Is It Time to Move Federal Agencies Out of Washington?

Legislation has been introduced in Congress to explore the possibility of moving federal agencies out of Washington, DC.

Another Congressman wants to explore the possibility of moving federal agencies outside of Washington, DC.

Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH) has introduced the Federal Government Decentralization Commission Act (H.R. 2112), legislation that would establish a commission under the General Services Administration (GSA), headed by the Administrator of the GSA and 10 other members, that would study the relocation of select executive agencies or divisions of agencies outside the Washington metropolitan area.

The commission would also identify new potential locations that are in economically distressed areas, or areas with expertise in the mission and goal of the agency. The commission will take into account national security implications and will be required to produce an economic and workforce development study on how the relocation will impact the new location.

“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 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,” said Ryan.

He added:

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. The technology available to us today allows for seamless communication and collaboration regardless of geographic location, and is already allowing a web of federal offices and agencies across the US, such as the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta to perform their work without being inside the DC beltway. This is a common sense way to help cities like Cleveland or Detroit share in the economic development that comes from playing host to part of the federal government.

Ryan is not the first Congressman to suggest moving agencies outside of Washington. Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) introduced a resolution earlier this year expressing Congressional support for getting agencies out of DC.

Chaffetz cited some of the same reasons as Ryan as an argument for moving agencies, such as modern travel and technological capabilities. Chaffetz added that “Government needs to be closer to the people it regulates” and also noted, “Decision makers at various agencies are largely shielded from the impact of their decisions.”

Not everyone in Congress thinks that moving agencies out of DC is a good idea.

In response to Chaffetz’s resolution (H. Res. 38) passing out of Committee in March, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) called the idea “gratuitous, punitive, and prohibitively costly” and said that the proposal would have “devastating impacts” on the federal government.

“Cabinet-level executive branch agency headquarters are located in federally-owned spaces in D.C., and the federal government would have to fork over new construction and leasing funds. The federal government would also be throwing away the significant infrastructure investments it has made in this region,” said Norton.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.