Congressional members from the D.C. area on Tuesday condemned the Trump administration’s cancellation of a decade-long plan to construct a new FBI headquarters, calling the decision “devastating” and “wasteful.”
News of the cancellation broke Monday night when The Washington Post reported that escalating costs and financial constraints led officials to kill the project. The proposed budget was originally slated at $1.4 billion, but officials could only scrape together about 60 percent of the necessary funds from Congress.
The General Services Administration, which oversees federal properties, had narrowed the potential sites for the new headquarters to three locations: Springfield, Va.; Greenbelt, Md.; and Landover, Md. Lawmakers representing those areas have for years pushed for the FBI’s relocation, citing the reduced cost and increased effectiveness that would result from consolidating the agency under one roof. Former Director James Comey also advocated for a new headquarters before being fired in May.
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In a joint statement on Tuesday morning, Maryland Democratic Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, and Reps. Steny Hoyer and Anthony G. Brown railed against the decision to abandon the project and called on GSA to seek alternative funding.
“It is unfathomable that the Trump administration would fail to move forward on a secure headquarters for the FBI workforce that serves on the front lines of our nation’s law enforcement and counterterrorism efforts,” they said. Scrapping the project entirely wastes hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars and potentially keeps an estimated 11,000 jobs out of Maryland, according to Cardin’s office.
Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., whose district would have housed the new headquarters if the Springfield, Va., site were chosen, also joined the chorus, stating the decision “reveals insurmountable Trump conflicts” with GSA and the FBI.
The FBI long ago outgrew its current headquarters in the 42-year-old J. Edgar Hoover building, and many of its employees operate out of about a dozen remote locations in the Washington region. The agency hoped to unify its headquarters workforce in a new building in the D.C. suburbs.
In phone calls and meetings on Tuesday, the GSA officially announced the cancellation to the final organizations that bid to undertake the project. Among the bidders were Steven Roth, founder of Vornado Realty Trust and former economic adviser to the Trump campaign, and Larry Silverstein, founder of Silverstein Properties, who has called the president a “friend of mine.”
The bidders invested time and money in designing and financing the project over the last few years, a cost they will now have no chance to recuperate.
According to a GSA spokesperson the project’s cancellation does not lessen the FBI’s need for a new base of operations, and the two agencies will continue working together to address the bureau’s space requirements.