Moran Continues Fight to Keep NSF in Arlington
Congressman's office doesn't want Northern Virginia to compete with Maryland.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Moran has made it clear he wants the National Science Foundation to stay in Ballston — and his office is now working to make sure Northern Virginia remains competitive by keeping Maryland out of the picture.
"You've got a brain trust that's been established in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor. It hurts their synergy and is bad for Arlington and the region to split that up," Moran Chief of Staff Austin Durrer stated in an email.
The NSF's two leases for its space in adjacent buildings in Ballston expire next year. The General Services Administration, which manages the agency's office space, has been accepting bids for potential sites from across Northern Virginia.
The administration is under pressure to find cheaper space for the agency, which has an annual budget of about $7 billion and approves about 11,000 requests for funding each year. The GSA is working under a cap of $38 per square foot of office space — which has made the likelihood of the entity remaining in Ballston, the second-most expensive submarket in Arlington County to do business, questionable. That's especially true when locations in nearby Alexandria or along the planned Silver Line, like Reston, fall well below the rent cap.
Now, the matter is further complicated by talk of the GSA expanding its search area to include the entire National Capital Region, Durrer said.
Durrer, in a phone interview, classified that talk as "rumors," but apparently those rumors are strong — Moran's office drafted a letter to GSA Acting Administrator Daniel Tangherlini earlier this month aimed, in part, at putting the brakes on such talk.
U.S. Reps. Frank Wolf and Gerry Connolly and U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Jim Webb signed off on the letter.
Such a move would put Ballston — and Northern Virginia — at a distinct disadvantage to Maryland in general, and Prince George's and Montgomery counties in particular, when it comes to cost, Durrer said.
On average, the cost per square foot of office space in Maryland is cheaper than in Northern Virginia.
"With the rate caps in place, if you do a region-wide compete, you put Northern Virginia at a disadvantage," Durrer told Patch.
"If (the GSA is) looking at doing some sort of policy change on NSF, they need to meet with us. We have not heard back from them. We're looking forward to what they have to say."
At this point, talk of expanding the search area remains just that.
"At this time, no actions have been taken beyond our current proposal. We will continue to engage Congress throughout the process," GSA spokeswoman Mafara Hobson stated in an email to Patch.
So far, all of the bids received by the GSA have been for sites in Northern Virginia, she said.
The National Science Foundation, along with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Office of Naval Research and the Virginia Tech Research Center, are all situated within a few blocks of each other in bustling Ballston.
Moran, twice now, has told the GSA that moving the NSF out of that area would have "a detrimental effect" on each agency's ability to complete its mission.