Local and federal officials held a ceremony July 29 opening the new U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters on the St. Elizabeths Campus in Washington, D.C. (Mike Morones / Staff)
As federal officials and lawmakers cut the ribbon Monday to officially open the new Coast Guard headquarters in Southeast Washington, they also vowed to complete the long-delayed consolidation of the rest of the Department of Homeland Security headquarters offices on the campus.
DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano said the department is committed to completing future phases of the consolidation.
“We will be working closely with [the General Services Administration] and Congress to proceed in a way that is fiscally sound and that meets the needs of DHS and our employees,” Napolitano said.
More than 3,700 Coast Guard employees will begin moving Aug. 1 to their $435 million, 1.1 million-square-foot headquarters — the only portion of the DHS consolidation project to be completed on time.
The project has been plagued by congressional budget cuts, which have caused delays driving the cost from an estimated $3.45 billion to more than $4.05 billion billion. The completion date, originally fiscal 2016, is now expected in fiscal 2026 at the earliest, according to department estimates.
DHS 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, saving the agency millions of dollars.
Dan Tangherlini, head of the General Services Administration, which is overseeing the consolidation effort, said DHS needs and deserves its own headquarters and that the administration is committed to moving all DHS components to the campus.
“There is a great deal of work still left to be done,” Tangherlini said.
Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said consolidating DHS headquarters operations into one location would save money in the long run.
“We need to have the whole team here working together,” Carper said.
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., agreed that Congress should work to fund the remainder of the project.
“DHS cannot be expected to guard the homeland from buildings scattered across the region,” Norton said.
Commandant of the Coast Guard Adm. Bob Papp said the new facility marks the first time the Coast Guard has had a permanent headquarters facility in its nearly 223-year history.
“I think we have now reached the promised land,” Papp said.
DHS and GSA requested a combined $354 million in fiscal 2014 for the next phase of the project — renovations to a building on the campus for the secretary and DHS administrative functions.