The National Capital Planning Commission called yesterday for moving virtually all federal employes out of leased office space in suburban Virginia and Maryland and into government-owned offices in downtown Washington by the year 2000.
The planning agency's long-range plans for federal facilities and employment would put 27,000 to 32,000 government workers into new or refurbished offices in the Navy Yard and Buzzard Point sections of Southeast Washington and at Bolling Air Force Base in Anacostia.
The proposals, which are subject to hearings and further review by the planning agency, are expected to encounter opposition from Virginia members of Congress who have vigorously resisted previous efforts to move 17,000 Navy employes from the Virginia suburbs into Washington.
"This is basically conservative, a consolidation of federal employes, proposing no new purchases of federal land and locating federal employes in donwtown central locations served by Metro," planning commission Executive Director Reginald Griffith said yesterday.
In its plans, Griffith's agency predicts that by the year 2000 there may be fewer federal employes to move around the Washington area. The job reductions President Reagan launched last year should continue for much of the next two decades, ending the steady growth of the federal government in Washington, the planners said.
If adopted by the planning agency, the new plans will become the official guide to future federal development in and around Washington. Even so, planners concede that Congress and the administration in power are likely to continue to make individual decisions that will affect the plan and shape the federal government's growth in the region.
Under the 1973 Home Rule Act, the District of Columbia government plans future land use and zoning in Washington and NCPC protects the federal government's interests and reviews specific plans for federal property. The federal planning commission is empowered to veto any part of the District's plans that is adverse to federal interests. The NCPC has adopted environmental and foreign missions segments of a comprehensive regional plan and is completing its open space, preservation and historic features elements.
"The federal government should house as many of its employes as possible in federal buildings, rather than expensive leased office space," the new plan states. It also says the government must fight "space creep," the tendency of agencies to seek larger and larger offices. The amount of office space assigned to most civilian federal employes was 144 square feet in 1965, equivalent to a 12-by-12 foot room. By 1981 the alloted space had grown to 173 square feet. The commission recommends a maximum of 140 square feet.
The number of federal employes in the Washington area dropped by almost 20,000 in 1981 and 1982, and could decline by another 23,000 by the year 2000, NCPC estimates.
Even under a "low growth scenario," the commission predicts a maximum of only about 6,000 additional federal employes would be hired in Washington during the next 18 years. That is the average number of new federal employes who had been hired in Washington every year for more than two decades until 1981.
Military personnel assigned to the area increased by 2,000 in 1981 to a total of about 60,000 -- the level at which military employment is predicted to remain through the year 2000.
Even with a decline in federal jobs, the Washington-area's population should continue to rise by about 575,000 people during the next two decades, the commission estimates.
The proposal to transfer federal employes from the leased suburban space to government-owned space in the District, generally is approved by the Reagan administration, the General Services Administration (the government landlord), and by Congress, Griffith said yesterday. He conceded that Virginia members of Congress have opposed some of the moves.
Luring federal agencies to the suburbs long has been a potent political issue in Northern Virginia. Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) won his seat in a 1978 race in which he boasted of moving Navy agencies to Crystal City while he was Navy secretary. Rep. Paul S. Trible (R-Va.), now running for the state's other Senate seat, is bragging how he has thwarted current plans to return many of those workers to Washington.
The new plan calls for the government to continue leasing about 20 percent of its office space in the future. In 1950 GSA leased space for only 7 percent of its Washington work force, or 12,700 civilian employes. "During the next 28 years this increased to 47 percent, or 125,700 employes," the plan states.
The distribution of federal employes also changed. In 1960 more than 62 percent of the region's federal employes worked in the District. That level dropped to 53 percent by 1970, but in recent years it has edged up to about 58 percent.
There are 236,000 federal civilian and military employes in the District, 119,000 in Virginia and 81,000 in Maryland. The major suburban federal employment centers are in Virginia at Fort Belvoir, Quantico and the Arlington-Pentagon complex, and in Maryland at Andrews Air Force Base, in Suitland, Beltsville and Bethesda.
The decentralization of federal offices in the Washington area began in World War II and continued until 1978.
The proposed NCPC plans also contain the long-standing commission position -- opposed by Congress -- in favor of closing National Airport by the year 1995 and moving its flights to Dulles and Baltimore-Washington international airports.