WASHINGTON, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- The U.S. Homeland Security Department's widely dispersed offices will be consolidated after the approval of a plan by the National Capital Planning Commission.
The Homeland Security Department has been without a consolidated central headquarters since the agency was established by a presidential directive in 2002. Critics have raised concerns about the ability of the department to effectively function with operations in more than 70 buildings in the Washington area.
Thursday the National Capital Planning Commission, the planning agency responsible for the National Capital Region's federal land and buildings, approved a master plan for a consolidated Homeland Security Department headquarters, the NCPC reported.
With a vote of 9-1, the NCPC approved a plan for construction of the headquarters at the St. Elizabeths Hospital campus in Southeast Washington. With the approval, officials say construction on the former federally run psychiatric hospital is expected to begin before the end of 2009.
"The NCPC's final approval of a new DHS headquarters at St. Elizabeths is terrific news," Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., said in a statement.
"A unified headquarters, which would bring together many of the department's components into a single facility and allow employees to work more efficiently and interactively is a critical cornerstone of the efforts to improve management at the Department of Homeland Security."