Carper: Spend money to save money on DHS HQ

Coast Guard All Hands Blog image: St. Elizabeth's campus.

Completing the beleaguered construction of the Department of Homeland Security’s consolidated headquarters campus would save over a billion dollars in the coming decades, but it needs to get the remaining funds to complete it, according to a report from a congressional oversight committee.

Although President Barack Obama’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget request fully supports timely completion of the St. Elizabeths DHS headquarters project in Washington, D.C., it needs full funding or the agency won’t reach its full potential, according to Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

A report released by Carper on Dec. 19 said that although current funding for the project includes $225.6 million for DHS and $266.6 for General Services Administration to construct a new federally owned headquarters for Federal Emergency Management Agency on the St. Elizabeths site, as well as renovate existing Center Building Complex buildings there to house additional leadership staff, the project remains only two-thirds funded.

The project, said the report, requires only three years of additional funding, including FY 2017 funding, to be completed by 2021. Failure to fund the project fully, it said, would “force the government to pay roughly $70 million in unnecessary expenses which would not be incurred if the construction was funded so it could remain on schedule.”

Construction of DHS’ headquarters on the west campus of St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C., has been progressing in fits and starts for 10 years. The plan has a rocky history of cost and feature complaints. For instance, at a late-2015 House hearing, the project came under fire from lawmakers for what they said were extravagant details and "cushy" features such as Brazilian hardwood paneling in some buildings.

Completion of the project, Carper said in a statement on the report, would save $1.2 billion over the next 30 years and smooth coordination of the agency’s national security efforts. Currently DHS has offices scattered about the metropolitan area, with its headquarters staff in a building in Southeast Washington.

“The headquarters consolidation project at St. Elizabeths is crucial to the success of the department and to realizing the unified, cohesive DHS envisioned by Congress when it created the department 14 years ago,” Carper said in a Dec. 19 statement. “Bringing together key leadership and agency personnel in one, centralized location is critical to supporting DHS’s mission, reducing management challenges, and making the department’s operations more efficient.”

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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