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Bonnie W.
Democrat NJ 12

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  • Department of Homeland Security Headquarters Consolidation Accountability Act of 2015

    by Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman

    Posted on 2015-06-23

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    WATSON COLEMAN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume, and I rise in strong support of H.R. 1640, the Department of Homeland Security Headquarters Consolidation Accountability Act of 2015.

    Mr. Speaker, in 2006, 3 years into the Department of Homeland Security's existence, President Bush proposed consolidating the headquarters functions of the Department and its components from the more than 50 locations to the St. Elizabeths campus in southeast Washington, D.C.

    Construction began in 2009, but between sequestration and tightening budgets, appropriations for the project have been $1.2 billion less than President Bush and President Obama requested.

    Naturally, Congress' failure to consistently and adequately fund the project has greatly slowed construction and led to increased costs. It has also forced DHS to revisit its master plan and reduce the scope of the project.

    At this juncture, it is important that the Department have a realistic and [[Page H4566]] achievable plan. The legislation under consideration seeks to do just that. If enacted, this legislation would require the Secretary of Homeland Security to submit to Congress an updated plan for St. Elizabeths to inform future funding decisions.

    Importantly, H.R. 1640 requires the submission of a proposed occupancy plan for St. Elizabeths that includes a list of components and offices to be housed there. A key consequence of the Department having to scale down the breadth of its consolidation plans is the reality that its portfolio of leased space will need to remain large.

    In fact, with up to 69 percent of DHS' commercial leases in the national capital region expiring between fiscal years 2016 to 2020, we should all be aware that DHS will be forced to embark on the expensive process of recompeting and possibly relocating its operations and personnel.

    Before I reserve the balance of my time, I would like to acknowledge that I am pleased that the bill includes an amendment I offered to give the Department adequate time to engage the General Services Administration, the construction manager for the project, in preparing the updated plans, assessments, and estimates.

    GSA's participation in the development of these key materials is essential to ensuring that what is transmitted to Congress is realistic and achievable.

    As a supporter of the St. Elizabeths project and DHS' Unity of Effort initiative, I urge passage of H.R. 1640. Colocation of DHS' personnel in one headquarters has the potential of not only achieving cost savings, but fostering an environment where integration and collaboration drives more effective and efficient operations.

    Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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