The County Board has given the go-ahead to a plan from the U.S. Department of Defense to install equipment around Arlington that could detect explosions and provide forensic data to investigators after an attack.
The board’s members voted unanimously last night to approve a license agreement between the County Board and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) to install the equipment on county property.
According to a county staff report, the nature and location of the equipment will be kept secret and exempt from Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act, a fact that worried ACLU of Virginia’s executive director, Claire Guthrie Gastañaga. Speaking before the board, Gastañaga argued that it was “important that the capabilities of the equipment be public.”
“We don’t think think that… those capabilities of this kind of equipment are any real secret,” she said. Additionally, Gastañaga urged the board to ask the Defense Department to agree not to install listening devices or other active monitoring equipment.
County Attorney Stephen MacIsaac replied that the board has some of the same concerns as the ACLU, and added that its members have had an opportunity to examine the plans to assure “that the nature of the equipment is not the kind of thing that can record audio or visual activities.”
“It is dormant equipment that is only activated when an event occurs and it does not record audio or video,” MacIsaac said. “You can have a high level of confidence that the equipment they’re putting out there is not capable of doing the sorts of things that there is concern about.”
Board member John Vihstadt agreed with McIsaac and said that “the county has a high degree of control over exactly what DTRA is doing and what they’re putting out on county property.”
“I think a big distinction here is that we’re not turning over any part of our county’s infrastructure or geography or territory to DTRA, we’re simply entering into a licensing agreement to deploy the kind of sensors that they have described,” added board member Christian Dorsey. “That gives me great comfort that many of the civil liberties issues that Ms. Gastanaga have brought up are not going to be ongoing issues here.”
Furthermore, board chair Libby Garvey said the county could choose to cancel the agreement if it ever became concerned with the new equipment.
Screenshot via County Board video
Following up on frequent resident complaints, last month Beyer added an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act “to study changes to the region’s helicopter flight routes, operating procedures, and even the types of helicopters flown in the national capital airspace to mitigate the effect of noise on the region’s neighborhoods.”
A letter sent today to Defense Secretary Ash Carter by Beyer and other local members of Congress notes that the bill directs the Defense Department to work with the FAA “to develop recommendations for the reduction of military helicopter noise, taking into account the operational needs of the military while offering residents a much-needed reprieve.”
The letter expresses concern about the noise while offering “to support your outreach to communities to ensure the DOD and the FAA receive the most comprehensive information regarding the effects of military helicopter noise.”
The full letter, after the jump.
Arlington Inmate Dies — A 48-year-old convict died early Saturday morning in the Arlington County Detention Facility in Courthouse. The man, who had a “history of medical issues,” was found unresponsive in his cell and rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. [Arlington County]
More Sequestration Could Hit Virginia Hard — Virginia, and in particular Northern Virginia, is bracing for more sequestration cuts to the Defense Department, which are set to take effect in five weeks. Virginia’s two U.S. Senators are pushing for new budget legislation to replace the sequester. [Washington Post]
Cemetery Superintendent Removed — One year after taking the position, Arlington National Cemetery superintendent Jack E. Lechner has been given the boot. The Army says Lechner’s job performance was unsatisfactory. [Washington Post]
DAK Chicken Opens in Shirlington — DAK Chicken, a Korean-style chicken restaurant, welcomed customers on Friday for its soft opening. In addition to chicken wings the new Shirlington eatery offers other Korean and Asian-fusion dishes like kimchi, bulgogi and ramen. [Northern Virginia Magazine, Facebook]
Arlington Company Makes Fortune List — Courthouse-based Opower has made Fortune Magazine’s inaugural “Change The World” list. Opower is ranked No. 45 on the list of 51 companies “that have made a sizable impact on major global social or environmental problems as part of their competitive strategy.” How long Opower remains in Arlington remains a question: the company is currently considering a move to the District. [Fortune]
Update at 2:15 p.m. — Office of Naval Research spokesman Doug Abbotts said that the flag is that of the building’s property manager, and it was left up overnight this week while the American flag was taken down. Abbotts said that while it looks like a plain white “surrender” flag, the logo is “faded, but it’s there.” The white flag has since been taken down.
For two days this week, the Office of Naval Research building, at 875 N. Randolph Street in Ballston, was flying a white flag on its flagpole, not its usual stars and stripes.
Lori Klein lives in the building behind ONR’s headquarters, and she said the flag was up Wednesday and Thursday nights before she talked to a security guard last night. This morning, the white flag was nowhere to be seen and the American flag was back in its normal place.
