January 23, 2020

Call for GAO Report on Relocation of NIFA and ERS

Call for GAO Report on Relocation of NIFA and ERS

Congressional members of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee sent a letter to the Governmental Accountability Office (GAO) pursuing clarity about the cost-benefit analysis used to justify the relocation of two governmental agencies, ERS and NIFA, from Washington, DC to Kansas City. The letter requested the GAO to review the influence of the relocation on the agencies’ missions and the contribution to scientific research provided by the agencies.

The USDA released an Executive Summary of the cost-benefit analysis, but the full analysis has been blocked from the public and Congress. The summary states the move will save $300 million over 15 years but failed to indicate the cost to taxpayers in the form of research due to lack of employee retention. It is also unclear if the analysis met standard regulatory cost-benefit analysis guidelines. The relocation is estimated to have left 64% of ERS positions and 75% of NIFA positions vacant, resulting in the delay of publications of numerous critical research reports.

Congresswomen Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) led members of the committee in the letter, stating the “USDA’s refusal to comply with congressional oversight requests on the cost-benefit analysis raises serious questions about the decision-making process which led to the relocation of ERS and NIFA” and she “hopes and expects that GAO will provide the transparency owed to this Committee, the employees of these agencies, and the American people.” 

The letter requests a review of what arrangements the USDA took to fulfill legal and regulatory requirements in planning and conducting the relocation process, how the relocation will impact the short- and long-term missions of the agencies, and what oversight might be required to guarantee that future relocation is conducted with the agency mission in mind. Read the letter here.