May 6, 2019

Young Letter to POTUS: Relocate Federal Agencies to Drain the Swamp

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) sent a letter to President Donald Trump on Friday outlining how the administration could take an important first step in relocating federal agencies outside of Washington D.C. The letter follows Senator Young’s legislation, the Decentralize Regulatory Agencies, Include the Nation Act (DRAIN Act), that would require federal agencies to relocate their headquarters outside of Washington, D.C. and closer to the communities they serve throughout the United States.  

The letter to the President highlights how the country has benefited from efforts to reduce regulatory costs by billions of dollars. More can be done, however, to implement a comprehensive feasibility study on how to transition non-national security agencies out of the Washington D.C. metro area.

The DRAIN Act directs the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the General Services Administration (GSA) to jointly develop and implement a competitive bidding process for non-security federal agencies to relocate outside of Washington, D.C. by October 1, 2029 or by the date their current lease expires. Communities with a higher-than-average unemployment rate, a clear nexus between the agency and the geographic community, or existing infrastructure to support the agency will be given priority in the bidding process.

“I recognize that not everyone is sold on moving federal agencies away from bureaucrats in Washington to be closer to the communities they should be serving,” said Senator Young. “That is why I am calling on the President and this administration to perform a feasibility study. I’m confident that in the long-run our country will benefit by relocating these agencies out of the Washington D.C. metro area. Cities throughout the interior of the country not only cost less for agencies to operate, this will also help create new investment opportunities for communities that are struggling to compete economically with our coastal economies.”

Many agencies today have already made the decision to not locate their core mission in downtown Washington, D.C., including the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland; the Social Security Administration in Woodlawn, Maryland; and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia.

Additionally, Indiana is among the top three finalists to house the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The agency announced it would move these offices out of Washington D.C. by the end of the year “in an effort to improve customer service and save taxpayer dollars.” Indiana’s Congressional delegation recently sent a letter in support of locating these offices in Indiana.

Under the DRAIN Act, all non-security executive branch agencies must look outside Washington, D.C. to relocate their operations unless the President submits a report to Congress detailing the basis for an exemption. Additionally, the cost of relocation must be covered by existing funding

The full text of Senator Young’s letter can be found here and below. 

President Donald J. Trump

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest

Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Trump:

I write regarding the need to reduce the federal government’s concentration in Washington, D.C., and a solution to this frustration that I believe you will support – draining the swamp by relocating federal agencies outside of the Washington, D.C. metro area. Throughout your presidency, you have already reduced regulatory costs by billions of dollars, repealed burdensome regulations before implementing new statutes, and placed hundreds of proposed federal actions under greater scrutiny. Your leadership has benefited the nation greatly. As a result, communities, small business owners, employees, and entire industries are experiencing significant economic opportunities. However, for governmental efficiency to progress, more action is required.

While there are arguments for maintaining concentrated government functions in Washington, D.C., many federal agencies are politically independent in their core mission or are too far removed from the Americans they regulate. Relocating some federal agencies throughout the country would distribute economic opportunity, disperse bureaucratic power, and bridge the gap between regulators and the American people. This general idea is not new and has been attempted by numerous administrations to no avail. Currently, the five richest counties in America are located near Washington, D.C., and as you know this city continues to have the highest per capita income in the nation. By relocating federal agencies to smaller and more cost-effective cities, struggling communities will finally be given the opportunity to compete economically and develop as rapidly as experienced in Washington, D.C.

To address these issues, I introduced the Decentralize Regulatory Agencies, Include the Nation Act (DRAIN Act). As a basic framework, this legislation would provide the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) the authority to develop and implement a plan under which non-national security federal agencies could be relocated outside Washington, D.C. Specifically, the relocation site would be determined on a competitive basis by the Director of OMB, the Administrator of GSA, and the head of each agency. Priority in the bidding process would be given to communities with higher-than-average unemployment rate with existing infrastructure in place.

Washington’s centralization and dogmatic culture acts as a national tax on talent and removes the diversely skilled citizens from the states and communities that most need them. An ambitious approach is necessary for federal agencies to take the initiative on balancing the disparity of the nation’s distribution of resources. Because a rapid transition of multiple headquarters would cause short-term disruptions, I respectfully urge your administration to develop comprehensive feasibility studies to account for all economic, technological, workforce, and logistical factors involved with transitioning non-national security agencies out of the Washington, D.C. metro area. Completing these studies would be a sensible first step towards verifying the practicality of moving any single agency to a new home elsewhere in the country. With special attention to cost savings, the studies should highlight the benefits of decentralizing power and unleashing economic opportunity, as well as reveal the challenges and limitations each agency might encounter as it addresses the site-selection process.

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to working with you to dislodge the arms of the federal government from Washington, D.C., and further drain the swamp while giving economic opportunities to the rest of America.