Time to bring federal employees home for every holiday
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America still has about 10 million fewer jobs than it did before COVID-19. In order to help revive jobs across the country, the time has come to move federal government employees from Washington, D.C., capital region to other parts of the country.

Despite the movement towards telework, a disproportionality large amount of the federal workforce remains in the Washington, D.C. area. Approximately 1 in 6 of the over 2 million civilian full-time federal employees live in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, which includes Northern Virginia, and suburban Maryland.

Before the outbreak of COVID-19, federal agencies had already offered telecommuting options to their employees, with 40 percent of federal employees already eligible for telework. Telecommuting for federal employees was further expanded after the virus outbreak. Many of these and more federal employees in telework-eligible positions should be afforded the opportunity to live elsewhere.

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In addition to telework, it is time to look at relocating the headquarters’ of the many different federal departments and agencies. In the 21st Century, is there any compelling reason to have headquartered in the capital region departments such as Agriculture, Transportation, and others? Sens. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyCan we protect our country — from our rulers, and ourselves? Sasse, in fiery op-ed, says QAnon is destroying GOP Democratic super PAC targets Hawley, Cruz in new ad blitz MORE (R-Mo.) and Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnColbert asks Republicans 'have you had enough?' in live show after Capitol violence Congress rejects challenge to Arizona's presidential vote LIVE COVERAGE: Congress certifies Biden win after Pennsylvania, Arizona challenges fail MORE (R-Tenn.) in 2019 introduced the Hire Act to relocate some federal department headquarters’.

The benefits to a federal diaspora include:

  1. A larger, more geographically and culturally diverse talent pool. Those who want to remain closer to their communities may be more interested in federal work if they are not forced to relocate to Washington, D.C.
  2. A boon to local economies. Adding a few dozen federal workers to the capital region would be like a drop in the ocean of the local economy. But adding them to a suburb near say, St. Louis, could support more jobs in the food service, hospitality, and other industries. Economists call this the “multiplier effect.”
  3. Cost savings over time to the Government. Currently, federal employees are offered “locality” pay, with workers in Washington, D.C., and other high cost areas receiving a greater salary than those in most parts of the country. For example, a mid-level (GS-12, step 5 employee) would earn $97,848 per year in the Washington, D,C., area. The same level employee in Omaha, Neb., $87,237, 11 percent less. Full telework employees should simply be offered the median locality pay and use that to live where they choose. If they want to live in D.C., fine, but they should not receive the additional pay for it because the federal government does not need them there. Similarly, a federal employee near Omaha could receive the same or more pay since they are closer to the median locality pay for the country.
  4. Federal workers would have the opportunity to increase their standard of living. Nine of the 20 wealthiest counties are near Washington, D.C. By median household income, the top three counties are all Washington, D.C. suburbs. For example, according to Zillow, the median home price in downtown Washington, D.C., is a jaw dropping $647,571. Federal workers could take their salaries to lower cost of living areas and live relatively better, in some cases, far better. For those who qualify for full telework, some should be afforded the option to remain; however, their locality adjustment should be no greater that the median locality pay for the entire country.
  5. Great accountability to the People. More of the federal workforce would live nearer to those outside government. In this way, they would no longer be segregated from those whom they are chartered to serve. This would give the public a greater insight into the workings (or non-workings) of government.

Relocating and aligning the locations of government and its employees is not without precedent. At the behest of Congress, the U.S. Military instituted Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), which was a process in which facilitated Cold War realignment and closure of military installations. More than 350 installations have been closed in five BRAC rounds, resulting in a savings of $12 billion annually.

Conservatives can support this effort to diminish the influence of Washington, D.C., on our lives. Whether and how much to reduce the size of the federal workforce is a separate and legitimate question. Liberals can support this as worker-friendly to those whom they serve and are currently captive to working in a high cost of living area.

We are in the Digital Age when jobs are scarce. It is time for the federal government to reflect this reality.

Chad Bayse is a Minnesota native, Navy Judge Advocate and former Counselor to Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsHarris to resign from Senate seat on Monday Rosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' Sessions, top DOJ officials knew 'zero tolerance' would separate families, watchdog finds MORE and attorney at the National Security Agency. The views expressed in this article are his own.