Skip to main content

Department of Homeland Security Headquarters at the St. Elizabeths Campus

June 15, 2010


Good evening, Chairman Norton, and members of the subcommittee.  My name is Shapour Ebadi, and I am Deputy Regional Commissioner in the National Capital Region of GSA’s Public Buildings Service (PBS). Thank you for inviting me to appear before you today to discuss the progress with the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Headquarters at the St. Elizabeths Campus.

GSA, in partnership with DHS, is now undertaking the largest, most complex construction project in our history.  The consolidation of DHS is necessary to facilitate communication, coordination and cooperation across the Agency and optimize operational efficiency.  DHS identified its most critical components that need to be located within one functional campus.  This campus will serve as the DHS Headquarters, which will reside on the former St. Elizabeths Hospital in southeast Washington, D.C.  The decision to create this headquarters at the former St. Elizabeths hospital was based on the DHS National Capital Region Housing Master Plan , which was developed by DHS with GSA’s assistance.

DHS is currently housed in more than 50 locations around the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region, involving multiple buildings and leases.  The Master Plan advocates for the Agency’s consolidation into seven to ten locations, interconnected by shuttle buses or the Metro rail system.  Three of these locations already exist as federally owned sites.  Components of DHS are currently located at the Nebraska Avenue Complex, the Ronald Reagan Building/International Trade Center, and the U.S. Secret Service Headquarters building.  St. Elizabeths will add a fourth federally owned location.

The Master Plan outlines priorities of implementation and addresses the mission fragmentation caused by the headquarters elements being scattered throughout the National Capital Region.  The St. Elizabeths campus will accommodate the Agency’s mission execution functions.  DHS mission support functions will remain outside of the campus at federally owned and leased locations.  These mission support functions include Citizenship & Immigration Services, Science & Technology, and the Under Secretary for Management.

DHS Mission Execution at St. Elizabeths Campus

The DHS Headquarters at St. Elizabeths is the largest Federal construction project to occur in the Washington metropolitan area since the Pentagon was built during World War II.  The project will create 4.5 million square feet of new space, in addition to 1.5 million square feet of structured parking, to bring together the mission execution components DHS requires in its headquarters facility.  A total of 14,000 people will be employed on campus.

The total cost for the project is $3.4 billion and will be funded by GSA and DHS.  During the peak period of construction, there will be over 1,000 workers on site and approximately 100 subcontractors and vendors supporting the prime general
contractors.  The project is expected to generate more than 30,000 jobs in both direct and indirect employment through its duration.  During construction, the economy would gain payroll earnings of approximately $1.2 billion, and regionally there would be a gain from total output during construction of approximately $3.8 billion.

St. Elizabeths is the only federally owned site in Washington large enough to accommodate the mission execution functions for the DHS Headquarters.  Due to the size and location of the site, St. Elizabeths is fitting for such an important Cabinet level agency.  The property is only two miles from our nation’s Capitol and is located on a hill with a commanding view of Washington and Northern Virginia.  The creation of this headquarters complex presents the best opportunity available for preserving, reusing, and revitalizing the historic buildings and landscapes at this National Historic Landmark.

Project History

Currently, more than $1 billion has been appropriated to GSA and DHS for the St. Elizabeths project.   The appropriations include American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) funds.  The Recovery Act provided GSA with $450 million and DHS with $200 million in funding for the St Elizabeths consolidation.  GSA has accepted $199,000,000 in reimbursable Recovery Act funds from DHS and has awarded $50,500,000 of that money.

GSA has recently begun construction of Phase 1a, which includes a new 1.2 million square foot headquarters building for the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and 700,000 square feet of structured parking.  This headquarters, which is being designed by Perkins & Will and constructed by Clark Construction, will be complete in 2013.  Phase 1b will involve the adaptive reuse and renovation of seven campus buildings, as well as the construction of a perimeter security fence, gatehouses, and underground utility tunnels.

The next two phases will be the construction on the west campus totaling 2.4 million square feet of space plus structured parking, as well as the construction on the east campus,  totaling an additional 750,000 square feet of space plus structured parking.  The selection of the east campus to house the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is the result of our close coordination with the District on this project.  The District has owned the east campus since 1987, utilizing it to house its mental health facility.  At this time, however, the District no longer requires the entire site for that purpose.

In December 2008, the District adopted a plan for the site that called for the development of a mixed use community on those portions of the east campus not required for their mental health program.  GSA's commitment to utilize a site on the east campus represents a major breakthrough in assisting the District to pursue its redevelopment, as well as enabling us to reduce the overall density proposed for the west campus so as to protect the historic features in this National Historic Landmark, while preserving the contiguity of the headquarters complex.  We are now in the process of amending our master plan to incorporate the east campus portion. The mixed use community on the east campus will include residential, retail, and office space.  The influx of Federal employees will act as a catalyst for the beginning stages of this development and pave the way for future development in later stages.

The entire DHS Headquarters project is scheduled for completion in 2016.

Project Benefits

In addition to the economic growth resulting from this project and in line with President Obama’s Executive Order 13514, GSA is also pursuing an environmentally sustainable campus.  Within the St. Elizabeths’ Master Plan, the Transportation Management Plan heavily depends on public transportation and mass transit.  The campus will be located near two metrorail stops to ensure those working on the campus can easily access mass transit.  In addition, GSA has been working with state transportation agencies in Virginia and Maryland to explore park and ride bus transportation options from suburban locations.  The campus will only have one parking space for every four employees, necessitating mass transit and carpools.  GSA is also working with the District Department of Transportation to provide access for the bulk of the employees from nearby highways to avoid impacting local road networks.

