The House Appropriations Committee has directed the Navy to resume work on a controversial plan to move nearly 17,000 federal workers out of leased office space in Arlington and into new facilities at the Washington Navy Yard.
A committee report, approved Tuesday by the full House, has rekindled a long-smoldering feud between the Navy and Northern Virginia political leaders, who managed to kill financing for office planning and construction at the yard in Southeast Washington last year.
In sending a military construction money bill for fiscal 1984 to the House floor, the House Appropriations Committee said this week in an accompanying report that the Navy should move quickly to complete an environmental impact statement on the stalled move. It added the panel expects "the facilities for the initial phase to be programmed in fiscal year 1985."
The report said the cost of maintaining the leased office space in Northern Virginia is "increasing at an alarming rate" and will reach $26 million in the current fiscal year, up from $19 million in fiscal 1981. The appropriations panel "concurs with the Navy that the economic advantages to this plan are great," the report said.
Navy officials refused to comment on the report yesterday, other than to say that its environmental impact statement will be completed this year.
Arlington officials and area congressmen said they were surprised by the report and pledged to continue to oppose any move.
"We always knew the issue would rear its ugly head again, but we didn't expect it so soon," said Diana Wahl, an official of Arlington's economic development agency.
"We've fought before and prevailed," said Arlington County Board Vice Chairman John G. Milliken. "The arguments we have to make are strong ones."
A spokesman for Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), who initially approved the leasing while he was Navy secretary in the Nixon administration, said the senator doubts if the move will ever be made.
"We don't believe the EIS environmental impact statement will support those factors necessary to make the move, including the added burden to the transportation arteries," said John Campbell, a Warner aide. A draft statement issued this spring, however, noted that Metro's Green line should bring better transit service to the yard.
Irene B. Forde, Warner's press secretary, said the senator had been assured that "force levels at Crystal City will not be reduced at all."
The Navy is Arlington's biggest tenant, and officials have been fearful that an exodus of Navy workers from Crystal City would be devasting to that area.
"This is kind of a cavalier treatment for them to say they're going to move 10 percent of Arlington's employment out . . . to say nothing of what it does to those people," said County Board Chairman Ellen M. Bozman. "There's no transportation there at the Navy Yard , no restaurants. . . ."
The Navy has nearly 18,000 employes in 17 buildings in Arlington, 11 of those leased in Crystal City. A total of 16,641 civilian and military Navy employes work in 1.9 million square feet of leased space in Crystal City, according to the General Services Administration.
The House committee said the recent "slowdown or softening of the increase in lease rates has not been as severe as some predicted" in the Washington area. It said that GSA was able to obtain long-term low fixed rates in the early 1970s that "are no longer available."
Moving those workers could be "traumatic," said Ted C. Leininger, a GSA official. "You've got to be kidding me. . . . Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. . . . I don't know what we'd do with all of that lease space in Virginia."
His boss, Regional GSA Public Buildings Commissioner James G. Whitlock, said there had been discussions about moving some Navy personnel from Crystal City to GSA-controlled space at the Southeast Federal Center property, adjacent to the Navy Yard.
"They have identified some of the old warehouses that could be converted to office space," Whitlock said.
GSA also has a grand design for developing more than a dozen major office buildings at the Federal Center during the next 20 years, but Administrator Gerald P. Carmen has not approved it. Carmen has indicated that he would rather sell the property for private development, but he has not made a final decision.
Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), whose district includes Arlington, missed a chance to comment on the report Tuesday when the House passed the military construction bill on a voice vote. James A. Boyle, a Wolf aide, said yesterday that the congressman was "aware that there would be some language in the report" on the move but did not have his staff check it out.