and do what we haven’t been able to do for a long time.” 

Mulvaney noted that more than half of the individuals offered relocation at the USDA quit their position.

According to reports, 72 employees from the ERS accepted their relocation assignment, and another 99 turned down the offer or did not respond before the July 15 deadline. At NIFA, 73 employees agreed to the transfer while another 151 turned it down.

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