Lawmakers Call on Biden to Move Forward on New FBI Headquarters
The years-long plan was upended by the Trump administration.
Lawmakers are hoping the Biden administration restarts the decade-long plan to construct a new FBI headquarters as the current one is old and deteriorating.
Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Mark Warner, D-Va., and Tim Kaine, D-Va., sent a letter to President Biden on Friday asking him to provide “clear direction” to the General Services Administration and Justice Department about the construction of the new headquarters. This has been a complex process now spanning three presidential administrations.
“For more than a decade, the condition and security of the FBI’s existing headquarters in the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington, D.C., have been serious concerns of Congress, which has provided authorizations and appropriations for a new consolidated headquarters at one of three previously identified sites,” the lawmakers wrote. Progress was made between 2011 and 2016, but “the Trump administration’s move in 2017 to cancel the project ignored the intent of Congress and scrapped years’ worth of planning, organizing and resources devoted to the project.”
The lawmakers asked the president to take up this initiative again.
“Congress has appropriated close to a billion dollars for this endeavor, between direct appropriations and transfer authorities, available until expended,” they wrote. Also, the “enacted FY21 omnibus appropriations bill required GSA to submit a plan to the committees of jurisdiction consistent with a typical prospectus request by March 27, 2021. As of this date, a plan has not been submitted and although GSA continues to coordinate with FBI, it is unclear when the required report will be submitted to Congress.”
GSA––which manages federal property––must submit a “prospectus,” or formal document, to Congress as part of the authorization process for projects that exceed a certain amount. They contain the location, approximate cost and other detailed information.
A GSA spokeswoman told Government Executive, “The U.S. General Services Administration is committed to continuing its work with our colleagues at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in concert with our partners in Congress, to address the FBI's needs and space requirements.”
Last week, Van Hollen met with Robin Carnahan, Biden’s nominee to be GSA administrator.
“Maryland is proud to serve as the home of many of our federal employees and to house many of our federal agencies,” which GSA was “crucial to the success of,” he said in a statement afterwards. “The construction of a new, consolidated FBI headquarters in Maryland remains a top priority for our state and for the security of our nation. During the call, I underscored to Ms. Carnahan the importance of this project and reiterated my commitment to moving ahead. I look forward to continuing to work with her throughout her nomination process and beyond to push this forward.”
The FBI declined to comment and the White House did not respond for comment.
After the Trump administration scrapped the plan to relocate the headquarters in July 2017, Democratic lawmakers accused his administration of wanting to keep the bureau in its current location near the Trump International Hotel to preclude commercial developers from constructing a new property on the site that would compete with the hotel.
An August 2018 investigation by the GSA inspector general on the administration’s proposal to update the building raised questions about the White House’s involvement in the decision. The Justice Department IG announced in July 2019 that it was launching its own investigation about the planning for a new facility. The review is ongoing.
Independent of the construction plans, the FBI plans to relocate about 1,500 employees and contractors to Alabama by the end of this year with possibly more to follow. Government Executive asked the FBI for a status update on this process and the agency did not immediately respond for comment.