Legislation recently introduced in the House would require federal agencies to relocate their headquarters to areas outside of Washington, D.C. whenever a new facility is needed.
The Strategic Withdrawal of Agencies from Meaningful Placement (SWAMP) Act (H.R. 4863) was introduced by Congressman Luke Messer (R-IN). It would establish a bidding process for states and municipalities to compete for the relocation of a federal agency’s headquarters. Under current law, all departments and agencies of the federal government are required to be located in the District of Columbia, unless otherwise provided by Congress.
The legislation would prohibit federal agencies from undertaking any new construction, major renovations, or lease agreements on existing headquarters within the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.
Messer’s bill would also require the process to take into consideration any impact relocation would have on the local economy and workforce. It would also determine whether the new location has the capacity to carry out the mission and functions of the federal agency, and determine the impact relocation would have on national security interests.
“With the election of President Trump, the American people sent a strong message that they wanted a government that better serves them, not Washington bureaucrats,” Messer said. “There’s no reason why the Department of Agriculture has to be in the District of Columbia when it could be located in Indiana or another heartland state.”
Growing Calls for Moving Agencies
Messer’s bill is not a new idea. Recently, more politicians have been suggesting that federal agencies should be moved out of Washington to put them closer to the regions and people that they serve.
Former Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), for example, introduced a resolution (H. Res. 38) in the House last year to move agencies out of the DC area. Among the reasons he cited included bringing economic benefits to areas other than Washington and the impact of regulations created by the agencies would be more easily perceived by the people affected if agencies were closer to the impacted areas.
This philosophy was echoed by President Trump during his inauguration speech. He said:
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.
Wealth in Washington
The wealth factor cited by politicians is reflected in the affluence of counties around the nation’s capitol. The Washington, DC area has half of the ten wealthiest counties in America thanks in large part to the impact of the federal government. The affluence of the area is also reflected in Washington’s high cost of living.
According to the latest salary data from FedsDataCenter.com, the average federal employee salary in the District of Columbia is $115,594 based on FY 2017 data. It also is the highest paying area among all states by average salary; nearby states Maryland and Virginia are number 2 and number 3 at $108,491 and $102,311, respectively. The state with the lowest average federal salary was Wyoming at $63,149.
The idea behind bills such as the SWAMP Act is that if some agencies were to be relocated to other parts of the country, there would presumably be a positive economic gain in the new areas with the relocation of federal employees to other parts of the country.