You don’t have to go to D.C. to see our government in action

By Brandon Lardy | January 23, 2020

Where do most federal employees work? A common misconception is that the federal workforce is based entirely in Washington, D.C., and surrounding areas in Maryland and Virginia. In reality, 85% of federal employees live and work away from our nation’s capital in communities all across the country.

While policies and priorities are typically set at D.C.-based headquarters, employees in the field do much of the day-to-day work of delivering on the missions of our government. They care for our veterans, support our farmers, inspect our roads and bridges, protect our food supply and respond to disasters.

At the end of fiscal 2018, California was home to the largest share of federal employees outside of the Washington, D.C., area. The federal government is one of California’s largest employers, with federal agencies employing more Californians than the entire University of California system. Among the agencies with the largest footprints in California are the Veterans Health Administration, the Naval Air Systems Command, and the Social Security Administration.

Florida and Georgia also have substantial populations of federal employees. Florida, home to the third highest population of veterans in the nation, housed over 25,000 Veterans Health Administration personnel at the end of fiscal 2018. Georgia, home to the headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, housed nearly 66,000 civil servants.

Managing such a dispersed workforce presents a unique challenge for government, as leaders must ensure employees are engaged and committed to their work, despite their distance from Washington. This can often require giving field employees autonomy, building a sense of community across disconnected offices and recognizing employees for work that regularly goes unseen.

Are you interested in more insights on the federal workforce? Check out our other in-depth analyses in the Fed Figures series:

Do you have ideas for future Fed Figures posts? Send them to blardy@ourpublicserivce.org.


Brandon Lardy