Search Penny Hill Press

Friday, September 27, 2013

DHS Headquarters Consolidation Project: Issues for Congress

William L. Painter
Analyst in Emergency Management and Homeland Security Policy

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was established in early 2003, bringing together existing parts of 22 different federal agencies and departments in a new framework of operations. In its first few years, the department was reorganized multiple times, and more focus was given to ensuring its components were addressing the perceived threats facing the country rather than to addressing the new organization’s management structure and headquarters needs. Therefore, the consolidation of physical infrastructure that one might expect in creating an operation of such size and breadth did not occur at that time.

As the Coast Guard began to plan consolidating its leases on headquarters facilities into secure federally owned space, DHS was finding its original headquarters space at the Nebraska Avenue Complex too limited to meet its evolving needs. In 2006, the George W. Bush Administration proposed combining the two projects into one $3.45 billion headquarters consolidation project on the West Campus of St. Elizabeths Hospital in Anacostia.

Since that year, Administrations of both parties have requested funding for this initiative. Thus far, the project has received $460 million from DHS and $908 million from the General Services Administration (GSA), for a total of $1,368 million through FY2013. Most of these resources have been allocated to the construction of a new consolidated headquarters for the Coast Guard on the campus, which opened ceremonially on June 29, 2013.

However, this project has not received sustained funding from Congress—80% of the funding it has received so far came in FY2009 when a surge of supplemental funding combined with the regular appropriations for GSA and DHS provided $1.1 billion for the project. With the completion of its first key component, and the release of a new cost estimate reflecting a less aggressive construction plan, the debate over this project enters a new phase.

The purpose of this report is to outline the policy considerations to be evaluated in deciding whether to continue funding the consolidation of the remaining DHS headquarters functions at St. Elizabeths, and to explore some of the benefits and consequences of several possible ways forward.

The fate of this initiative could have significant impact on the department operationally, budgetarily, and culturally. Operationally, the consolidated headquarters would provide a higher level of security for many DHS headquarters functions, and would provide a more capable departmental operations center to help coordinate the federal response to natural disasters and terrorist attacks. Budgetarily, the department would benefit from reduced overhead costs in the long term, but would face significant pressure on its near term budget to see the construction through to completion. Culturally, the new headquarters could help promote the integration of the department’s components into “One DHS,” and have some direct and indirect contributions to improving departmental morale.

This report examines four potential ways forward for the headquarters project: Going no further than the Coast Guard headquarters phase; reducing the future DHS presence on the campus and sharing the site with other government agencies; proceeding with the project as outlined in the new baseline; and aggressively funding the project to accelerate completion.

Date of Report: September 11, 2013
Number of Pages: 36
Order Number: R42753
Price: $29.95

To Order:
R42753.pdf   to use the SECURE SHOPPING CART


Phone 301-253-0881

For email and phone orders, provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.