New Coast Guard Headquarters, Almost Heaven
Coast Guard Headquarters is Striking, Surprising, and Sustainable
The new, state-of-the-art U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters on the site of historic St. Elizabeths Hospital is a dream come true. The U S Coast Guard has finally found itself a home worthy of its own lofty opinion of itself. It is not Heaven, but it is as close as one could possibly hope to get in this world.
Like Heaven, one has to pass through Hell to get there, daily. It is in Anacostia the worst, low rent, crime infested area of South East Washington, DC. A majority of the inhabitants of Anacostia appear to be over fed, under nourished, and unemployed. It is a crime infested area that most people would not be caught dead in after dark. Most D.C. metro area residents recoil in fear at the sound of infamous “Anacostia,” known mostly for its extreme poverty, high homicide statistics, and the ever lurking danger of getting lost in its maze of streets.
The building was designed to house the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its component agencies. The U S Coast Guard was intended to be the lead agency. However, in the hearts and minds of most Coast Guard members, this is the Headquarters of the Department of the Coast Guard and DHS is a sub-agency, along with o ther agencies; such as, the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Defense, Interior, and Health and Human Services have contributed components.
The U S Coast Guard is the World’s preeminent International Law Enforcement Agency.
By law, the Coast Guard has 11 missions:
- Ports, waterways, and coastal security
- Drug interdiction
- Aids to navigation
- Search and rescue
- Living marine resources
- Marine safety
- Defense readiness
- Migrant interdiction
- Marine environmental protection
- Ice operations
- Other law enforcement
Today’s U.S. Coast Guard, with nearly 42,000 men and women on active duty, is a unique force that carries out an array of civil and military responsibilities touching almost every facet of the U.S. maritime environment.
In 50 years the Coast Guard has reached its pinnacle among other Washington DC Federal Agencies. In the 1960s, it was located in the Volpe Building, at 7th and D street SW, as the lead Agency in the Department of Transportation.
I know from experience how much the Coast Gard has wanted its own building in Washington, DC. Having worked in the Volpe Building as a Coast Guard officer in the Legal Office and the Office of Personnel from 1972 to 1979, I am aware of the numerous times senior Coast Guard officers have lamented the fact that the Coast Guard did not have its own building.
The Coast Guard finally was able to move up among the hierarchy of Federal Agencies when it moved to the Buzzard Point location. The accommodations were not up to those of the Volpe Building, but it was not co-located with lesser Federal agencies. Because of the undesirable location, many saw this move as a sort of fall from grace. However, location was not as important as exclusivity.
Now, the Coast Guard has it all, location and exclusivity. And, on top of it all, the DHS appears to not be coming to share the new building due to a shortage of appropriated funds.
In one sense, the vassals have taken control of the castle, erected a moat, and the drawbridge is up. Next to the Pentagon, this new Headquarters is a paradise and it is the most expensive building in Washington,DC. It has a newly constructed physical plant with all of the latest high tech gadgetry. The exterior is ecological eye-candy; it is architecturally beautiful with large spacious recreational green areas for loitering and refreshing the spirit. There are deer and other natural wild life running through the trees and plants. This new building repairs and reflects the surrounding landscape.
The interior sports acoustically low noise in the common areas, and large individual cubicles for the support staff so that each can have their own space. The offices are large and comfortable. Getting an office with a window is no problem because the construction material of smoked glass and steel affords maximum visibility for even the clerical personnel. The style is reminiscent of the steel and glass construction found in Hamburg, Germany and some of the banks built in Hong Kong by I M Pei.
The conference rooms and auditorium are well equipped with high tech and high definition accessories. They rival the large screen instant replay monitors in the most modern sports arenas. There is no bad seat in the auditorium. Even the farthest removed spectator to any presentation or ceremony has instant and constant visual and acoustical access to the proceedings. The Coast Guard which is renowned for pinching pennies and trying to save the Government money, spared no expenses in designing and building this new state-of-the-art facility. But, that is usually what happens when one is spending someone else’s money.
The co-educational workout rooms are top of the line. They include steam rooms and showers with large screen high definition televisions in front of the exercise machines. The facility is of the same caliber as one would expect to find in any Hilton or Ritz Carlton five-star luxury hotel.
Much of the credit for the relocation and the modern construction belongs to VADM Manson K. Brown. His last act of grace to the Coast Guard before retiring in May of 2014. It was only fitting and proper that he bequeath to the Coast Guard this new and perhaps final resting place, as a token of his appreciation for allowing him to write his name and story across a large page of American and Coast Guard history. VADM Brown did well and his performance of duty was above and beyond the call of duty, but he was deprived of writing one final large piece of History; he was denied the honor of going down in History as the first Black Commandant of the U S Coast Guard. Nevertheless, the milestones that he left along the road of History will not be surpassed in the near or distant future. He had a good ride and it was a mutually respectful and loving parting from active duty to a much deserved retirement for VADM Brown.
The physical address of Coast Guard Headquarters is 2701 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. S.E. This address cannot be used for mailing or visiting the campus (if using GPS, this address takes you to Gate 1, which can only be used by Coast Guard personnel accessing the campus via bike, over-sized vehicle or walking).
The new Coast Guard Headquarters GPS address is 2699 Firth Street SE, Washington, DC, 20593.
Download a map of the St. Elizabeths campus.