Maryland Newsline

Home Page

Politics

Business & Tech

Schools

Crime & Justice

Health

Et Cetera

Related Link:
Officials Lust for Headquarters of 'Trophy' Department

By Liz Boch
Capital News Service
Monday, Sept. 30, 2002

WASHINGTON - The bill creating a Department of Homeland Security has
not even passed yet, but local officials are already squabbling over where
to put the headquarters of an agency that could have up to 170,000 workers
nationwide.

While D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton is pushing for the grounds of
St. Elizabeths Hospital in Southeast Washington, Maryland lawmakers have
advanced at least four sites in three counties: Montgomery, Prince
George's and Anne Arundel.

"It would bring a tremendous economic benefit," said Jonathan Dean, a spokesman for Rep. Connie Morella, R-Bethesda, who has joined Montgomery
County officials to push White Oak as a potential site.

But officials with the Office of Homeland Security said it is way too early to start talking about headquarters sites.

"When the president has a bill to sign, we can start then," said Ashley
Snee, spokeswoman for the Homeland Security Office.

A spokesman for Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md., noted that there is not even
agreement yet on how many agencies will be funneled into the new department or
how many employees it will include.

"There is no idea of its size or scope. That's a discussion for a later time," said the spokesman, Jesse Jacobs, of the search for a site.

But that hasn't stopped county and state officials from positioning themselves for what one official called "a trophy department."

Montgomery County officials are pushing White Oak, a 700-acre federally
owned plot where the Food and Drug Administration plans to eventually
house 5,000 to 6,000 employees. County Executive Doug Duncan said the former Naval Surface Warfare Center site has plenty of room left for a homeland
security department.

"It skips a bunch of steps being federally owned," Duncan said. "They've
got room to put it there. They're looking for sites outside D.C. You
don't want to concentrate possible attack sites."

The former military installation comes equipped with security personnel,
storage facilities, a hypersonic wind tunnel and a perimeter fence, Duncan said.

Dean said the White Oak site would put the new Cabinet agency near its likely business partners, such as the National Institutes of Health, National
Institute of Standards and Technology, Lockheed Martin and Bethesda
Naval Hospital.

But Anne Arundel County officials are also touting the fact that their county is home to Fort Meade, the Naval Academy, the National Security
Agency and defense contractors Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics.

"With all those suburban rings and the government looking for somewhere outside D.C. but still near it, we think we're the best choice," said
Bill Badger, president of the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp. "It's
the least expensive alternative scenario."

Badger called Fort Meade "the logical choice" because the federal government owns thousands of acres there. But he said the county could also
offer a 46-acre David Taylor Naval Research Center site that sits across
from the Naval Academy. The Defense Department has disposed of the base and the county is scheduled to acquire the property by November.

Maryland officials are also pitching the 226-acre Suitland Federal Center
in Prince George's County, said Amy Hagovsky, a spokeswoman for Sen.
Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. The site is on Metro's Green Line and already houses the Census Bureau, the National Maritime Intelligence Center, the Washington
National Records Center and parts of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration.

"I'm sure it would be a good thing for it to be here," said James Rogers,
a spokesman for Prince George's County Executive Wayne Curry. "It'd be a
positive thing."

But Norton, who said a longstanding executive order states "all Cabinet
agencies are to be located in the nation's capital," has proposed the
180-acre federally owned St. Elizabeths Hospital campus for the new agency. She said the site was endorsed in July by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

"She feels it is the best spot for the facility," said Doxie McCoy, an aide to Norton, who noted the site's proximity to the Green Line. "She believes
federal agencies should stay in D.C."

But Maryland officials are not about to give up.

"This is a trophy department," Badger said. "Everybody wants to say
they were a part of it. There will be a lot of competition."


Copyright 200
2 University of Maryland College of Journalism

Top of Page | Home Page