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Warehouse Site Enters BRAC Equation

GSA site and mass transit equal commuter relief.

A BRAC breakthrough occurred Thursday, May 10 in the U.S. House of Representatives, regarding the inclusion of the 50-plus year old General Service Administration warehouses in Franconia into the planning for the Base Realignment and Closure increase of 22,000 personnel to Fort Belvoir and its Engineering Proving Grounds.

That is when U.S. Reps. James P. Moran (D-8) and Thomas M. Davis, III, (R-11) successfully included language in the Fiscal Year ’08 Defense Authorization Bill mandating that GSA enter into an agreement transferring the multi-million square feet warehouses in Springfield to the U.S. Army. That bill is expected to be considered by the U.S. House of Representatives this week, according to the two Congressional offices.

"The 22,000 civilian and military employees scheduled to be relocated to Fort Belvoir over the next four years represent a transportation nightmare for local commuters," Moran said.

"With this provision, the Army would be able to shift nearly a quarter of their relocated personnel to a Metro-accessible location. Literally, thousands more cars would be kept off area roads," he said.

"We have to make the most of the resources we have if BRAC is going to be successful. Using the GSA property for BRAC-related functions takes advantage of both the existing Metro and VRE facilities in Springfield. It also reduces pressure on the Engineering Proving Grounds and Fairfax County Parkway," Davis said.

Of the 22,000 planned increase to Fort Belvoir's personnel, 18,000 have been scheduled to relocate to facilities yet to be built at EPG. The remaining 4,000 would be relocated to the main post.

Since the BRAC report was released in 2005, Supervisor Dana Kauffman (D-Lee) has been advocating for the nearly dormant GSA warehouses to be torn down and replaced by new buildings to house many of the personnel scheduled for the EPG site. His primary rationale has been the proximity of the GSA site to Metro and VRE, thus, hopefully, transferring many commuters from vehicles to mass transit.

"THIS IS A GREAT step forward. I'm waiting to see common sense break out once again with the BRAC proposal," said Kauffman about the Moran/Davis legislative move.

"It's such a practical solution and best use of existing government property that it would be a shame if it didn't pass," he said. However, if it does pass the House it must survive a vote by the U.S. Senate.

Once that hurdle is passed, the GSA must transfer title to the Army, according to Kauffman. Then, the property will undergo a historic classification, due to the age of the warehouses that are more than 50 years old, and, finally, the transfer or liquidation of any leases, he explained.

Most of the content is presently dead storage for U.S. Patent materials, according to records. "They can be stored anywhere," said Kauffman. "They certainly don't need mass transit access."

The 70-acre site contains several buildings. These would be demolished and replaced with modern office structures, according to Kauffman.

During the April 17 BRAC public hearing at Mount Vernon High School, Kauffman called for the U.S. Department of Defense and GSA to "lower their bureaucratic defense shields and once and for all do away with the half-century old wooden relic known as the Franconia Depot," another name by which the GSA warehouses are known.

"Preserving low-ceiling warehouses next to a regional transportation center is just plain stupid and a waste of taxpayer dollars," said Kauffman, at that time. However, the Army's hands have been tied since they do not own the warehouses, according to Fort Belvoir Public Information Director Donald Carr.

"Congress may make the GSA site a viable option [for BRAC)], but at this point we can't count on it because it doesn't belong to the Army," said Carr, after the public hearing. "Should Congress decide the GSA site is a viable alternative, there will need to be Congressional action to transfer the site to Fort Belvoir."

That is exactly what the Moran/Davis language has initiated. "There is a lot left to be done, but this is an important step," Davis said.