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Homeland Security Headquarters Completion Revised to 2026

The future of the next phase of construction for the proposed headquarters of the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, DC has once again become a political football, according to a recent article in the Washington Post.  The project originally proposed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks was intended to consolidate the departments that are now housed in over 50 buildings around the capitol area into one location.  During the period following the attacks and subsequent disasters, teams were required to move from one facility to another to coordinate, and that was not workable, according to the Post article.

The new headquarters’ campus was proposed by the Bush administration, and according to one of the comments in the article, there was no way that the Democrats were going to give the Bush administration the monies to fully fund the project and to meet the original 2015 completion date.

It was a big bold move.  The construction would be, according to the US General Services Administration (GSA), the largest construction project undertaken by the GSA in the DC area.  The fully developed facility would include 4.5 million square feet of office and 1.5 million square feet of parking and would consolidate those departments currently scattered around the capital area.

Phase one of the project was focused on the new headquarters for the US Coast Guard and that 1.5 million square foot facility was “commissioned last year after several years of budget battles.  The story gets interesting when we look at the remainder of the planned facilities.

According to the Washington Post, the facility is located on the original site of St. Elizabeths Hospital across the river from Reagan airport.  St. Elizabeths was the first mental health facility or “insane asylum” and consists of 62 buildings in various states of disrepair.  The site carries a historical or some might say “hysterical” designation, and there has been an agreement to save and restore 50 or more of those buildings for the Headquarters project.

The political issue comes now that funding requests have been made by the Obama administration to start the next phase, but the current budget does not provide the funds required for that work.  Estimates to build the original project were in the neighborhood of 3 billion dollars.  Now with the schedule being moved over ten years out to 2026, the revised costs will likely eclipse $4 billion, a cost that might make it unbuildable in light of the current budget cuts.  That, combined with the growth of the department from 140,000 to 244,000 employees, makes it a big target for both sides looking for budget shifts and cuts.

The terror threat has not diminished, but it looks as if the current plan of no second phase and short term lease renewals currently being used in those 50 locations might become the norm, at least for the next 12-15 years.  The Department continues to build regional locations to make certain that they can cover the country.

I have an idea that they might consider.  Move the consolidated top security clearance facility and the 14,000 employees that were to be housed there from the DC area to Texas where we can build new facilities to house those consolidated agencies into one campus.  Not only would the construction be less costly than in the DC area, the facility would be closer to the border problems that we need to address down here.

Oh wait, that probably won’t work since Texas is a red state; the governor and state legislature in Texas are Republican and the former Presidents Bush 41 and 43 live here.  Yes, Homeland Security funding must still be a political football.

You can read more about the US Coast Guard Headquarters Project and the construction team that built it on the official project website published by the Clark Construction Group.

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