Utah is still waiting to see whether the Trump administration decides to move its Bureau of Land Management headquarters here from Washington — a move that makes sense considering how most BLM decisions affect the West much more than any property along the Potomac.
Continuing this trend, the administration announced last week that economists and scientists at the Department of Agriculture will be relocated to Kansas City. This is another move that makes great sense, considering that bureaucracy’s effect on farmers concentrated in the heartland.
The good sense seemed lost on angry employees of the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, however. Many of them stood and turned their backs on Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue as he made the announcement last Thursday.
Frankly, they need to get over it. Those affected by federal decisions have little need for bureaucrats who want to cling to the power structure in Washington.
CNN cited concerns by employees who don’t want to be separated from the government they serve. That is a perfect example of the problem. They are supposed to serve the people, not the government.
That said, we sympathize with workers who would need to uproot their families, sell houses, leave friends and move to an entirely different part of the country. Such moves are not easy. Millions of people each year face decisions whether to go where their employer wants them to go or to find other work that would allow them to stay. These can be difficult choices, and we acknowledge that, unlike the BLM, where many workers already reside in various states, these agencies operate mainly in Washington. However, we have no doubt that Department of Agriculture employees will weather these changes as well as have others in various industries.
Critics worry about the loss of institutional knowledge if these agencies need to hire new people. This may be a valid concern, but it should be weighed against the possible gains of having fresh eyes with fresh ideas looking at old problems. Stagnation, entrenchment and an attitude of entitlement are bigger concerns in bureaucracies.
These agencies are supposed to produce nonpartisan reports and analyses. That should be as easy to do in Kansas City as it is in Washington, where politics permeate every crevice.
Administrations will shift from conservative to liberal and back again through the years. But having these agencies close to the people they serve will add a new level of accountability.
Besides all this, the move makes great economic sense. The department estimates a savings of $300 million over 15 years. Kansas City has more modest living costs and lower salaries than does Washington.
In addition, the move will be a boon to the Kansas City economy, adding many good-paying jobs.
Perhaps only a Washington bureaucrat could find fault with such a move. Utahns, meanwhile, should hope they soon can host the headquarters of the BLM. Spreading the federal government among the people is a capital idea.