Flood closes IRS headquarters until 2007

The heavy rains of a few weeks ago have forced the IRS to shut down its headquarters until Jan. 1 because of flood damage.

The tax agency's IT systems were not affected by the severe weather, since they are located chiefly at IRS' suburban headquarters in New Carrollton, Md., said John Dalrymple, IRS deputy commissioner for operations support.

'The average taxpayer should not feel this at all since we are a decentralized organization. The processing of returns has been unaffected,' he added.

Monetary damages could reach into the 'tens of millions of dollars' said Bart Bush, assistant regional administrator for the General Services Administration's Public Buildings Service for the National Capital Region.

Coincidentally, just the week before the heavy rains swamped the area, agencies participated in the Forward Challenge '06 biennial continuity-of-operations exercise.

'All of those activities helped with the preparation here. It also helped with what we went through with flooding in New Orleans last year, where we have a large facility,' Dalrymple said.

Bush said the COOP exercise helped them immediately get on with action items.
The rains resulted in 20 feet of flooding in the IRS' subbasement and 5 feet of water in its basement. The subbasement holds all of the building's electrical and maintenance equipment.

The IRS building has moats that flooded, breaking windows in the lower level and sending water into the basements, while water was also rising from below as the ground could not absorb any more, Dalrymple said.

The timeline for restoration of the headquarters building at 1111 Constitution Ave. in Northwest Washington is dependent upon whether items such as air compressors and circuit breakers, which are custom-manufactured, have to be replaced or can be repaired on site, Bush said.

The IRS' 2,400 HQ employees have been working from home, at federal telework centers and other buildings the IRS occupies in the Washington area. About 35 employees are working in space provided by the Government Printing Office.

The IRS also has leased office space for the interim from GSA until headquarters reopens.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.


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