The old saying, "The more things change, the more they stay the same," was nowhere more evident than in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) released by the Department of The Army late last Friday pertaining to the future of Fort Belvoir under the Base Realignment and Closure Report (BRAC). In this case, the only misnomer was that there was little or no change from the Draft EIS.
The three-volume report takes into account all of the public comments received over a year-long series of public meetings, the comments of the Board of Advisors, and input from a variety of sources. However, it did not directly address any solutions to the two most serious BRAC implementation hurdles — transportation and infrastructure.
In the end, DOA concluded that its initial preference to relocate the majority of the incoming 22,000 personnel to the Engineering Proving Grounds (EPG) was also its ultimate solution. The only new element, still in play, could be the inclusion of the General Services Administration (GSA) warehouses in Springfield becoming part of the overall relocation infrastructure. However, that can not happen until those facilities are officially turned over to Fort Belvoir, according to Donald Dees, Fort Belvoir public information officer.
THE DRAFT EIS considered four alternative land use configuration:
1.The Town Center;
2. City Center;
3. Satellite Campuses; and
4. Preferred Alternative.
"The Preferred Alternative contains various elements of the other land use alternatives, and includes construction, renovation, and operation of proposed facilities to accommodate incoming military missions," according to the news release announcing the Final EIS.
It also states: "Given long standing transportation issues in Northern Virginia, all four alternative land use plans will have short and long-term significant adverse impacts on the transportation network at Fort Belvoir and its surrounding area." That has been the primary concern of both Mount Vernon and Lee districts supervisors Gerald Hyland and Dana Kauffman as well as state Secretary of Transportation Pierce Homer.
"The Preferred Alternative identifies 13 transportation projects that could mitigate these adverse transportation impacts with respect to congestion and increased travel time," according to the release. However, funds to implement those projects has not been appropriated just four years prior to the Sept. 15, 2011, BRAC mandated deadline for completion of implementation.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors have a significant difference in their estimates as to the amount of money needed to complete the necessary transportation projects identified by BRAC. DoD estimates the price tag at $485 million. The county and state put the total at $1.5 billion or more.
During the April Draft EIS public meeting Hyland noted the county's estimate does not take into account the "$50 million shortfall to widen and extend the Fairfax County Parkway through the EPG or an estimated $11 million shortfall to widen the Woodlawn Road replacement to four lanes." Hyland has consistently backed Kauffman's effort to bring the GSA warehouses into the planning mix.
"DoD and GSA should lower their bureaucracy defense shields and once and for all do away with the half-century old wooden relic known as the Franconia Depot," commonly known as the GSA warehouses, Kauffman said during the April 19 public session on the Draft EIS.
"Preserving low-ceiling warehouses next to a regional transportation center is just plain stupid and a waste of taxpayer dollars," Kauffman stated at that time. "There are still details being worked out DoD and GSA and we can't formally consider the warehouses until those are settled," said Dees, following the Final EIS Report release.
As for this Final EIS, Kauffman again noted, "The issue was and remains transportation — both to support these new job centers and to let others get around them. It's easy to list needed projects. I still need to see the beef on who and how they will get funded."
THE PREFERRED ALTERNATIVE calls for 18,000 of the realignment personnel to be relocated at the EPG. The remaining 4,000, which includes personnel at the planned new and expanded DeWitt Army Hospital, would be located on the main base at Fort Belvoir.
Those operations and personnel to be located at the EPG are specified in the Final EIS as:
o Washington Headquarters Services (WHS) - 9,263
o National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) - 8,500
o Personnel in Army lease space - 2,720
o U.S.Medical Command (MEDCOM) - 2,069
o Program Executive Office, Enterprize Information System (PEO-EIS) – 480
o Missile Defense Agency, HQ Command Center (MDA) – 292.
These groups total 23,324. Personnel being realigned from Fort Belvoir as a part of BRAC total 1,324 bringing the net increase to Fort Belvoir facilities to 22,000 personnel.
However, included in those groups being realigned else is the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division Headquarters. It will be transferred to Quantico Marine Base nearly Triangle, Va., which is part of the Northern Virginia transportation quadrant and, therefore, keeps those personnel within the total count impacting area transportation.
Other entities to leave Fort Belvoir are: Army Materiel Command Headquarters and U.S. Army Security Assistance Command; Prime Power School; Soldiers Magazine; Biomedical Science and Technology Programs of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency; Defense Threat Reduction Agency Conventional Armaments Research; and Information Systems, Research, Development and Acquisition.
Locations of incoming units as identified in the Final EIS are: Eastern portion of the EPG - NGA and WHS; South Post at sites on Gunston and Belvoir roads - Army lease units and PEO EIS and MDA; and South Post Golf Course - the new and expanded DeWitt Army Hospital.
All of this movement will require 20 new construction projects totalling 6.2 million square feet of office space plus an additional seven million square feet of parking structures. Presently the EPG is without any viable infrastructure either as to structures, utilities or paved vehicular/pedestrian pathways. Work is presently planned to begin during Fiscal Year 2007 and continue through Fiscal Year 2011.
A "Record of Decision" will be published on the FEIS after a 30-day waiting period. During that time a copy of the FEIS can be obtained by contacting the Fort Belvoir Directorate of Public Works at 703-806-4007 or at the email address at email@example.com. An electronic version is located at http://www.hqda.army.mil/acsim/brac/nepa_eis_docs.htm.