- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Fairfax County is lobbying to gain the headquarters for the new Department of Homeland Security.
Citing the county's educated labor pool and available office space, the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce wrote a letter last week to Tom Ridge, President Bush's nominee for Homeland Security director, urging the department to base itself in Northern Virginia.
"In our estimation, a headquarter location in Northern Virginia will offer the Department of Homeland Security numerous advantages that will strengthen the department's core functions and empower it to meet the rapidly evolving forces that menace our nation," the chamber's chairman, Michael J. Lewis, wrote in the letter.
The White House said it will make a decision on the department's headquarters by Jan. 24, the day Mr. Ridge is expected to be sworn in as director. It is also the day the department officially opens for business, merging 22 agencies and 177,000 federal workers. From 15,000 to 17,000 of those workers are from this area, but it is not clear how many will transfer to the new headquarters.
"There's absolutely no decision that's been made as to its location," Mr. Ridge said last week at a town-hall meeting with homeland security workers. "Obviously, it's going to be within the community D.C., Maryland, Virginia. That's all I can tell you."
The department is seeking about 250,000 square feet of office space and room for about 1,000 parking spots. This request has led some real estate sources to believe that the department has shifted its focus from the District to the suburbs, where more space is available.
D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District's nonvoting representative in Congress, have argued that locating the department in the suburbs would cripple the District's economy. Mrs. Norton, a Democrat, also has cited a 50-year-old executive order requiring Cabinet-level agencies to be located in the District.
Officials in Loudoun, Anne Arundel and Montgomery counties also have mounted campaigns for the department, but most proposals are for a headquarters to be built on available land, rather than using existing office space.
Fairfax County has emerged as a leading candidate because it has more office space available at a cheaper rate. The county has four buildings with at least 250,000 square feet of vacant space, compared with one in the District and none in any other surrounding county, says real estate information provider CoStar Group.
Additional space in Fairfax could accommodate growth by the department, which eventually could require 500,000 square feet. Furthermore, lease rates of office space are about $10 per square foot cheaper in Fairfax County than in the District.
"Northern Virginia offers a number of suitable locations that will serve the department's short and long-term needs," Mr. Lewis wrote.
The chamber also said it had a high concentration of defense and government contractors in Fairfax County that would work closely with the department headquarters.
"You would create a cluster of the Homeland Security assets that would make it more efficient," said Fairfax chamber President William D. Lecos.
One factor working against Fairfax County is a lack of Metro access, but sources said the department's request for 1,000 parking spaces indicates that public transportation has become less of a concern, particularly because many federal workers already commute by car from Fairfax County.Officials in Fairfax County also believe the subway system will be extended along the Dulles Corridor.
"Any sort of short-term issues should not be the long-term determining factor," Mr. Lecos said.

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