Federal auditors released a report on Friday stating that Homeland Security should consider giving up building a colossal new headquarters at a former insane asylum and think about alternatives, reports The Washington Post.
The Department of Homeland Security‘s (DHS) attempt to construct a new headquarters at St. Elizabeths, the home of a former insane asylum, is now 11 years behind schedule and over $1.5 billion dollars over budget, a number that is expected to grow if the DHS clings to its plans. But more delays are expected, and so is an exploding budget.
The 77-page Government Accountability Office (GAO) report notes that the government has failed to provide reliable cost estimates, as the most recent projections left out basic calculations like maintenance and operation costs. So far, only a Coast Guard building has been constructed on the new grounds, and the rest of the area is undeveloped and empty, except for deer who sometimes wander over to graze.
“Creating reliable cost and schedule estimates for the headquarters consolidation project should be an integral part of DHS and GSA efforts to reassess the project,” the report said, “Without this information… the project risks potential cost overruns, missed deadlines, and performance shortfalls.”
Nevertheless, Senate Democrats on Friday have thrown their support behind the existing project, releasing their own counter report which states that the DHS should move forward and consolidate their headquarters. According to the Democrats’ report, the current headquarters are in such need of revamping that the cafeteria had to be temporarily closed due to a rat-infestation. DHS officials say that their facilities are only a quarter of what they actually need.
The St. Elizabeths master plan hasn’t been updated since 2009, but DHS Official Jim H. Crumpack shot back at the report, saying that delays due to a lack of funding from Congress “cannot be overemphasized.” A new estimate puts the date of completion at 2026.
“The Department’s ability to accomplish its mission, promote employee productivity, and communicate within its components remains difficult. We need to fix this,” said the Democratic report.