D.C. out of the wonk?


You’ve heard the old saying: “You can take the policy wonk out of D.C., but you can’t take the D.C. out of the policy wonk” — or something to that effect (“Critics wary of moving BLM,” HCN, 7/22/19). I find it pretty humorous, the recent administrative trend to move federal agencies out of Washington, D.C., as if moving headquarters closer to the land will really change the decision-making structure. If the head of a federal agency is a Harvard-educated Bostonian, is he likely to make more favorable decisions about grazing if he lives in Wyoming? I’d argue no more so than if you hire a fourth-generation rancher from Dubois, Wyoming, and sit him in an office off Virginia Ave. Not to mention the fact that such decisions insult the thousands of Bureau of Land Management employees that live and work in rural communities throughout the West. If folks want decisions that are more local, the discussion needs to be around organizational structure and how decision-making within the agency can be moved down to regional, state and local levels while maintaining consistency across the agency. Not an easy task for an underfunded federal agency responsible for 248.3 million surface and 700 million subsurface acres. So while moving headquarters west of the Mississippi may sound like a stronger connection to the land, a large bureaucratic agency is just that, no matter what direction it faces.

Neil Crescenti
Boise, Idaho 

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