Secretary Mayorkas delivered the following remarks at an Investing in America press conference on the St. Elizabeths campus.
Thank you very much, Robin. Thank you all for being here this morning.
In November 2022, when President Bush signed into law the legislation that created the Department of Homeland Security, he told the nation that his highest and most urgent priority as President was to “unite our efforts under one roof and behind one primary mission to protect the American people.”
His vision, alongside that of one of my predecessors, Secretary Ridge, and members of Congress, especially Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, helped launch DHS to meet that primary mandate more than 20 years ago – to keep the American people, our homeland, and our values safe.
Today, thanks to President Biden's Inflation Reduction Act, we are making a significant step toward realizing the first clause of that initial vision: to unite our efforts under one roof.
Our Department has already made progress, as evidenced by the extraordinary campus we are meeting on today. Twenty years ago, St. Elizabeths was a boarded-up hospital, and DHS was assembling chairs and desks in front of elevators, drafting plans and organization charts, and striving for a seat at the table from our temporary Nebraska Avenue complex.
Since then, thanks to the more than $3.2 billion appropriated by Congress so far, we broke ground on our St. Elizabeths headquarters in 2009. Our state-of-the-art Coast Guard Headquarters opened in 2013. Center Building renovation began in 2015, and headquarters staff moved in in April 2019.
Many of our components remain dispersed across the greater Washington area. Some might ask the question, why is that a problem? To them, I offer two reasons why consolidation is important to our Department's mission.
The first is fiscal, as Administrator Carnahan referenced. As public servants, we have a responsibility to the public to make smart, careful use of their money. GSA, DHS, and the entire Biden-Harris administration are doing just that.
Full execution of the DHS campus consolidation effort will take our total number of locations from 40 to 6. This will reduce the DHS footprint by over 1.2 million square feet. That is 27.5 acres of land, or the equivalent of 21 football fields of space. Doing so will save the taxpayers tens of millions of dollars annually.
The second reason is operational. Bringing the DHS, CISA, and ICE together under one roof at St. Elizabeths will increase Departmental mission cohesion and streamline inter- and intra-component collaboration, which helps make us stronger and better positioned to mitigate the new and evolving threats America faces.
When completed, these new projects alone will house 6,500 DHS personnel, more than doubling the current number of DHS employees who work at St. Elizabeths. That is more than 80% of the 14,800 employees who will eventually work here at full development. This is a win for the DHS workforce, for the Capital Region, and for our homeland security.
There are many people to thank for helping make this important step finally happen, and we do not have time for all of them.
I do, however, again want to recognize President Biden and the rest of his administration leadership who made critical infrastructure investment finally happen through the Inflation Reduction Act. As I have often said, the Department of Homeland Security has never been more fit for the mission ahead. And these critical investments in our campus will ensure that remains the case for years to come.
I also want to thank GSA Administrator Carnahan, who understands the importance of having DHS under one roof and has been a great champion for our workforce.
I want to also, of course, acknowledge the many members of Congress who helped make the Inflation Reduction Act a reality, including Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, who has joined us today. She has been a champion of this project for a very many years.
I want to take a moment to recognize and thank the outstanding DHS personnel who are here, with whom I am privileged to work, and without whom this day would never have come. I want to thank you, and commend you, and recognize you.
Thank you so much.