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Where to Stash the 18,000 Bodies: a Master Plan

September 15, 2017

The Alliance cares deeply about the long-term effectiveness of FDA and sees the agency’s resources as an essential part of success. While our commitment is to the future of FDA, our day-to-day work focuses on the current fiscal year and the succeeding two appropriations cycles.  Nonetheless, we wanted to highlight to our membership an important longer-term process that will impact where FDA employees do their work, which has not been closely covered in other publications.

Admittedly, it is a change of pace to be reviewing GSA’s development of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for long-term continuation of “FDA Consolidation at the Federal Research Center at White Oak (FRC).”  All the details are here, including a September 25 deadline for submitting comments.

GSA describes the current project as follows:

Purpose: To provide a Master Plan for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Campus at FRC to support the projected growth.

Need: The proposed action is needed to continue to support the FDA Headquarters consolidation at FRC and provide the necessary office space in order to conduct the complex and comprehensive reviews mandated by Congress.

For purposes of developing the Master Plan, GSA is assessing the impact of assigning approximately 18,000 employees to White Oak, with increases over a 15-year period. The expectation is that not all those individuals would be on site on any given day. The GSA project brochure says the existing campus staff is 12,855, of which the current peak daily population is 7,793.  In contrast, the President’s FY 18 budget request says the total number of employees currently assigned to the White Oak Campus is approximately 9,000.

The consolidation to a maximum of 18,000 employees would include existing staff, an increase in total number of employees, and consolidation at White Oak of individuals now in leased space elsewhere in the DC area. As far as I can tell, the EIS for White Oak is independent of any future FDA decision as to which staffs would be transferred and which leases would be allowed to lapse.

At a public “scoping meeting” this week, the GSA exhibited details on four scenarios. Three involve different configurations of additional office and parking space. The fourth option — no-build/as-is — would presumably mean a significant increase in leased space away from White Oak.

Once the current comment period is over (September 25), GSA will develop a draft EIS for public comment in January and February. A final EIS is slated for Fall of 2018.

This completed EIS is a prerequisite to compete for federal construction funding. This is a process centralized through GSA, rather than at departments and agencies. The monies to implement this EIS would be part of GSA’s appropriation, not FDA’s.

Clarifying note: The annual FDA appropriation includes about $50 million for White Oak consolidation. As explained on page 223 of the President’s FY18 budget request:  GSA appropriation funds the design and construction of the new buildings at White Oak, FDA‘s budget authority and various user fees fund building infrastructure, fit-out, specialized equipment, move costs, and operations and logistics at the Campus.

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