Chairman Carper: Funding for Second Phase of St. Elizabeths Critical Step But We Can’t Stop Here

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del) highlighted the General Services Administration’s (GSA) recent announcement that it has begun the second phase of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) headquarters consolidation at St. Elizabeths West campus and commended the agency for moving forward with the project.

GSA announced that it is has hired two companies, Grunley Construction Company and Shalom Baranes Associates, to renovate the Center Building at St. Elizabeths, which is slated to house nearly 700 employees. This is the second phase of the project and is funded by Fiscal Year 2014 appropriations. The next phase is completion of the Center Building Complex, intended to house the secretary, executive leadership, and additional staff. However, that phase cannot be completed without Fiscal Year 2015 funding from Congress. The President’s fiscal year 2015 budget request includes $323 million combined for GSA and DHS to complete renovation of the St. Elizabeths Center Building Complex and provide necessary access road improvements. If funding for the next phase is not appropriated, it will leave the Center Building practicably unusable, wasting the $348 million already spent or appropriated for that building and forcing DHS to renew short-term leases.

“The lack of a centralized headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is worse than inconvenient or inefficient – it constrains the very ability of the Department to function effectively to carry out its homeland security mission,” said Chairman Carper. “A unified DHS headquarters at St. Elizabeths is vital to improving mission effectiveness, management, and efficiency. This recent announcement by the General Services Administration (GSA) is a critically important step for the project and demonstrates the agency’s support and commitment to building the unified, consolidated DHS Congress envisioned when it created the Department in the wake of the September, 11 2001 terrorist attacks. But we can’t stop here. As my Committee’s recent report showed, continued investment in the St. Elizabeths project is fiscally prudent over the long run, with the potential to save nearly a billion taxpayer dollars. Stopping after this phase would simply waste hundreds of millions of dollars already invested in the project. Given its importance, the St. Elizabeths DHS consolidation project should remain a funding priority, and Congress and the Administration should come together on a plan to move forward with the project.”

Last month, the Committee’s majority staff released a report, “Security and Savings: The Importance of Consolidating the Department of Homeland Security’s Headquarters at St. Elizabeths,” that found that the completion of a consolidated Department of Homeland Security headquarters project at the St. Elizabeths West campus would improve our nation’s homeland security and save the federal government almost $1 billion over the next 30 years.

In 2006, the Bush administration proposed consolidating more than 50 DHS offices, many onto the St. Elizabeths campus in Southeast Washington, D.C. Construction began in 2009 but has significantly slowed in the face of inconsistent and inadequate funding from Congress. Today, DHS still operates out of more than 50 separate facilities in the Washington, D.C. region, many of which are physically inadequate. The current infrastructure used to house DHS has made it much more difficult to implement the vision behind the Homeland Security Act and create the collaborative approach envisioned.