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New Legal Review of Haphazard USDA Research Agency Relocations Highlights Need for COST of Relocations Act

Following the release of a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) legal review of the previous administration’s relocation of two U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) research agencies, U.S. Representatives Jennifer Wexton, Gerry Connolly, and Don Beyer (all D-VA) released the following statement emphasizing the need for Congress to take up the Conducting Oversight to Secure Transparency (COST) of Relocations Act. The COST of Relocations Act would require any federal agency preparing to relocate to conduct and release to the public a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of the proposed move before it is carried out.

“The Trump administration’s disastrous relocation of two USDA research agencies was an attack on nonpartisan federal workers and the integrity of the essential work they perform for our country. The haphazard process crippled the agencies’ workforce and ability to carry out their missions.

“The new GAO legal review of the relocation emphasizes the need to implement additional common sense guardrails to ensure due diligence is conducted before any agency relocation.

“That’s why we’re renewing our call for Congress to take up the COST of Relocations Act to require a public cost-benefit analysis before any such move is taken. We cannot allow this kind of politically-motivated attack on our civil service to happen again.”

The new review released by the GAO this week, as requested by Wexton, Connolly, and Beyer, found the USDA violated the Antideficiency Act by failing to properly notify Congress of the funding being used, but otherwise operated within the bounds of federal law.

The haphazard relocation in 2019 of the USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) from Washington, DC to Kansas City, Missouri, resulted in a decline in workforce size and productivity. The Trump administration refused to publicly release a full third-party cost-benefit analysis, obscuring the many detrimental impacts to the workforce and mission of the agencies which have since been revealed.