- The Washington Times - Friday, June 28, 2002

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday that he wants to impose limits on new defense construction within 100 miles of the Pentagon.
The defense secretary said "concentration of Defense Department activities in a single area is probably not a smart idea."
The new policy has not yet been implemeanted, Mr. Rumsfeld said during a meeting at the Pentagon with editors and reporters of The Washington Times.
"But there's no question but that I have said to some staff people that I think that for a variety of reasons it would be a good idea if we knew before it happened any Defense Department-related entity that plans to build or lease within a hundred miles of Washington, D.C.," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
Mr. Rumsfeld could sign a directive outlining the construction limits in the near future, defense officials said.
The defense secretary cited worries about locating too much of the defense and military establishment in one place as one of several reasons for the pending changes.
He said the Pentagon bureaucracy is "pretty big the way it is" and may not need more space. Mr. Rumsfeld also said the department is planning a new round of military base closures and that some area facilities the Pentagon already owns could be used for activities coming from base consolidation.
"Third, it's a big country we've got, and everything does not have to be located in the Washington, D.C., area," he said. "I think that just the health of the country would be better if everything weren't here."
Mr. Rumsfeld said the new construction policy does not mean the department is "halting or stopping or discontinuing anything."
"All we're doing is saying we'd like a little visibility here in my office about who thinks they're going to buy a new building, or buy a 50-acre tract and start erecting more government buildings," he said. "I worry that this area is just going to sink in the ground with government buildings, to be perfectly honest."
Other defense officials said the decentralization effort is part of overall U.S. government plans to prevent the disruption of government agencies from a terrorist attack in Washington.
A draft memorandum on the issue calls for curbing new construction within a 100-mile radius from the Pentagon and for limiting improvements at existing defense and military facilities in that area to projects that cost $500,000 or less, said defense officials familiar with the construction plan.
The policy change would affect about $570 million in military construction and family housing funds contained in the current defense budget for facilities in the District, Maryland and Virginia. Those funds will pay for much-needed improvements to military family housing on military bases in the area.
Military housing at the Army's Fort Meade base in Maryland needs to be improved, and military housing at the Marine Corps Base at Quantico, Va., is said to be in need of repair. Some housing units at those bases are dilapidated, defense officials said.
Congressional defense aides said major military facilities in Washington that could be affected by the construction ban include the Army's Fort Myer in Arlington, Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland and Quantico. The U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, the National Defense University at Fort McNair in Southwest and a major Defense Intelligence Agency intelligence center under construction at Bolling Air Force Base also could be affected, the aides said.
The effort to disperse government is a direct outgrowth of the September 11 attack on the Pentagon by Islamic terrorists. A total of 189 persons, including the passengers on the jet, were killed, and hundreds were injured.
Security officials said government and military facilities will be less vulnerable to disruption from attack by terrorists or others, especially because future militant attacks are expected to involve weapons of mass destruction: chemical, biological, nuclear or radiological weapons.
The memorandum outlining the new policy also indicates that Mr. Rumsfeld has been upset by premature disclosures to the press about new defense construction projects and as a result wants all announcements about construction to be made by the defense secretary or his office.
One House Armed Services Committee aide said members of Congress are likely to oppose the new construction limits.
"Members generally don't want to see a lot of headquarters in the area and oppose more headquarters personnel," the aide said. "But I don't believe members of this committee would support such a moratorium."
The White House announced a new terrorist threat advisory system in March. Under that system, when the threat of a terrorist attack is very high, government agencies will have to disperse workers out of the area.
President Bush has made it a priority to see that government agencies do more to disperse their operations and personnel outside Washington and to make contingency plans for relocating in a crisis.
Concerns over future attacks on Washington also affected plans for the creation of a new military command. Defense officials have told Congress that initial plans for the new Northern Command called for setting up its headquarters in an area outside Washington.
Initial locations for the new Northern Command headquarters were McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey and Fort Detrick, Md.
The command is now slated to be set up at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado.
The Pentagon's budget request for military construction and family housing for fiscal 2003, which begins Oct. 1, includes $40.7 million for projects in Washington, $193.3 million for projects in Maryland and $334.8 million for defense construction in Virginia.


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