Isolationist Tactics

As part of its plan to close and consolidate military facilities, the Defense Department plans to move offices in cities and inner suburbs either to military bases or remote areas.

The plan’s impact would hit hardest in the Washington, D.C., area, particularly in Northern Virginia where 23,000 – and perhaps as many as 50,000 Defense Department employees – would go to bases like Fort Belvoir and Fort Meade or secure facilities in the outermost suburbs.

This can hardly be a cost-saving move. It would require replacing 4.6 million to 8 million square feet of office space the Pentagon rents now with new construction.

And local planners are not happy about the prospect of taking these workers from locations with excellent bus and subway connections and putting them on the capital area’s already overly congested roads.

A big consideration in the move is security. Much of the rented space is in conventional office buildings that don’t meet tough new antiterrorism standards _ blast reinforcement, distance from the street, etc. And that is a legitimate concern.

But the new lifestyle for Defense Department employees strikes us as awfully hermetic. Once in these remote facilities, they wouldn’t leave on their lunch hours to shop, eat, sit in the park or have convenient places to hang out after work like the regular workers who were their old neighbors back in the city.

The Defense Department should be wary of isolating its employees, both uniformed and civilian, from the daily life of the people they are charged with defending.

(Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)