National Commentary

Congressman Moran’s News Commentary

This week, the Department of Defense released a long awaited decision regarding commercial leases for property affected by the so-called “Minimum Antiterrorism Standards for Buildings.”

After years of working with federal agencies and local officials on this issue, I was pleased to announce at a press conference Tuesday that the arbitrary deadline of September 30, 2009, after which no leases for office space housing DoD employees could be renewed, has been extended by two years. With this extension, we’ve bought vital time to help ensure the BRAC transition does not negatively impact our region. Leases may now also run until September 30, 2014, giving tenants and landlords much greater flexibility.

The aforementioned anti-terrorism building standards imposed on the region were the brainchild of then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who used the 2005 BRAC process to move defense facilities out of Metro-accessible leased office space and onto more remote military bases.  According to what I consider to be a flawed directive, leases for facilities in the National Capital Region (NCR) that housed at least 25 percent DoD employees could not be renewed unless they complied with a set of standards geared towards protecting the building against a 200 pound truck bomb – good regulations for high profile targets but redundant for non-descript office buildings housing little known agencies.

These onerous standards include an anti-public transit ban on buildings located above Metro, those that have underground or roof top parking, and any situated closer than 82 feet to 148 feet from the road (depending on the number of defense employees in the office). Over 50 some odd commercial leases in the Capital region (including ten in Falls Church) face this absurd criteria. Not even high profile targets for terrorism like the Pentagon, House and Senate Office Buildings or the Supreme Court can meet these regulations.

I commend Undersecretary of Defense Ashton Carter for acknowledging our concerns on this issue. In his memo extending the deadline for compliance, he specifically directs the Washington Headquarters Service to:

– Grant the authority to execute lease renewals until September 30, 2011, to accommodate continued occupancy by organizations in the NCR affected by BRAC, even if the existing leased facility is not in compliance with the building standards.

– Work with GSA to renew or extend leases at NCR BRAC facilities that expire prior to September 30, 2011, to accommodate continued occupancy until the BRAC-directed move.

I appreciate the Defense Department’s willingness to be flexible on this issue. We will continue to work with DoD in the coming months to find ways to prevent the BRAC transition from negatively affecting our region.