For the first time in U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services history, employees will all be under one roof — in about three years.
On Monday, officials with USCIS and the General Services Administration broke ground on the future site of the services’ headquarters in Camp Springs, Maryland. The building will consolidate about 3,000 employees spread out in six different locations around the Washington, D.C. area.
USCIS Director Francis Cissna told Federal News Radio the move “means a lot.”
“If everybody’s under the same roof, we’ll be able to talk to each other, collaborate, there will be a synergy that doesn’t exist now because we’re spread out across town,” Cissna said.
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The new headquarters is about 10 miles from downtown Washington, and the building measures 574,767 rentable square feet. GSA officials said the lease is for 15 years, and will save USCIS about $21.4 million in annual leased savings in its first year.
Acting GSA Administrator Tim Horne credited the new building with reducing the agency’s footprint by about 128,000 rentable square feet.
“With challenges to the federal budget and a need for fiscal restraint, we always talk about being more efficient, reducing cost, maximizing efficiency,” Horne said. “The great thing about this building is it will also improve the effectiveness of employees and it’s going to give people a great home for years to come.”
The site today is an empty field, with trees and brush cleared away for the future construction. James G. Davis Construction Corporation is behind the project. Supporters who showed up Monday to cheer the groundbreaking had to step around mud puddles and lean into 20 mph winds during the ceremony.
The location of the new headquarters is within walking distance of a Metrorail station, as well as a finished town center with apartments, shops, and restaurants.
Acting Homeland Security Department Secretary Elaine Duke comforted employees during her turn to speak, saying when she was a career employee in the Navy, she also went through an office move when she went from Northern Virginia to the Washington Navy Yard.
“I understand that despite the fact we’re going to have a brand-new building close to the Metro in an amazing area, it’s still a time of change,” Duke said. “We pledge to you, we’ll work with our builder, GSA, our representatives, to make sure the transition is as smooth as possible with providing you the information and the tools you need to adjust your commutes and your lives to this brand new, beautiful location. I think that it’s going to be a wonderful thing. This will be the first time that USCIS actually has a singular headquarters for all of its people and I think that’s an amazing thing. I think that you’ll find once you’re together, and you’ve adjusted your commutes, it’s going to be even better in terms of your ability to work and carry out the mission in the amazing way I’ve seen you do it over the past six months.”