In written testimony on March 7th before the House, Dr. Dorothy Robyn, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense, Installations and Environment, confirmed that DoD has embarked upon a formal initiative to review the Department’s anti-terrorism/force protection (ATFP) standards. These standards prescribe minimum requirements on DoD-occupied buildings that she said add as much as 9% to the cost of leased space and new construction. The ATFP standards include strict security design elements that for office buildings include a minimum 82′ standoff distance, a protected site perimeter, control of all parking, blast-resistant glazing and building structural design to avoid progressive collapse in the event of an explosive blast.
It has long been speculated that DoD was debating its own security standards and in the current budgetary environment the pressure to do so has intensified. To begin, the Budget Control Act mandates that DoD cut $487 billion of spending over the next 10 years. Second, DoD’s FY13 facilities sustainment and recapitalization budget is expected to be 22% ($3.86 billion) less than last year’s budget – clearly DoD will need to make do with existing leased inventory. Finally, DoD is proposing to implement two more rounds of BRAC. Though the BRAC process is meant to ultimately pay back, the near term costs to implement base closures and realignments will be measured in the billions of dollars.
Dr. Robyn noted that the rest of the federal government follows a different set of standards established by the Interagency Security Committee (ISC), a 21-agency group led by the Department of Homeland Security. The ISC standards provide for flexible security solutions depending upon factors such as the building’s size, location, mission criticality and symbolism.
DoD is now studying to what whether it can adopt the ISC security criteria for its own inventory. Were DoD to do so, it would have a dramatic, positive impact on the Northern Virginia office market which has long been the home to the U.S. defense superstructure. Past BRACs served to deplete DoD tenancy, especially the 2005 BRAC, but proximity to the Pentagon always attracted new DoD tenants into the market, often in leased space. However, the urban design prevalent throughout close-in Northern Virginia doesn’t allow for implementation of ATFP standards. This has long been a concern for area landlords – and DoD. Though we expect that DoD will always have certain needs for secure tenancy, a shift to the ISC standards for rank-and-file DoD operations would be a boon to private sector landlords, especially in Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia.