Spending bill restricts funding for new Homeland Security headquarters

A conceptual drawing of the Coast Guard headquarters at DHS's St. Elizabeth's campus. (Courtesy of GSA).
A conceptual drawing of the Coast Guard headquarters at DHS’s St. Elizabeth’s campus. (Courtesy of GSA).

The spending measure House lawmakers approved on Wednesday would pull back on funding for a new Department of Homeland Security headquarters in Southeast Washington, providing $164 million less than the agencies overseeing that project requested for 2014.

The approach is part of what the GOP-controlled House Appropriations Committee described in its bill summary as “responsible choices to save taxpayer dollars by reducing overhead costs and cutting funding for lower-priority programs.”

MORE: Spending bill short on funding for Homeland Security headquarters

Homeland Security, now 11 years old and the third-largest department in the federal government, operates without a consolidated headquarters. Its facilities are spread across 50 locations throughout the Washington region.

In 2008, Congress approved the creation of a single campus at St. Elizabeth’s, a former government-run mental hospital in Anacostia designated as a national historical landmark. So far, only the first phase of the plan has been completed, with a Coast Guard headquarters opening last July.

The overall project has run into problems in recent years. A recent congressional report said the development was running 10 years behind schedule — it was originally scheduled for completion in 2016, but the date as been pushed to 2026 — with construction delays that have increased the costs by $1 billion, or about 30 percent.

The analysis,  from a subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee, questions why DHS has not conducted a major reassessment of its plans or considered a new approach to consolidation.

The report said Homeland Security and the General Services Administration received less than their original appropriations requests for the development, forcing them to adjust their expectations for costs and completion dates.

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), who chairs the subcommittee, called for a “reality check” on the project last week, saying in a statement: “With our nation $17 trillion in debt, we cannot afford waste and frivolous spending.”

Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.), the ranking member of the subcommittee, said in a statement this week that he plans to seek bipartisan solutions for completing the headquarters development.

“Integrating DHS components into a cohesive unit is critical to our nation’s national security,” Barber said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make this happen in the most effective and financially responsible way possible.”

Follow Josh Hicks on TwitterFacebook or Google+. Connect by e-mail at  josh.hicks@washpost.comVisit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics for more federal news. E-mail federalworker@washpost.com with news tips and other suggestions.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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