“I was walking my dog when I saw the flag, so I stopped a security guard and told him about it,” Klein told ARLnow.com over the phone today. “He had no idea it was up there.”
A spokeswoman for the ONR was not aware of the flag when first contacted by ARLnow.com.
The flag was seemingly reminiscent of the work of German artists this summer, who replaced two American flags on the Brooklyn Bridge with white flags.
If it was a prank “somebody really pulled something off… considering there are cameras and security guards all over the place, and how high alert they must be on,” Klein said.
The Office of Naval Research is an agency within the Dept. of Defense that “coordinates, executes, and promotes the science and technology programs of the United States Navy and Marine Corps.”
Photos courtesy Lori Klein
The Department of Defense announced Tuesday that the number of civilian furlough days in Fiscal Year 2013, which ends Sept. 30, has been reduced from 11 to 6.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said in a memo to defense staff that the savings were accomplished thanks to Congress approving a reprogramming request, allowing the department to shift budgeted funds across accounts. Hagel also said more funds would be available for training and other military programs.
Many civilian defense employees are expected to have taken six furlough days by Aug. 17, in which case those employees wouldn’t need to take any additional furlough days.
The Pentagon’s budget is still on thin ice, however, because Congress still must pass a FY2014 budget. Currently, sequestration is slated to cut the FY2014 DoD budget by $52 billion, 44 percent more than FY2013.
“You can’t understate the impact these furloughs, originally set to eliminate an entire months paycheck, are having on the morale of our federal workforce,” Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) said in a statement. “Thankfully, by virtue of this decision, DoD employees and their families now face a little less hardship. Congress must step up and deal with these budget issues in a responsible manner, so that sequestration ends and we stop furloughing our federal workforce.”
In Virginia alone, nearly 72,000 DoD employees are affected by furloughs, which require one unpaid day off per week for 11 weeks. The state is expected to be particularly hard hit by the cuts due to the Pentagon being housed in Arlington.
It’s too early to definitively claim furloughs will ease traffic congestion, but AAA believes fewer people on the road could lead to less gridlock and fewer accidents. In fact, the organization suggests commutes could resemble those of July and August, when the region experiences its lowest traffic volume and rate of accidents.
“For all other workers, the morning and evening commutes to the daily grind could look like it does on any of the ten federal holidays in the Washington metro area or on Fridays, when federal workers use their flex-time schedules or compressed work weeks (AWS) to take time off,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs.
AAA predicts Metrorail and Metrobus ridership may be affected as well. According to WMATA, nearly half of peak period commuters are federal employees and 35 Metrorail stations serve federal facilities, including the Pentagon in Arlington.
Rep. Jim Moran (D) took to Twitter earlier today to express his displeasure with the furloughs. He also sent the following statement to ARLnow.com:
“Due to sequestration, today marked the first of 11 furlough days for 650,000 DOD civilian employees. This 20 percent pay cut is the unfortunate and shameful result of Congress’ failure to work together to find an appropriate way to reduce the federal debt and deficit. I voted against the Budget Control Act that set up sequestration not only because it focused solely on cutting discretionary spending at the expense of increased revenues, but I feared that the Supercommittee could not find compromise. Congress must make tough choices, but we cannot balance the budget on the backs of our federal workers.”
Street Lighting Complaints Continue — At its meeting on Saturday, the County Board addressed the complaints it continues to receive over the new LED streetlights being installed throughout the county. The Board has heard a number of types of complaints, including the lights casting a harsh glow and being too bright. County Manager Barbara Donnellan acknowledged the complaints but didn’t have any immediate solutions. She said the new lights save a lot of money. [Sun Gazette]
Red Truck Bakery Profile — Earlier this month, web magazine Slate — a division of the Washington Post Company — profiled Arlington resident Brian Noyes, the founder of Red Truck Bakery. Noyes restored a Cherrydale farmhouse and began his bakery business there while still working for Smithsonian magazine. He began in 2009 by selling goods out of the back of a 1954 Ford pickup truck and eventually found a brick and mortar location to work in Warrenton. Noyes, who has baked treats for the likes of President Obama, plans to open a new location in The Plains soon. [Slate]
NORAD Exercise Tonight — Arlington residents may hear unusual noises tonight as the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) conducts training exercises. The training flights are designed to hone NORAD operations and to test its systems and personnel. The flights are scheduled to begin at 11:30 p.m. and run through 5:30 a.m. tomorrow (Wednesday). [U.S. Department of Defense]
Flickr pool photo by J Sonder
Pierce Queen Apartments Too Costly for Tax Credits? — The Virginia Housing Development Authority has flagged the Pierce Queen Apartments project in Ft. Myer Heights as being too expensive for Low Income Housing Tax Credits. The units must remain at $350,000 each to receive credit, but the Pierce Queen units come in at $402,000. The project developers asked for a little more than $2 million in tax credits. VHDA is still examining the request and will make its final decision on June 5. [Arlington Mercury]
DOD Renews Lease in Crystal City — The Department of Defense decided to renew its lease at 2530 Crystal Drive in Crystal City. The agency was expected to stay in the more than 550,000 square foot space due to money being tight within the federal government. [GlobeSt]
High School Tournament Roundup — In high school sports, the Washington-Lee boys tennis team defeated the Robinson Rams in a quarterfinal match, but lost to Langley in the region semifinals. Yorktown boys and girls lacrosse teams lost in their second rounds of tournaments. Yorktown sophomore Luke Maxwell finished his season undefeated and won the National District singles tennis tournament without dropping a set. [Northern Virginia Sports]
Flickr pool photo by ddimick
The building’s current tenant, the Department of Defense, will be moving out in December as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC). In anticipation, the building’s owner is embarking on a major renovation project to “re-position” the 1960s-era building for occupancy by a new tenant.
