DHS headquarters a sink hole for taxpayer money

I'll let the Washington Post supply the lead:

The construction of a massive new headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security, billed as critical for national security and the revitalization of Southeast Washington, is running more than $1.5 billion over budget, is 11 years behind schedule and may never be completed, according to planning documents and federal officials.

You have to actually try to waste that much money. It's not an accident. It's not even incompetence. This is a perfect example of a bureaucratic culture - and congressional irresponsibility - that has taken billions of dollars and simply disappeared it. Nothing to show for it. And no end in sight:

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the George W. Bush administration called for a new, centralized headquarters to strengthen the department’s ability to coordinate the fight against terrorism and respond to natural disasters. More than 50 historic buildings would be renovated and new ones erected on the grounds of St. Elizabeths, a onetime insane asylum with a panoramic view of the District.

The entire complex was to be finished as early as this year, at a cost of less than $3 billion, according to the initial plan.

Instead, with the exception of a Coast Guard building that opened last year, the grounds remain entirely undeveloped, with the occasional deer grazing amid the vacant Gothic Revival-style structures. The budget has ballooned to $4.5 billion, with completion pushed back to 2026. Even now, as Obama administration officials make the best of their limited funding, they have started design work for a second building that congressional aides and others familiar with the project say may never open.

A decade after work began, the St. Elizabeths venture — the capital region’s largest planned construction project since the Pentagon — has become a monumental example of Washington inefficiency and drift. Bedeviled by partisan brawling, it has been starved of funds by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress and received only lackluster support from the Obama administration, according to budget documents and interviews with current and former federal officials.

The crippling shortfall in funding has created a vicious cycle, causing delays that in turn inflated the projected price tag as construction costs escalated over time and DHS agencies — still scattered in more than 50 locations across the Washington area — have been signing expensive temporary leases.

“The cost of the project has increased due to the extended timeline,” said Mafara Hobson, a spokeswoman for the General Services Administration, which is developing the project for the DHS. “GSA and DHS haven’t received the appropriations that this project needs to keep it on its original schedule. Construction is a commodity market, and costs increase with delays.’’

A DHS spokeswoman did not respond to repeated e-mails requesting comment.

The question isn't so much why it is costing so much as why build such a monstrosity in the first place. DHS has taken on a life of its own, assuming more and more power, hiring more bureacrats, and expanding its reach into the lives of ordinary Americans. Since 9/11, we have spent half a trillion dollars on homeland security and it's debatable how much safer we are today than we were then.

This monumental waste could have happened at any other federal agency. It's not specific to DHS, although the incomprehensible plan to turn an old insane asylum into a "campus" of more than 50 buildings might be seen as a metaphor for the agency itself.

Until Congress and the government take as much care of the putlic purse as they do their own money, these kind of boondoggles will continue.