August 25, 2005

Panel approves Pentagon moves from leased offices

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A base-closings review panel voted
on Thursday to allow the Defense Department to move thousands
of jobs from leased office space in Washington D.C.'s northern
Virginia suburbs to various U.S. military bases.

The moves will hit office-building owners hard in Arlington
and Alexandria, Virginia. It will also put a strain on roads
and other infrastructure near Fort Belvoir, Virginia, a far
southern suburb of Washington which stands to gain more than
4,000 jobs from these and other relocations.

As part of the first round of military base closings in a
decade, the Defense Department has proposed that more than
22,000 military and civilian jobs be moved out of the leased
offices near the Pentagon.

The department said the buildings will not meet its future
security standards and it could save money by relocating
employees to base facilities it owns. It also said it could
reap military benefits by locating some weapons-development and
administrative activities close to field operations.

Details on how much space would be vacated were not
immediately available

Virginia lawmakers argued against the move, saying the
Defense Department would lose essential civilian employees who
would not want to move out of the Washington area or commute
longer distances to Fort Belvoir.

Gov. Mark Warner and Sen. John Warner, the powerful
Republican head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, had
predicted a devastating loss of intellectual capital.

However, the Base Realignment and Closure Commission found
that many of the moves provided military benefits by grouping
headquarters and administrative employees from various
agencies, such as military criminal investigation agencies in
Quantico, Virginia and missile and space defense agencies in
Huntsville, Alabama.

The commission will resume its review of other leased
offices on Thursday afternoon.

The commission must send its changes to President George W.
Bush by September 8. He and Congress can accept or reject the
plan in its entirety, but can make no changes.