- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 20, 2002

About a dozen locations throughout the Washington area are being pushed as potential sites for the Department of Homeland Security.
With the Senate's overwhelming passage last night of legislation creating the Cabinet-level agency, public officials from all over the region have made pitches for sites in their jurisdictions.
"There's going to be an intense effort of lobbying," said Bill Badger, president of the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp. "Everyone's getting their angles in."
Mr. Badger and officials in his county want the agency near Fort Meade, the David Taylor Naval Research Center and the headquarters of the National Security Agency.
A host of other sites in Maryland, the District and Northern Virginia are being discussed, but those with knowledge of real estate and land in the area say nearly all have problems.
The new department would consist of 22 major agencies and would need at least 500,000 square feet to house almost 170,000 federal employees.
The agency has three options: one building, several buildings on one campus, or scattered buildings.
The cost to construct a sprawling campus with several large buildings could top $1 billion, analysts said. A site near a Metro station, which the department says it prefers, would add to the cost and all but eliminate any location outside the Beltway.
Further complicating matters is a clause in the legislation urging the General Services Administration, which will choose the site, to select a location that is federally owned.
Homeland security spokesman Gordon Johndroe said the search is continuing, and that the District, Northern Virginia and suburban Maryland have been examined.
"I know we'll be moving quickly, but there's nothing to report at this time," Mr. Johndroe said.
Local officials and business leaders are giving hefty support to three large sites in the District: St. Elizabeths Mental Hospital in Anacostia, the Coast Guard headquarters at Buzzard Point in Southeast and open land along New York Avenue near Union Station.
The District's nonvoting member of Congress, Democratic Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, said she is pushing for the St. Elizabeths site, which sits on 180,000 acres owned by the federal government.
"If we find that D.C. is not being considered, we have no choice but to sound the alarm," she said yesterday. "If the agency is created outside the District, it sends a horrible symbol. It sends the message that we can't protect ourselves in the nation's capital."
An executive order believed to have been issued more than 50 years ago technically requires Cabinet agencies to be situated in the District. The Department of Defense is the only current exception.
But those in the suburbs say the executive order is archaic and will not prove to be a major obstacle.
"The world is much different than it was 50 years ago," Mr. Badger said. "Logically, you don't want the department 2,000 miles away, but 30 miles away is certainly within the realm of the national capital area."
Suburban sites under consideration include the former Naval Surface Warfare Center, a 700-acre plot in the White Oak area of Silver Spring expected to house about 5,000 employees of the Food and Drug Administration. Prince George's County officials are pitching the Suitland Federal Center, a 226-acre site that houses the Census Bureau, the National Maritime Intelligence Center and offices of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Suitland is said to have the edge over White Oak because of its proximity to a Metro station.
Northern Virginia has a plethora of available office space, and state officialsare pushing for the new department to set up headquarters there, said Ellen Qualls, spokeswoman for Gov. Mark R. Warner.
Two buildings in Pentagon City, with about 500,000 total square feet, have been vacated by WorldCom subsidiary MCI.
The judge presiding over WorldCom's bankruptcy trial ordered an auction for the buildings to be held in December.
Real estate analysts said the location, near the Pentagon and a host of defense and government contractors, would be ideal for the Homeland Security Department. But the government has been trying to limit the business it conducts with the bankrupt telecommunications company, whose accounting practices are the subject of federal probes.
The high-rise buildings also would be more prone to attack.
The U.S. Patent and Trade Office plans to move out of several offices in Crystal City next year, and some real estate brokers have suggested that the new agency could move into the empty buildings. But the lack of one large office was inconvenient for the PTO and likely would be no more convenient for the Homeland Security Department, analysts said.
More ideal, real estate analysts said, would be the patent office's future headquarters, a 2.4-million-square-foot campus in Alexandria. But LCOR, the Berwyn, Pa., developer that owns the property, said the agency is scheduled to move in December 2003 and that it has had no discussions regarding the Homeland Security Department taking the offices instead.


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