Phase two of the Department of Homeland Security’s $4.5 billion renovation project at St. Elizabeths is moving forward. The General Services Administration on Tuesday awarded two construction companies with a contract that will help consolidate the agency’s office space.
GSA administrator Dan Tangherlini said the $139 million design-build contract, which was given to Rockville, Maryland-based Grunley Construction Company and D.C.-based Shalom Baranes Associates, would renovate the historic Center Building at DHS’ St. Elizabeths campus in Southeast D.C. and reduce the total number of DHS office buildings.
“Placing DHS offices on this campus will not only ensure that the agency has the space it needs to do its job effectively, it will also allow them to reinvest valuable taxpayer dollars into its mission,” Tangherlini said in a press release.
In September, House and Senate lawmakers debated future funding for the St. Elizabeths campus. During the recent hearing, Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), chairman of the House Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Management and Oversight, called the project a monument to mismanagement and added that there are more important funding priorities right now.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs majority staff, however, countered with a report detailing multiple reasons why Congress should make the St. Elizabeths consolidation project a priority over the next decade:
Consolidating the department at St. Elizabeths would improve DHS’ ability to carry out its mission. The committee interviewed all four former DHS secretaries, three former deputy secretaries and two former undersecretaries for management. They all agreed that consolidation would improve crisis management, focus agencywide efforts, improve morale of employees and reduce management inefficiencies and travel expenses.
Finishing the consolidated DHS headquarters makes good fiscal sense, saving as much as $1 billion over the next 30 years. As has been the call by DHS leaders and many members of Congress over the last decade, DHS spends hundreds of millions a year leasing space at more than 50 facilities across the Washington, D.C., region. The committee estimated that the government could save about $700 million over 30 years in lease costs alone through the consolidation.
“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,” Sen. Tom Carper (D- Del.), chairman of the committee, said in a recent statement.
DHS already is 11 years off schedule and would spend $1 billion more if St. Elizabeths is completed on its current schedule of 2026 at a cost of $4.5 billion.
In July 2013, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano officially opened the agency’s headquarters at the St. Elizabeths campus. Once renovated, the 270,000-square-foot Center Building would accomodate 700 DHS employees. Last December, the U.S. Coast Guard completed its move to the Douglas A. Munro Headquarters Building at St. Elizabeths.