“The building… will be fully renovated, with a new lobby, landscaping, façade improvements, fitness center, updated common areas, updated HVAC and fire and life safety systems, and a roof deck with extensive views,” according to a press release. “We see a unique opportunity to deliver a fully refreshed, high quality work environment at a price point substantially lower than the new buildings being delivered in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.”
To fund the $5 million renovation project and the leasing efforts, owner RESI Management has raised $21.2 million from Chevy Chase-based Federal Capital Partners, along with a $33.5 million loan from Wells Fargo. The renovations are expected to be complete by mid-2013.
The 184,216 square foot building first opened in 1966. Located two blocks from the Ballston Metro station, the building has been serving as the headquarters for Department of Defense Education Activity, which manages schools for military children.
Leaders in the cybersecurity industry gathered at the Virginia Tech Research Center in Ballston this morning to attend a forum hosted by Rep. Jim Moran (D).
Discussion revolved around cyber threats America faces and how best to address the problems as funding dwindles. Speakers noted it’s important to look ahead and focus on what threats may arise, as opposed to those already known.
“We get used to what the current threat level is, and forget how rapidly that can change, ” said Rear Admiral Samuel Cox, Director of Intelligence for U.S. Cyber Command.
Cox said although it doesn’t appear that groups like Al Qaeda have an immediate ability to wage a large scale cyber attack, that’s quickly changing. He stressed America’s need to be prepared to go on the offensive, instead of simply defending itself against cyber attacks.
“Our job is to plan to do things we hope we never, ever have to do,” Cox said.
During her keynote remarks, Teri Takai, the Department of Defense Chief Information Officer, spoke of the recently announced intention to expand a program to help bridge the information gap between government entities and the private sector. Currently, the DoD has a partnership with 37 companies, in which classified information about potential cyber attacks is shared among all the participants. The goal is to expand that number to 200 companies this year. Takai believes the approval from the White House may come in as little as 60 days.
“This is important because this really looks beyond just the DoD world,” Takai said.
Takai said there’s an active effort to look at how to best assess risk in the government’s supply chain. That includes not only ensuring the security of computer hardware and software in use, but also knowing everyone who has access to the network and what they have access to.
Moran said a significant sticking point in information sharing is that private businesses often keep quiet when their systems are hacked. He said at some point, private firms will realize they can’t protect themselves on their own, and will have to be part of the team. He believes the situation requires more collaboration than what exists right now.
“Private firms don’t want to reveal when they’ve been hit and how much they’ve lost,” Moran said. “The government is going to have to play a bigger role.”
Moran reiterated the need for priorities to shift toward cyber from the traditional “boots on the ground” approach to security. He’s confident that as plans for increasing information sharing about cyber security expand, the money to implement such plans will follow.
Looming Defense Cuts Worry Some in Crystal City — Some Crystal City business owners are worried about the ripple effects that could be caused by billions in looming Defense Department cuts. Others, however, are more optimistic about the prospect of military-related offices moving out and a more diverse employment base moving in. [Public Radio International]
Zimmerman Endorses Bondi — Democratic County Board candidate Melissa Bondi has scored another relatively high-profile endorsement. County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman has joined fellow Board member Walter Tejada in endorsing Bondi’s campaign. [Bondi for County Board]
Swearing-In Ceremonies Set — The dates are set for the swearing in of the winners of November’s county elections. Re-elected County Board members Walter Tejada and Mary Hynes will be sworn in on the evening of Tuesday, Dec. 13. New Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos, meanwhile, will be sworn in on the evening of Thursday, Dec. 15. That ceremony will also feature the swearing in of several re-elected county officials: Sheriff Beth Arthur, Commissioner of Revenue Ingrid Morroy, and Treasurer Frank O’Leary.
