Should Many Federal Jobs Be Moved Out of Washington?

Will federal jobs and agencies be moving out of Washington, DC? Here is an example of one agency considering moving some jobs to Alabama.

There have been numerous reports of moving jobs out of the Washington, DC area into other parts of the country. For example, a discussion of the President’s proposed budget brought out this comment from the Director of the Office of Management and Budget: “We did not write this budget with an eye toward what it would do to the value of your (DC area) condo….”

While that was referring to budget cuts and how they may impact the Washington, DC area, the same concerns for those in Washington may apply to moving jobs or agencies out of metro Washington. (See Chaffetz: It’s Time to Get Federal Agencies Out of Washington)

House Resolution Advances to Encourage Moving Jobs from Washington

A House Resolution has moved to the full House of Representatives and out of committee.  It was sent to the House or Senate as a whole for consideration on March 10, 2017. This Resolution reads:

That the House of Representatives—

(1) recognizes that it is no longer necessary for all Federal agencies to be located in the District of Columbia;
(2) determines that Executive agencies, as defined in section 105 of title 5, United States Code, and military departments, as defined in section 102 of such title, should be relocated outside the District of Columbia; and
(3) calls on the head of each Executive agency and military department to recommend appropriate alternate locations throughout the United States to which their respective agency or military department can be relocated.

Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) introduced this bill and made this comment:

Government needs to be closer to the people it regulates. As it stands, decision makers at various agencies are largely shielded from the impact of their decisions. Housing federal agencies in a city with one of the highest median incomes in the United States is not only expensive, but keeps federal bureaucrats in an economic and political bubble that offers a distorted view of the realities facing this country.

Wealth in Washington

While the House Resolution has not passed, the underlying philosophy of moving jobs out of the Washington area and into other geographic locations is not a surprise. As a candidate, Donald Trump was outspoken about government and Washington, DC flourishing at the expense of others in the country.  He stated in his inaugural address:

Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered, but the jobs left and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories. Their triumphs have not been your triumphs. And while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.

The Washington area is a wealthy portion of the country, largely because of the impact of the federal government. If enacted as proposed, the budget would have an impact on wealth in the Washington, DC area. Presumably, areas receiving some of the federal jobs would enjoy a positive economic benefit as a result of the influx of federal workers.

In 2014, the Washington area had six of the 10 wealthiest counties in the U.S. The average federal employee salary is about $112,000 in the Washington, DC area, and the lowest average federal salary in a state is $66,000. At the bottom end of the salary scale among the states is South Dakota with an average salary of $65,782.

FBI Jobs Moving to Huntsville, Alabama?

Here is one example of jobs that may be going into other areas of the country.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) may bring more than 4,000 jobs to Redstone Arsenal near Huntsville, Alabama. The Huntsville area has a locality pay differential of 17.82% compared to 27.10% for the Washington, DC locality pay area. (See also 2017 Locality Pay Rates for Federal Employees: San Francisco and DC Areas On Top.

According to a report on, the jobs will be primarily related to FBI Headquarters which is currently in Washington. The FBI is looking for a new headquarters in suburban Washington and away from its current location in the Hoover Building in downtown DC.

The jobs would not be brought to Alabama all at once but over a period of years.

The Huntsville mayor credits Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) for putting the Huntsville area in play for receiving the federal jobs. Redstone Arsenal already houses NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, the Army Materiel Command and Army Aviation.

To accommodate new employees from the organization, an office complex would be built on Redstone Arsenal. The FBI said at a recent community update it anticipated having a footprint of about 1,800 acres on the Army base.

After a ceremony at the FBI’s Terrorist Explosive Devices Analytical Center (TEDAC) on Redstone Arsenal, FBI Director James Comey acknowledged the prospects of bringing more jobs to the Huntsville area. He referred to the FBI having a “center of gravity” in the area. TEDAC moved to Redstone Arsenal from Quantico, Virginia a year ago. It is expanding its presence in the Arsenal with the construction of three new buildings there.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47