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CR means problems for DHS HQ, GSA

Sep. 25, 2012 - 11:46AM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments
The continuing resolution, which Congress approved Saturday, extends budget cuts that have delayed the planned headquarters campus for the Department of Homeland Security in Southeast Washington by more than five years.
The continuing resolution, which Congress approved Saturday, extends budget cuts that have delayed the planned headquarters campus for the Department of Homeland Security in Southeast Washington by more than five years. (Colin Kelly / Staff)

The planned headquarters campus for the Department of Homeland Security in Southeast Washington appears likely to be sidelined yet again.

The continuing resolution, which Congress approved Saturday, extends budget cuts that have delayed the project by more than five years.

The president’s 2013 budget requested $89 million in the DHS budget for the nearly $4 billion project.

But the passage of the continuing resolution will mean DHS gets only $56 million for the project for fiscal 2013.

The continuing resolution will keep spending on construction low and prevent agencies from making needed renovations and finishing large projects, experts say.

Jimmy Christianson, director of government affairs at the Associated General Contractors of America, said agencies will need to keep delaying large-scale construction projects as long as funding remains at such low levels. That means the price tags of projects will continue to increase and cost the government more in the long run.

To avoid further delays and cost overruns on the DHS headquarters project, GSA and DHS would need at least $460 million in 2013, according to DHS estimates obtained by Federal Times through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The Coast Guard building — the first building of the headquarters campus planned for completion — is expected to be the only part of the project completed as scheduled. The building should be done in the spring, with the staff starting to move in next summer.

But DHS wasn’t the only agency counting on more construction funding.

GSA had requested $56 million in new construction and $494 million in renovation funds — but it will receive only $50 million in new construction and $280 million for renovations.

GSA has said it would use its 2013 new construction funding to purchase currently leased federal buildings in Martinsburg, W.Va., and Riverdale, Md., but it no longer has enough to purchase both of them.

Military construction will have the opposite problem because of the CR: more funding than it wants.

DoD asked that military construction be cut from $11.2 billion this year to $9.5 billion in 2013. The Army Corps of Engineers also planned for cuts, from about $1.7 billion to $1.5 billion. Those funding cuts will not happen because the 2012 funding levels will be extended to 2013, at least through March, when the CR expires.

Tim Ford, CEO of the Association of Defense Communities, said military construction spending levels have remained flat for almost two years, which means defense installations are not being renovated and maintained as well as they should be.

“We are worried about our bases not being invested in at an adequate level,” Ford said.

Kurt Stout, executive vice president for government solutions at real estate firm Colliers International, said the continuing resolution means agencies will be hesitant to make big decisions about leasing or construction.

“A continuing resolution is just continued uncertainty,” Stout said.

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