Friday, September 16, 2011

DHS's Project to Transition Headquarters to St. Elizabeth's Partially Funded by Senate Proposal

On Sept. 6, the Senate proposed a draft Department of Homeland Security spending bill, which includes $56 million to continue the construction of the new DHS headquarters located at the former St. Elizabeth's Hospital location in Southeast Washington, D.C. However, the proposal only funds the completion of the Coast Guard headquarters and would not provide any money for the next phase of construction.

DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano said on Thursday that the project will be put on hold for the short term, while the department deals with budget constraints. "I'd rather have the money to complete building a national security center for the Coast Guard, support the Secret Service in its activities and sustain our activities at the border than a new building," said Napolitano. "That is why St. E's is on the chopping block for now. Ultimately it will happen, but not now."

The consolidation process would bring dozens of agencies with thousands of workers to one sprawling campus. The project began in July 2009 when GSA, which is running the program for DHS, hired a construction company under a $435 million contract to design a 1.18 million-square-foot Coast Guard headquarters facility. According to a June 2010 GSA estimate, the total cost for the project is $3.6 billion, and it was expected to be completed in 2016.

The DHS headquarters project is the largest federal construction project since the Pentagon was built before World War II. The St. Elizabeth's site has over 4.5 million square feet of office space and 1.5 million square feet for parking. It is estimated that nearly 14,000 DHS employees would work at the site once it is completed.

The Obama Administration initially requested $160 million for FY 2012 to continue the project. However, in June, the House passed its 2012 Homeland Security with no money allocated toward the project. The House bill also included a requirement that DHS submit a revised schedule and cost estimate for St. Elizabeth's within four months of passage of the bill.

The Senate's proposal also includes reductions for eight DHS programs or offices including the Office of Risk Management and Analysis, the National Biosurveillence Integration Center and the Office of Counternarcotics Enforcement.