Northern Virginia lawmakers were nearly shouting from the rooftops on Friday when it became clear that the 2012 Defense appropriations would become law with a cap on parking at the controversial Mark Center office complex in Alexandria, Va.
The Pentagon is in the middle of transferring some 6,400 national security employees from locations in Arlington, Va., and elsewhere to fulfill the demands of the 2005 Base Closure and Realignment Commission. Local lawmakers, however, were appalled at the pending impact on traffic given that the new complex is not close to public transportation.
Both houses of Congress on have passed language that forces the Army, which is running the moves, to limit parking to 2,000 places until the service revises its traffic studies and abatement plans, as called for by the Defense Department inspector general.
"We cannot stop the Defense Department from fully occupying the building, but we now have assurance they will do so in a way that will mitigate the projected gridlock on I-395," said Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va. The Army "cooked the books," said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.
An Army spokesman referred Government Executive to the recent IG report, in which the Army rebuts the IG and insists that its traffic studies were up to industry standards and that relevant local and state officials were consulted. The legislation, he added, singles out Defense, not the Army, as the responsible party.
So the ball appears to be in Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's court.