Location, Location, Location
Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte may have his eye on history as he attempts to secure a prime downtown Washington property – Navy Hill, overlooking the Potomac River – for his headquarters.
During World War II, the property’s gracious Central Building, constructed in 1910, served as the home office for William “Wild Bill” Donovan’s Office of Strategic Services. It later became the first headquarters of the CIA, formed in 1947. […]
Although some nostalgia might be involved, Negroponte’s purpose just as likely may be to reduce the time he and his top aides spend traveling from Bolling Air Force Base in Southwest Washington, where they temporarily occupy two floors at the newly completed Defense Intelligence Analysis Center building.
One top Negroponte aide has complained that he spends almost half his day in automobiles going to meetings in downtown Washington, on Capitol Hill, or at the White House, the Pentagon or CIA headquarters. […]
Getting hold of [Navy Hill], however, may not end the DNI’s housing problems. As a National Historic Site, any structural changes, including upgrading, would have to be approved by the U.S. Commission on Fine Arts and the District’s State Historic Preservation Office.
Friend R.N. tells the story of how a buddy saw this black town car pull up the still-under-construction DIAC. General gets out of the car, receives the guy’s salute, and is asked if he needs help with anything (since such occurrences are fairly rare). “Nope,” he is told “just checking out the real estate. Look good to you Ambassador?” he says into the open door of the car . . .
The historical angle is not to be taken lightly. If you’ve ever briefed Brits in London in July you know what I mean, since air conditioning their historical military buildings is considered a no-no from a preservation perspective.
The more appropriate move at the time would have been to let the DNI take over the old DIA leases in N. VA (central location, close to Metro, bar on the ground floor, etc.) and let DIA consolidate it’s workforce as planned in the post-9/11 rush for dollars. Then again, if planning was a strong suit in the ranks of the IC, we wouldn’t have hired more people than a building could hold (three men in a cube is not the title of a comedy, though the results were certainly a joke). If nothing else the upper echelons get a reminder of what life is like at the working-level, where a one-hour meeting downtown turns into an all day affair due to simple Capitol-area logistics. Perhaps it will open their minds to some radical ideas like dispersing the workforce out to places where people might actually want to live (a business-continuity effort as much as a quality-of-life one) or accepting the fact that every other organization of substance uses this thing called “tele-conferencing” and “video-conferencing” for meetings.