County eyed as base for homeland security

Area considered as site of proposed U.S. agency

September 10, 2002|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens said yesterday that the county is being considered as a potential headquarters for President Bush's Homeland Security Department and has asked county economic development officials to be ready to respond immediately to any federal proposal.

"People are looking at us," Owens said yesterday, but that was all she would say - or could say, she added.

Owens and other officials, including the head of the county's economic development agency, were alerted recently by real estate professionals who said they were taking calls from government employees looking for land to buy or office space to lease.

"The whole thing has been done through the real-estate community," said Bill Badger, executive director of the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp., which markets the county to businesses and government agencies that might open offices locally.

Badger said that while local officials have not made a formal pitch to federal officials for the new agency, "we want to be ready to put our best foot forward."

Badger said he'd had direct contact with the Government Services Agency, which manages the business side of federal government, including office leases, but that no one would confirm whether a request for proposals, or RFP, had been posted.

Viki Reath, a GSA spokeswoman, said that there is no RFP yet. "How could there be? That department doesn't even exist," she said.

Although Congress has yet to sign off on Bush's plan to put government agencies with homeland security responsibilities under one roof and under the jurisdiction of a new federal agency, that hasn't stopped county officials from getting excited about the possibilities. After all, they say, Anne Arundel County lies about 10 miles from the Capital Beltway and already is home to the National Security Agency and Fort Meade.

In addition, the National Business Park, which boasts 1.2 million square feet of office space in Annapolis Junction, is home to many government contractors, including Northrop Grumman Corp. and Booz Allen Hamilton, a consulting firm that offers security services.

"I think it's a very logical fit," said Owens, who has worked to redevelop the former David Taylor Research Center, which the Navy operated as a research and development site for a century. Joint Spectrum Center, a Defense Information Systems Agency operation, still is located on that site.

But Badger said that the Taylor site - which is about to be transferred to a team of developers for recasting as a waterfront office park - would be unsuitable for the homeland security offices, especially in light of the area's narrow and crowded streets.

A much better fit would be Fort Meade, he said, noting that it has land available for new construction.

"I think the communities around David Taylor would have an issue with the volume of traffic," Badger said.

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