Planned Homeland Security HQ a Total Fiasco

It's running a decade behind schedule, $1.5B over budget

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted May 21, 2014 8:59 AM CDT

(Newser) – What America was supposed to have as soon as this year, at a cost of $3 billion: a sprawling headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security, a complex of more than 50 buildings that would allow easier coordination of the department's agencies. The plan, announced by former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff in 2006, marked the biggest construction project for the DC area since the Pentagon. The Washington Post checks in on the project, and the update is a dour one: Thanks to political gridlock and preplanning disagreements, it's now $1.5 billion over its original $3 billion budget, and it's not slated to be finished until 2026—if ever.

The plan called for the renovation of no less than 50 buildings on the campus of St. Elizabeths, a psychiatric hospital that once housed Ezra Pound and John W. Hinckley Jr.; new ones would also be built. To date, a sole building (for the Coast Guard) has opened, and the Post describes the site as "entirely undeveloped, with the occasional deer grazing amid the vacant Gothic Revival-style structures." Historic preservation requirements meant extra expenses from the start, and funding has consistently come up short: Democrats decimated initial budget plans, responding to a $362 million funding request with $6 million "because it was Bush," says a Democratic insider, and Republicans now in control of the House have acted similarly under the Obama administration, the Post reports. In the meantime, construction costs are only rising with the passage of time, and the DHS agencies are occupying buildings scattered about DC, forced to renew leases that aren't cheap.

President George W. Bush speaks at a news conference Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2008.
President George W. Bush speaks at a news conference Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2008.   (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis, pool)
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