The Role of SCIFs in BRAC Space Construction: Issues for Building Owners

Date: April 19, 2010

One of the major challenges facing building owners and developers in response to BRAC is addressing the defense and intelligence agencies' and contractors' need for a room, group of rooms, or an entire building for the purpose of discussing, handling, processing and/or storing Sensitive Compartmented Information or SCI. SCI is classified information which is required to be handled within formal access control systems established by the Director of Central Intelligence. The facility created for SCI is called a SCIF, short for SCI Facility. The physical elements of a SCIF are designed in line with the directive of the Director of Central Intelligence to "prevent and detect visual, acoustical, technical, and physical access by unauthorized persons" to ensure that activities and conversation taking place therein are private. The construction requirements vary based on the purpose of the particular SCIF but generally involve attachment of metal shields in the perimeter walls, floors and ceilings of the space, which are constructed with reinforced concrete or steel-linings, so there is no unauthorized access; sound insulation to preclude inadvertent disclosure of conversations; single primary access door installed with automatic door closures; alarm features with short response force capabilities; protected grills or bars over all vents and ducts; and windows covered with opaque drapes so there is no visual evidence of activities taking place in the SCIF and no forced entry from outside thereof. The SCIF must be accredited by the Director of Central Intelligence through a formal certification process. Governmental agencies can share a SCIF using a co-utilization agreement. The construction standards for SCIFs vary depending on whether or not the SCIF is located in the United States and whether SCI is actually being stored in it. Efforts are being made to prepare for the significant demand for SCIFs in buildings being constructed to support the infusion of defense and intelligence agencies and their contractors relocating to the area as a result of BRAC. Community colleges, including Frederick, Harford and Anne Arundel, have begun offering training to persons in the various building trades in SCIF construction. There are numerous building contractors specializing in SCIF construction with some also offering assistance in obtaining accreditation.

Constructing SCIF space in buildings impacts many facets of the lease between the building owner and the government agency/contractor tenant, many of which place additional burdens on the landlord. In addition to the obvious increased upfront construction costs, the tenant of SCIF space will be required to impose limitations on landlord's standard right of access to inspect and clean the premises, likely requiring that access be available only upon advance notice, at prescribed times, and only when accompanied by tenant representatives. Of even greater concern is how and who handles removal of the SCIF improvements and restoration of the space at the expiration of the term. Building owners should be aware that the presence of SCIF improvements may have an adverse impact on the ability of the landlord to lease in the future to tenants not needing SCIF space. It is, therefore, critical to negotiate for the tenant to remove the SCIF improvements or, in the alternative, include the costs of removal in the rent stream.

These are just a sample of the lease provisions impacted by SCIF space leases. As the demand for SCIF space increases in response to BRAC, building owners and government agency/contractor tenants will likely discover the need to negotiate other lease provisions to address the unique features involved in leases constructed with SCIF space.