GSA is committed to achieving at least a Silver certification under the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) program of the U.S. Green Building Council, but we are striving for Gold certification.  Our initial building, the new Coast Guard headquarters, will have five acres of green roof, narrow floor plates to maximize access to natural light, an innovative HVAC system, and a combination of landscaping, underground cisterns, and a small lake that together will capture and reuse all runoff for up to a 15-year storm event.

We will also be striving to meet the sustainable requirements outlined in Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA), Energy Policy Act (EPACT) and the Guiding Principles for Federal Leadership in High Performance and Sustainable Buildings. The USCG Headquarters will have a green roof and a series of landscaped gardens and retention basins that will absorb storm water runoff.  It will have an abundance of natural light, sophisticated heating ventilation and air conditioning systems, as well as a utilization of local and recycled materials.

GSA is also undertaking extraordinary measures to protect and enhance the many historic components of this National Historic Landmark.  We have held multiple meetings and negotiations with the historic preservation community.  We will reuse 51 of the 62 buildings on the west campus that contribute to the site’s historic character.  The most historic building on site, the Center Building, will house the Office of the Secretary of Homeland Security.  This building will remain the highest building on campus.  The location of new construction has been determined so that the main cluster of historic buildings will remain physically and visually intact.  Views to and from the campus will be preserved as well.

Finally, GSA has undertaken widespread meetings and discussions with the District of Columbia Ward 8 community where St. Elizabeths is located.  We want to ensure the community is supportive of the new campus and that we provide them the opportunity to benefit from its development.  Our outreach has included more than 50 meetings, hearings, and training labs.  Close to half of these meetings were with the Advisory Neighborhood Commissions that serve the area.  We have also met with the neighboring Barry Farm Resident Council, the Anacostia Coordinating Council, and the Ward 8 Business Council.  Additionally, there were six public hearings and a Town Hall meeting sponsored by Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton.  We are committed to continuing this outreach throughout the life of the project.

GSA also provided five days of training for Section 8 (a) small businesses and another general session on conducting business with GSA.  The general contractor for the Coast Guard project, Clark Construction, has identified $224 million in possible subcontracting opportunities as part of the construction.  They have adopted the following goals for the $224 million:

40% subcontracted to Small Businesses
3% to HUBZone firms
8% to Small Disadvantaged Businesses
5% to Women-owned Businesses
5% to Veteran-owned Small Businesses
3% to Service Disabled Veteran-owned Businesses

GSA and Clark Construction are committed to using Section 8 (a) small businesses for this project.  In addition to GSA’s small business outreach, Clark has hosted two small business training seminars and will continue to do so throughout construction.  The first $13 million we spent on site stabilization, maintenance and security was all awarded to Section 8 (a) contractors, who have continued to work on site up to this time.  Another 8 (a) firm was selected to demolish the warehouse where the Coast Guard building will be located.

Of the 70 sub-contracts already awarded on the Coast Guard project, 61 have gone to small businesses, including 25 based in the District of Columbia, and 13 in Ward 8.  These include multiple awards to Section 8(a), women-owned, veteran-owned, and HUBZone firms.
GSA is also committed to providing as many employment opportunities on this project as possible.  At present, there are 650 Clark employees working on site, along with several hundred truck drivers and more than a dozen small business sub contractors.

GSA has established a pre-apprenticeship training program funded by the Recovery Act, as well as required Clark to begin an apprenticeship program for the project.  The pre-apprenticeship program is being run by the AFL-CIO.  They are conducting six-week classes that include on-the-job-training, classroom training, and work-life training in the construction industry.  To date, 53 individuals have graduated from the program with 50 of the graduates being directly placed on projects throughout the DC area.

Clark has also established an Opportunities Center on the west campus.  This large facility, which consists of four double-wide trailers joined together, is being used to provide employment and training information available to individuals and companies. The facility is staffed and consists of an information kiosk, conference room, computer lab area, restroom, storage room, and break room. On-site contractors have access to the trailer to conduct training sessions while government agencies can hold small business assistance and training sessions.  Rooms are also available for the AFL-CIO to conduct pre-apprenticeship training programs.  To date Clark and its subcontractors have hired 20 people through the Opportunities Center. This number will increase as the project moves into more labor intensive construction activities

We are also working with Clark to develop an apprenticeship program that will provide opportunities for people interested in pursuing a career in the construction industry.  Thus far, even though we are still only in the early phases of construction, Clark has already employed 17 apprentices, 12 of whom are residents of the District of Columbia.


GSA is proud to assist this important Cabinet Agency in implementing a sound, long-term housing program.  Created only seven years ago through the combination of 22 separate and independent agencies, DHS needs to consolidate in order to quickly respond to a national emergency and achieve an optimum degree of internal coordination and develop a common “corporate culture.”

Such a consolidation effort is in the best interest of the American taxpayer.  Occupying owned government space is less expensive in the long-term than leasing.  Similarly, occupying fewer large leases saves costs.

In addition to these overall benefits, creation of the new DHS Headquarters at St. Elizabeths will save and reuse a National Historic Landmark, and it will enable GSA and DHS to develop the site to demonstrate the aesthetic benefits and cost savings that arise through environmentally sustainable design and operations.  Furthermore, Ward 8 can now enjoy the benefits of economic development that have brought so much prosperity to our Nation’s Capitol.

We look forward to working with you and members of this Committee as we continue to deliver this important work.


Ebadi DHS Headquarters at St Elizabeths