Plan to relocate FBI headquarters advances

Consensus is building on a long-discussed plan to move the FBI's headquarters out of the nearly four-decade-old J. Edgar Hoover building in Washington. On Thursday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted unanimously for a resolution to direct the General Services Administration to pursue signing a lease in the greater Washington area.

"The FBI urgently needs a new home," said Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., who has been working with the FBI on the issue and coordinating with the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. "The sheer overcrowding at the J. Edgar Hoover Building and the lack of physical and information security there and at 20 overflow offices scattered throughout the area at best complicates the FBI's important work and at worst severely compromises national security."

If the resolution becomes law, it would task a private sector firm with building a 2.1-million-square foot, secure facility on federally owned land that would be leased to the FBI. At the end of the lease term, the ownership of the building would be turned over to the government "at no additional cost," Cardin said. He estimated that the new arrangement would save nearly $44 million annually.

In November, a Government Accountability Office report documented how the current headquarters, which houses 17,300 employees, is "nearing its life-cycle age and exhibiting signs of deterioration." It also noted that the building does not meet post-Sept.11 security standards, particularly in some 40 annex offices where FBI tenants performing sensitive operations must work near non-bureau tenants, share common areas and depend on local law enforcement rather than on FBI police for security.

GSA, the report said, has decided to "limit major repair and recapitalization investments to those systems or components that affect life, safety and building functionality until it is determined whether the FBI will remain a long-term occupant of the building."

The issue has been pursued in Congress by Cardin and other Washington area-lawmakers, including Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and Reps. Frank Wolf, R-Va., and Steny Hoyer, D-Md.

The FBI has been studying a move at least as far back as 2005, and progress was delayed by the economic recession, a spokesman told The Washington Post.

Spokesman Paul Bresson told Government Executive, "the FBI supports the idea that a new consolidated FBI HQ facility is urgently needed, and we view this as one of our highest priorities in the foreseeable future. "

GSA declined comment on pending legislation.

The FBI and GSA are working with the Office of Management and Budget on the next steps, though the GAO report said, "fiscal year 2014 is likely the earliest that any budget request and prospectus might be put forth for congressional consideration." That would mean no facility would be complete before fiscal 2020, it said.

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