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IG will review BRAC moves in Northern Virginia

Lawmaker called for examination of Army’s environmental assessment supporting relocation plan.

The Defense Department inspector general has begun a review of plans to relocate 6,400 employees to a new office facility in suburban Washington, Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., said Wednesday. The Northern Virginia lawmaker inserted a provision in the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act requiring the IG investigation.

Specifically, the inspector general is reviewing a 2008 environmental assessment by the Army Corps of Engineers that concluded moving the employees to the Mark Center, a new campus in Alexandria, Va., that will serve as an annex to Fort Belvoir, would not pose significant transportation issues -- a determination Moran, state officials and many others in the traffic-clogged region dispute.

"The conclusion that relocating thousands of Defense Department employees to the Mark Center would have no repercussions for area commuters or for the employees themselves is flat wrong," Moran said. "The decision was based on flawed analysis and it's my hope the IG will get to the bottom of this mess."

The Army is developing the Mark Center to meet requirements imposed by the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission. Congress endorsed the commission's recommendations, which involve relocating tens of thousands of jobs in suburban Washington, one of the most congested metropolitan regions in the country.

The IG's report is slated for release in February 2011, Moran said. By law, all BRAC moves are to be completed by Sept. 15, 2011.

A new report by the commercial real estate services firm Cassidy Turley suggested Defense officials are hedging their bets about meeting that deadline. The firm's analysis of commercial real estate leases, first reported by ARLnow, a local news website, showed the military has extended leases in the region totaling 2.3 million square feet through 2013 or beyond.

"Although some BRAC-related moves are on track to meet the September 2011 deadline, some relocations have been delayed. Not all BRAC-related office space will experience a mass exodus by the deadline," the firm concluded.