Congressional approval this month of a $3.88 billion military construction appropriations bill has assured that nearly 1,200 jobs for employes of the Naval Regional Data Automation Center will remain in the Washington area, although at least one Congressional committee wanted the facility moved.
The Naval Regional Data Automation Center, known as NARDAC, is a navy data processing center for the Washington area. According to a Navy spokesman, NARDAC is responsible for all Navy computer work done in the national capital region. That means, he said, that any information other than strategic files that the Navy wants to save, such as accounting, personnel or material records, are handled by NARDAC.
NARDAC operates the computer facilities formerly run by the Naval District Washington Computer Center and the Navy Support Activity Computer Center, both located at the Washington Navy Yard, the Navy Accounting and Finance Center located in Crystal City and the Navy Material Command Support Activity located in Arlington. The Navy asked Congress to provide $1.35 million during the next fiscal year to renovate facilities to house the entire NARDAC operations in one area at the Navy Yard.
The House Appropriations Military Construction Subcommittee refused to approve the funds and suggested that the Navy try to locate NARDAC outside of the Washington area. The Senate Appropriations Military Construction Subcommittee, however, agreed to the construction funds and the project was approved by a House-Senate conference committee and accepted by the full Senate and House during votes this month.
Rep. Gladys Noon Spellman (D-Md.) criticized House subcommittee efforts to move the NARDAC facilities away from Washington. She characterized it as part of a "disruptive, costly and illogical" Defense Department policy to try to decentralize military installations by moving Washington offices to other areas of the country.
"(NARDAC) is a regional unit and it's sort of absurb to locate a regional unit for the Washington area somewhere outside of Washington," Art Jaeger, a spokesman for Spellman, said in a recent interview. He said that Spellman and other representatives and senators from the Washington area are concerned about possible Defense Department plans to move 2 million square feet of military administration space, or between 5,000 to 15,000 jobs, out of the Washington area during the next five years. The group has asked for a meeting with White House and Defense Department officials to discuss the policy since none of the plans have been announced, he said.
A similar plan to move 2 million square feet of military office space from Washington was initiated during the administration of President Richard Nixon, and the move was completed during the Ford administration. The transfer cost the Washington area about 4,000 jobs, Jaeger said.
In its request for funds the Navy also asked Congress to approve $2.2 million for facilities for the Naval Data Automation Command, a newly established data processing department. Both the Senate and House committees, however, refused the appropriation and urged the Navy to locate the command outside of the Washington area. That decision is less controversial, Jaeger said, because the command employs between 100 and 200 people.
A Navy spokesman said another location for the command is being sought, but there is no deadline on a decision.
During the past decade, the two military construction committees have encouraged the Defense Department to transfer military installations and offices from the Washington area to other areas of the country. Committee sources said the policy developed because of the committee's interest in military security, less expensive living costs for military personnel and lower office rents and expenses, as well as its desire for military personnel to be part of community life throughout the country.
One of the major moves following this policy was the transfer of the Naval Oceanographic Office from Suitland to Bay St. Louis, Miss. That decision, which was announced in 1975, shifted 1,300 jobs from the Washington area.