VADM Manson Brown Saved The Coast Guard’s Headquarters In Last Act Before Retiring
Planned Homeland Security headquarters, long delayed and over budget, now in doubt.
Astrid Riecken/For The Washington Post – Rev. Anthony Motley takes a walk around the new campus of the Department of Homeland Security, which moved to the west campus of the former St. Elizabeth Hospital. Motley, who grew up in the neighborhood around the campus, has been on the advisory committee for the project of rebuilding the old campus of the former hospital.
The construction of a massive new headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security, billed as critical for national security and the revitalization of Southeast Washington, is running more than $1.5 billion over budget, is 11 years behind schedule and may never be completed, according to planning documents and federal officials.
With the exception of the Coast Guard Headquarters building that opened in 2013, most of the DHS site remains entirely undeveloped. The present estimated completion date of 2026 is being reconsidered with a view towards 2030, or later; and, possibly even never. Vice Admiral Manson Brown saved the Coast Guard. This was his project in the years before he retired. Now, DHS, may their agency had a man like Manson K. Brown.
In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the George W. Bush administration called for a new, centralized headquarters to strengthen the department’s ability to coordinate the fight against terrorism and respond to natural disasters. More than 50 historic buildings would be renovated and new ones erected on the grounds of St. Elizabeths, a onetime insane asylum with a panoramic view of the District.
The entire complex was to be finished in 2013, at a cost of less than $3 billion.
Vice Admiral Manson Brown saved the Coast Guard and the relocation of Coast Guard Headquarters. This was his last major project in the years before he retired. Now, DHS, may wish their agency had a man like Manson K. Brown.
– See more at: http://allhands.coastguard.dodlive.mil/2014/05/14/after-36-years-of-service-vadm-manson-k-brown-retires-from-active-duty/#sthash.Q6SUNEzz.dpuf
The complete project was to be finished as early as this year, according to the initial plan.
Instead, with the exception of a Coast Guard building that opened in 2013, the grounds remain entirely undeveloped, with the occasional deer grazing amid the vacant Gothic Revival-style structures. The budget has ballooned to $4.5 billion, with completion pushed back to 2026. Even now, as Obama administration officials make the best of their limited funding, they have started design work for a second building that congressional aides and others familiar with the project say may never open.
(Above VADM Manson K. Brown, Deputy Commandant for Mission Support, and Master Chief Richard Hooker tour the construction site for the new Coast Guard Headquarters on June 28, 2012.)
(U. S. Coast Guard photo by Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Timothy Tamargo)
VADM Brown retired on May 14, 2014 as Deputy Commandant for Mission Support and Commander of Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington,DC. Perhaps if he could have been persuaded to stay around for a few more years he could have overseen the transition and move of the DHS Headquarters to the new site. But, they would probably have had to make him Commandant of the Coast Guard to do that.
Instead, on behalf of a grateful Nation, and the entire Coast Guard we wished him fair skies, favorable winds and following seas in his well deserved retirement.
And, so at the rate that Congress is approving funding for the project, even the revised completion date of 2026 is unrealistic, and some lawmakers are urging that plans for such an ambitious headquarters complex be scrapped.
At a time of fiscal austerity, money for the project is elusive. “Sometimes you just have to drop back and punt,” said Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), whose oversight subcommittee has criticized federal management of the project. “At what point in time does the government just cut its losses and look for a better way of doing things?”
Former DHS secretary Michael Chertoff, who had called a consolidated headquarters essential for his department’s mission to protect the homeland, acknowledges that the project has become a victim of Washington’s budget wars.
And since Republicans took over the House, they have gutted what the Administration has requested.
The lack of funding has fed even higher costs. Initially, for instance, the plan was to construct the first two buildings at the same time — a headquarters for the Coast Guard and a modern, expanded DHS operations center next door. But at the time, in 2009, the Obama administration asked Congress for just enough money to pay for the Coast Guard building.
As a result, crews that had prepared to dig deep underground to construct the two buildings were forced to shift their plans, erecting a wall between the Coast Guard building and the location of the proposed operations center to stabilize the site. Officials said the wall added to the project’s cost but could not say by how much.
“I suspect there is no constituency for building a new headquarters complex right now,” Duncan said.
Republicans are calling for a reevaluation of the project, suggesting for instance that private developers could build a more modest office complex and lease it to the government. The proposal to raise the kind of headquarters envisioned after Sept. 11 is now practically an orphan in Congress.
“It’s just not going to happen,” said a Republican congressional aide. “The money doesn’t exist.”
( Markon, J. and Crites, A.; Washington Post, May 21, 2014, p. A1)