The Homeland Security Department held a ceremonial groundbreaking for its new headquarters at the former Saint Elizabeths Hospital in Southeast Washington.
The renovation of the former psychiatric institution is the largest federal building project since the Pentagon was built. It will house nearly 14,000 DHS employees.
The first phase of the project is the construction of an environmentally sustainable, LEED-certified Coast Guard facility, scheduled for completion in 2013. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that housing the majority of the department's employees on a single campus will help ensure that DHS has a common purpose, mission and culture. The department currently has 22,000 personnel dispersed over nearly 40 buildings in the Washington area.
Saint Elizabeths, built in 1855, was the first federally operated institution for the mentally ill and part of the campus is still used for that purpose. Fifty-two of the original 62 buildings on the new DHS site will be revitalized and reused for agency functions.
The project's total budget is approximately $3.4 billion, including $650 million in Recovery Act funding.