Not all the facility closings announced in May's Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission report will end up saving money, especially around the Washington, DC. Lots of commercial office space in Northern Virginia is on the closure list due to Post 9/11 security requirements. Already required for new construction, Department of Defense's new security standards require commercial "off-base" office space to be set back at least 82 feet from roadways to avoid the risk of vehicle bombs, and have restricted underground parking. The new standards will be a requirement for newly leased buildings in October 2005 and for lease renewals in 2009.
In addition, there are another 27,000 workers in Virginia office buildings, not meeting the new security specifications, that weren't listed in BRAC. Those jobs may be moved once those leases expire, or the Defense Department might ease the setback rule at existing buildings if other protective measures can be implemented. But each location will require its own security analysis.
The Department of Defense leases about 8 million square feet of office space in about 140 buildings throughout Northern Virginia. Over 18,000 military and civilian employees will be moved to Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and another nearly 5,400 workers would be relocated to Fort Meade, Maryland.
While Virginia would see a net gain in jobs from BRAC realignment, local politicians are horrified at adding a large number of people an already-crowded Ft. Belvoir. Traffic in the region is already bumper-to-bumper, exacerbated by the closing of Ft. Belvoir to civilian traffic after 9/11. One of the closed roads was a major shortcut for local commuters. The Army has already allocated $5 million for traffic studies.
Public officials are calling for a massive improvement in both roads and mass transit around the region to support the influx of new workers, including an extension of the DC Metro subway system. An extension to Metro down to Ft. Belvoir could cost anywhere between $300-450 million (or more) and Virginia officials expect the federal government to pick the tab. With the additional cost of road improvements, this particular set of BRAC closings will generate red ink. Doug Mohney.