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Budget cuts increase DHS building cost, construction time

Dec. 4, 2012 - 01:39PM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments
Constructing the new Department of Homeland Security headquarters will cost $600 million more than originally expected and take six years longer to complete, according to the department's latest estimates, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Constructing the new Department of Homeland Security headquarters will cost $600 million more than originally expected and take six years longer to complete, according to the department's latest estimates, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. (Colin Kelly / Staff)

Constructing the new Department of Homeland Security headquarters will cost $600 million more than originally expected and take six years longer to complete, according to the department’s latest estimates, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The initial plan called for $3.45 billion to consolidate DHS operations on the site of the former St. Elizabeths Hospital campus in southeast Washington by the end of fiscal 2016.

But delays caused by congressional budget cuts have driven the cost of the project up to $4.06 billion and will drag completion out to fiscal 2022, according to the estimates.

Costs have increased by $100 million and a year of delays has been added since last December, when DHS documents showed a $3.96 billion cost and fiscal 2021 completion.

DHS and the General Services Administration, which manages the project’s construction, requested $668 million for the consolidation in fiscal 2011 but got $77 million — only 12 percent of the request. The agencies requested $376 million in fiscal 2012 but received $93 million — only a quarter of the request.

DHS requested $89 million for the project in 2013, but the continuing resolution provides only $56 million.

Now DHS would need at least $426 million in fiscal 2014 and $430 million in 2015 to finish the project on the new timetable, the documents show.

The department originally planned to relocate more than 14,000 workers from more than 180 offices and reduce its leased offices in the Washington area to fewer than 12 by fiscal 2016.

Now only the Coast Guard building is expected to be completed as scheduled — this spring, with the staff starting to move in next summer.

Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on Homeland Security, said in a statement that large investments in construction are difficult under the constraints of the Budget Control Act, which requires mandatory cuts governmentwide in January unless Congress and the Obama administration agree on a path to reducing budget deficits by $1.2 trillion through 2021.

Aderholt said he expects DHS to find alternatives to consolidating its operations in one location — at least until the project can be fully funded.

“Given that the St. Elizabeths project has been significantly delayed, we expect the department to continue to work in the meantime on viable, cost-effective solutions to ensure DHS personnel can carry out the mission of keeping our nation secure,” Aderholt said.

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