President Bush visited the National Counterterrorism Center earlier today. You can see pictures of their shiny new offices, which look exactly like the set of 24, at this link. Yesterday he visited the State Department, holding a press conference in a nice-looking briefing room.
It’s notable that Bush hasn’t visited the DHS headquarters on Nebraska Avenue in his series of press events this week. If he did, he would find out that the place is a dump. Cubicles are squeezed together like some fourth-rate telemarketing firm, and senior officials who would have palatial quarters in most other agencies are squeezed into tiny offices.
This shoddy state of affairs, and the fact that DHS is spread across dozens of offices across DC, play a direct role in undermining the Department’s performance. People have to spend too much of their time commuting back and force between different offices for meetings. The crowded office space creates information security risks. Yet Congress refuses to fund efforts to relocate the core of the Department to a new centralized facility, probably at the former St. Elizabeth’s Hospital.
If the government were being consistently austere, then that would be one thing. But if a new entity like the NCTC gets to have a gold-plated new office, and many other agencies proceed apace with major construction projects, then why is DHS still blocked from getting a real headquarters? This issue has reached the point where it’s a non-trivial drag on the Department’s efficiency. The White House, OMB, and Congress need to step up to the plate and finally deal with it.