DHS stays next door

Returning AU students can count on sharing their neighborhood once again with the Department of Homeland Security.

The DHS's Nebraska Avenue headquarters is expected to house the department for the foreseeable future.

On May 22, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge announced that the department plans to remain in Washington. The Washington Post reported Ridge saying that the department will stay at its current site for several years and will "build out" the Nebraska Avenue complex.

DHS spokeswoman Genevieve Woodard said there is some construction occurring on specific buildings at the site, but there are "no expansion plans currently."

According to Woodard, there are also no plans to increase security around the complex at which 300 DHS employees work.

David Taylor, AU President Benjamin Ladner's chief of staff, is optimistic about the University's neighbor. Taylor said that AU officials met with DHS officials during the spring semester to go over information, establish coordination links and exchange contact information.

"As long as we stay in touch, I don't think there will be any problems," Taylor said. He described the DHS staff as "friendly, supportive and helpful" and said that the University has not had any issues with the department.

Taylor is not aware of any upcoming traffic changes around the University area due to the site. He said that at the meeting with DHS officials, "it was suggested to them that parking is an issue taken very seriously in the surrounding community" and that they need to fully understand the local rules and regulations.

Woodard said the department is currently unaware of any traffic or parking problems in the neighborhood. "If any such problems arise, the department will deal with them accordingly," she said.

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., is pleased about the department's decision to stay. Spokesperson Boxie McCoy said that, prior to the decision, Norton wrote a letter to Tom Ridge about the importance of keeping federal jobs inside the District. Norton also talked to regional employees of the DHS and to members of the Transportation Infrastructure Committee responsible for the location of federal buildings.

According to McCoy, Norton "highlighted the importance federal agencies bring in the nation's capital. She brought up statutes that say federal agencies should be located here."

Woodard said there are no plans to move the DHS from the complex they have occupied since January. Taylor, however, views the Nebraska Avenue headquarters as a temporary location.

"My understanding was that the site would not be its permanent home," Taylor said.

He said that there are many jurisdictions around Washington that may want to house the facility and encourage the idea that they are a likely permanent location.

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