The arguments for and against the consolidation of federal agencies in Washington


November 30, 2021 1:49 PM ET

An aerial view of Washington.


Nicolas Kamm/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Kudos to Faith Bottum for solving a solvable problem in Washington (“When Federal Employees Telecommute, Why Are Agencies in DC?”, Nov. 27 op-ed). The capital’s culture has worsened in recent years, with lawyers moving from agency to agency but maintaining one belief: All good ideas come from Washington and the rubies of the hinterland should be governed, not consulted. This vanity would be undermined if, for example, the Securities and Exchange Commission were located in Chicago or the Federal Trade Commission in Denver.

Tim Kelly

Naples, Florida.

Ms. Bottum suggests spreading the federal workforce across the country. But keeping the national government geographically tied to a 10-mile square on the Potomac holds it back in a more important way. Just look at Connecticut, where state offices, universities, and prisons dot the legislative maps and lawmakers struggle to balance obligations to the tax public and the hometown employer.

Dispersing agencies would expose senators and congressmen to the temptation — or pressure — to create more federal jobs and unduly protect “their” agencies from the cuts. The pressure to side with the white-collar unions gripping the dormitory neighborhoods of Maryland and Northern Virginia would escalate, complicating the looming task of reining in federal deficits (and the $29 trillion debt ). Pursuing inexpensive office space would likely result in a costly lesson.

Carol Platt Liebau

Yankee Institute

Hartford, Conn.

Inside the Beltway, responsiveness when formulating the budget is the currency of the kingdom. Any move from the region would create a tyranny of distance that would put agencies at a competitive disadvantage in the race for funding. Moving agencies are an interesting idea if the goal is to reduce these agencies. But if the goal is to increase economic activity in places like Detroit, it would be better to provide targeted tax relief and encourage innovation.

James Murrin

Marshfield, Mass.

Gathering all federal agencies near Washington concentrates so much wealth and power in the region that it becomes immune to the adverse effects of its policies. In 2008, as the economy faltered, the Washington real estate market barely noticed. When Covid lockdowns shattered local economies, Washington didn’t miss a beat as nearly all government paychecks continued uninterrupted. When Washington lays an egg, the country gets a yolk on its face. Perhaps if our Imperial City felt the errors of its ways, its ways would become less damaging.

Alan Wolfson

Bradenton, Florida.

I spent four years at the Treasury Department in Washington and witnessed the benefits of being in the field and not being subject to groupthink inside the Beltway. I have always thought that if the personnel strategy of mandatory duty rotations for management were borrowed from the military, a similar result could be achieved. Moving the pawns instead of the king’s house is a more pragmatic approach.

stricken stone

Mercer Island, Washington.

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Appeared in the December 1, 2021 print edition as “To Move or Not to Move Agencies Out of DC?” “.


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