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DHS increases planned staffing at new headquarters to 17,000

Mar. 21, 2012 - 04:28PM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments

The Department of Homeland Security hopes to squeeze about 17,000 employees about 3,000 more than originally planned onto its consolidated headquarters in southeast Washington.

But most of those employees won't begin arriving until five years from now. Because of budget cuts and resulting construction delays, about 3,700 Coast Guard employees will be the only tenants until fiscal 2017.

Rafael Borras, undersecretary for management at DHS, laid out the department's revised plans at a hearing Wednesday before the House Appropriations subcommittee responsible for approving the DHS budget.

The department will attempt to save money by ending leases and using telework and alternative work schedules to increase occupancy at the headquarters, which is under construction on the former St. Elizabeths Hospital campus.

"That will require us to change where we work and how we think about work," Borras said, adding that many employees may not need traditional offices.

Congressional budget cuts have forced DHS to delay the consolidation of its component agencies into one location by more than five years and have added more than $500 million to the total costs.

Originally, the DHS headquarters plan carried a price tag of $3.45 billion and aimed to relocate 14,000 workers from more than 180 offices by fiscal 2016.

But, according to Borras, the project will cost $4 billion and won't be complete until fiscal 2022.

Only the Coast Guard headquarters is expected to be completed on schedule in spring 2013. The next component would be the fiscal 2017 move-in of the secretary's office and related staff about 300 people if DHS gets the funding it needs to continue the project.

The president's 2013 budget seeks only $89 million in the DHS budget for the nearly $4 billion project. And for the General Services Administration, the budget seeks only $56 million for all GSA-sponsored construction projects, including the DHS headquarters.

DHS would need about $2.3 billion to finish the project, according to agency projections.

Borras said the biggest factor in rising costs is the lack of appropriated funding for the project and the stretched-out schedule.

"Time is not on our side," Borras said.

Rep. David Price, D-N.C., the ranking member of the House appropriations subcommittee on Homeland Security, said DHS needs to consolidate its headquarters in order to become more efficient and to better fulfill its mission.

"This needs to go forward," Price said.

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