Maryland lawmakers are pressing the General Services Administration to maintain federal funding for the construction of a government complex in White Oak despite a more than 80 percent cut the agency took in the current-year spending plan approved by Congress in April.
When completed, the 12-year-old project will provide 1 million square feet of space for the Food and Drug Administration and house 9,000 employees, many of whom are now scattered around the region. Without the funding, the FDA will struggle to finish a laboratory slated to develop vaccines to bio-terrorism threats, the lawmakers said.
In a letter to the GSA, the agency charged with overseeing government buildings, five members of the state's congressional delegation said that 500 construction jobs are also at stake if the complex has to be redesigned or put on hold. Sens. Benjamin L. Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski, along with Reps. Steny Hoyer, Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards signed the letter. "We understand that if some of the … funds are not forthcoming, the Life Sciences-Biodefense cluster will have to be redesigned," the lawmakers, all Democrats, wrote in reference to the laboratory. "The result would be significant additional cost to the taxpayers and construction delays."
The push for the funding comes after Congress approved a stop-gap spending plan last month to keep the government running through the end of September. With Republicans advocating for deep cuts in spending -- and many Democrats acknowledging that the current pace of federal spending is not sustainable – Congress cut about $40 billion in the funding measure.
One of the largest single chunks came from GSA's construction budget, which had more than $400 million in 2010 but that received $82 million this year. Previously, the White Oak project had an additional $138 million in dedicated funding, but that was eliminated in the stop-gap spending plan. The agency must now determine which projects to prioritize with its smaller budget.
A spokesman for the GSA was not immediately available for comment.