- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 23, 2003

The new Department of Homeland Security will be housed temporarily at a naval facility on Nebraska Avenue in Northwest Washington, the agency said yesterday.
Homeland Security spokesman Bryan Roehrkasse said the initial headquarters will be at the Naval District Washington's Nebraska Avenue Complex near the corner of Nebraska and Massachusetts avenues near American University, effective Jan. 27.
The office will be in a four-story building on a 38-acre site, which is occupied by 32 buildings comprising 566,000 square feet. Mr. Roehrkasse said the headquarters meets only the department's temporary needs and does not answer the long-term question of where the permanent department will be located.
The department initially will house Secretary Tom Ridge, who was approved by the Senate yesterday, and his senior staff.
The site is a few blocks from Vice President Richard B. Cheney's residence at the U.S. Naval Observatory.
Mr. Roehrkasse said the Navy facility provides the "connectivity" to begin operations immediately. It already contains secure computer, telephones, technology and satellite equipment used to monitor activities around the country and has secure teleconferencing technology already in place for the secretary to communicate with officials around the country.
"The secure facility meets the secretary's needs and requirement's for day-to-day operations," Mr. Roehrkasse said.
No decision on a more permanent location has been named. He said the location on Nebraska Avenue would be the department headquarters "for the near future. We will continue to assess the needs."
The head of the Homeland Security Department's transition team asked the General Services Administration yesterday to stop accepting lease offers for the department, because many proposals were not secure enough.
Bruce Lawlor, the chief of staff of the Transition Planning Office, said in a letter to GSA Administrator Stephen Perry that the security of proposed sites should have been "the principal requirement" of all bids, but that it was instead included as one of many factors in the sites' evaluation.
Also, he said sites should have been excluded from consideration if they did not fall within a temporary flight-restriction area established after the September 11 terrorist attacks. The area, which is still restricted, covers most of the District and parts of Northern Virginia.
"[T]he potential clearly exists that the selection committee has received offers to lease buildings that do not comply with our stated requirements but also, if accepted, pose an unnecessary and unwarranted security risk to the people who will be asked to work in them," Mr. Lawlor wrote.
The department had requested 250,000 to 275,000 square feet and 1,000 parking places. Legislation authorizing the formation of the new department requested that federally owned sites be given preference.
The agency eventually will be comprised of 170,000 civil servants now working at 22 separate agencies with security-related functions, including the Customs Service, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Secret Service, Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The location of the department's headquarters has been a closely kept secret. Even last night, D.C. Council member Kathleen Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat, who represents the area where the department will be located, said she only knew the Nebraska Avenue site had been considered, not officially chosen.
Doxie McCoy, spokeswoman for Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District's nonvoting member of Congress, also said she was unaware of the selection.
Mrs. Norton has been a vocal supporter of bringing the department into the District and has argued the city would lose up to $342 million over 10 years if it were to locate in the suburbs.
Many commercial real estate officials believed the department would locate in Northern Virginia, where there is considerably more vacant office space. Sites in Tysons Corner and the Westfields Business Park in Chantilly were on a short list of locations being considered even last week. Sites in Northern Virginia emerged as candidates because of the department's request for 1,000 parking spaces and an "office park setting."
No location, however, emerged as ideal. Potential sites in Chantilly, south of Washington Dulles International Airport, were criticized as being too far away from the District. The two sites in Tysons Corner were criticized because of limited room for expansion. And neither location is near a Metrorail station.
Whether the department will remain in the District permanently is still not known. Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican, said he would try to lure the department to his state, but it was not clear when the Homeland Security Department and General Services Administration the government's real estate arm would "restart the process."
"Virginia is still in the running, and I'm certainly going to be advocating that," Mr. Allen said.
Amy Fagan contributed to this report.

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