A man died this morning after falling from a secure government office building in Crystal City. Initial reports suggest the man may have purposely jumped from a second floor balcony into an outside stairwell adjacent to Crystal Drive.
The building, which houses a number of Department of Defense offices, is located at the corner of Crystal Drive and 18th Street. Arlington County Police, Pentagon Police and other federal law enforcement officers were at the scene of the incident, which occurred shortly after 11:00 this morning.
Shortly before the incident, a Twitter user reported seeing a man in a suit jump onto the tracks at the Crystal City Metro station as a train was approaching. The man then jumped back onto the platform and ran out of the station, the user said. It’s currently not known if the two incidents are connected.
If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide, help is a phone call away. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
The Washington Business Journal reports that DIA plans to start moving employees to the new offices in 2012, and plans to complete the move by May 2013. DIA offices at the Pentagon will also be moved to Reston, WBJ reports.
DIA has been looking for a new lease for awhile now, but Arlington properties were reportedly not in the running.
The agency’s current offices are located at 3100 Clarendon Boulevard, above several Clarendon nightspots including SoBe Bar & Bistro, Mister Days Sports Rock Cafe and the future Mad Rose Tavern.
The squad of private security guards who keep a close watch on the building’s entrances will likely move with the DIA offices, which should make the area a bit more hospitable.
Flickr photo by wfyurasko
As of today, there’s exactly one year left to go until the deadline for 17,000 Department of Defense workers to move out of Arlington as a result of the Base Realignment and Closing Act. The vast majority of those workers, it turns out, are still here.
Only about 1,000 workers have left as a result of BRAC, estimates Andrea Morris, BRAC coordinator for Arlington County.
Morris says there will be a slow trickle of BRAC moves for the next six months. But starting in May 2011, the floodgates will open. After the initial wave in May, BRACed jobs will continue to leave Arlington at a staggered pace up to the Sept. 15, 2011 deadline.
Some of those moves may be delayed by a bill currently being considered by the U.S. Senate. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), would delay the move of 6,400 workers to Alexandria’s Mark Center project until transportation bottlenecks can be solved. The bill has been approved by the House but has yet to come out of committee in the Senate.
The area with the most to lose from BRAC is Crystal City. With 3 million of the 4.2 million square feet of BRAC-affected office space in Arlington (much of the remainder is in Rosslyn), Crystal City will be noticeably emptier after BRACed employees leave.
“I think it is going to be noticeable, absolutely,” said Morris. But she noted that numerous non-DoD government agencies and private companies have been inquiring abut the available space. And the mix of government and private employers moving in after BRAC will help diversify Crystal City’s economy.
Morris said a BRAC job fair in Crystal City is in the works for later this year.
Northern Virginia stands to lose $6 to $7 billion dollars through 2012 as a result of cuts in defense contracting announced yesterday, says George Mason University’s Stephen Fuller. But Arlington’s economic authority expects the impact on the county to be minimal.
“I do believe that we are positioned well for the future,” says Arlington Economic Development Director Terry Holzheimer.
Holzheimer admits that predicting the exact impact on Arlington economically is “complex,” and will not be known with a reasonable level of certainty until the Department of Defense comes out with its next budget. But, he says, the diversifying Arlington economy should be able to weather cuts in contracting as it has weathered BRAC.
“Our economy is in somewhat of a transition anyhow,” with more corporate, non-government and non-profit tenants moving in, Holzeimer said. He added that many of the contracting offices in Arlington perform lobbying and administrative functions — which are not likely to be heavily cut.
In terms of federal facilities, Holzheimer says that Arlington is especially well-positioned.
“It has zero impact on the Pentagon itself, and I don’t think it will have any impact on Ft. Myer,” Holzheimer said. He said that the other two big DoD facilities in Arlington — the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Office of Naval Research — probably will not feel much of an impact. In fact, he says, DARPA’s mission may be expanded.
Holzheimer said that Arlington also stands to benefit from a federal directive to put federal facilities in areas that are economically and environmentally-sustainable. Arlington’s transit infrastructure, pedestrian-friendliness and energy management make it an idea location.
“We are probably way ahead of everybody,” in terms of taking advantage of the directive, he said. “We’re fairly confident of our position.”