Here’s a great way to cut government spending and improve job growth: let’s move the offices of several federal agencies outside of Washington, D.C.
In recent months, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Labor have been looking for new buildings to accommodate additional employees. Combined, they will need more than 3 million square feet of office space and expect to spend more than $3 billion on construction, according to Paul Kupiec, an American Enterprise Institute scholar writing in the Wall Street Journal.
The new prospective office locations? D.C., Maryland and Virginia.
It’s time to consider moving the offices of the largest federal agencies well outside the Beltway. If these agencies were to consider moving to another state in the Midwest or South, for example, they would bring thousands of high-paying jobs to local economies and likely save hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on construction and land costs. The cost of living would be much lower as well, improving the quality of life for the employees of these agencies.
The benefits aren’t just financial. “A government dispersed across multiple locales would solve many of the problems Americans have with a government bureaucracy out of touch with ordinary citizens and too centralized for its own good,” wrote Steven Price at CNN. “[I]t would keep our government safe from a catastrophic single terrorist attack that, today, might render our government powerless to function.”
With modern technology and communications systems, moving the majority of federal employees to cities other than Washington, D.C., should not hamper productivity. That’s why many corporations have already relocated to the suburbs, where they can build cheaper offices and save employees from frustrating downtown commutes.
The idea even has support from Matthew Yglesias, writing in the left-leaning Vox. Yglesias suggests additional agencies that could effectively be moved out of Washington, D.C.: the National Institutes of Health, the Social Security Administration and the National Weather Service have already moved to the suburbs of Maryland. There’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to move to Cleveland or Dallas.
Even independent regulatory agencies such as the Federal Elections Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Aviation Administration should consider moving.
“Each of these regulatory agencies is surrounded by a swarm of highly paid lawyers, economists, and lobbyists who make careers out of influencing their decisions,” Yglesias noted. “Right now, those folks all live in the D.C. metro area, where they drive up the cost of already expensive housing. Their spending would do a lot more good in Detroit, Milwaukee, or Cincinnati, where they would create secondary jobs and bolster a larger regional economy.”
President-elect Donald Trump has already begun to publicly shame companies that move jobs out of the country. Maybe he could exercise some of that influence to draw attention to the way billions of tax dollars are squandered on large buildings in Washington, D.C. That would be a fine way to “drain the swamp.”