After Years of Delays We May Soon Learn the Location for the New FBI Headquarters
The law enforcement agency will either be in Greenbelt, Md., Landover, Md., or Springfield, Va.
In the coming months, the federal government’s landlord will decide where the new FBI headquarters will be built, after years of delays and alleged improper influence by Trump officials.
On Friday, the General Services Administration released a plan laying out the process for selecting the new location. The government spending package for fiscal 2022 directed the General Services Administration to pick a site “as expeditiously as possible” among three sites selected during the Obama administration: Greenbelt, Md., Landover, Md., or Springfield, Va. Lawmakers in Maryland and Virginia have been vying for the location to be in their state.
GSA “will convene a site selection panel composed of full time government employees to independently and collectively assess which site is the most advantageous to the United States using the following five site selection criteria: FBI mission-related requirements; transportation access; site development flexibility; promoting sustainable siting and advancing equity; and cost,” stated the 13-page plan. “The site selection panel is tasked with evaluating and/or otherwise applying a color rating to each criterion for each site and providing a recommendation to the site selection authority.”
The considerations for the “promoting sustainable siting and advancing equity” criterion is whether the selection of site will advance President Biden’s executive orders on advancing racial equity supporting underserved communities through the power of the federal government and promoting clean energy industries and jobs through the federal government.
The current headquarters facilities are “aging and inefficient,” the Government Accountability Office said back in November 2011 as well as noting that “according to FBI and GSA assessments, the FBI’s headquarters facilities—the Hoover Building and the headquarters annexes—do not fully support the FBI’s long-term security, space, and building condition requirements.”
The site selection panel will be composed of two GSA employees (one of which will serve as chair) and one FBI employee. The site selection authority is a federal employee who is a member of the Senior Executive Service. There will also be non-voting technical advisors, legal advisers and a contracting officer to provide guidance and assistance to the panel members and other administrative and operational duties. All names are redacted in the documents GSA shared.
The plan outlines the parameters for what information the panel may share with senior agency leadership from the FBI and/or GSA. There are also limitations on sharing information beyond those involved and what is not public.
“After each voting member finishes their respective individual evaluations, the panel will convene to attempt to arrive at an overall consensus evaluation for each criterion,” the plan reads. “At the conclusion of its deliberations, the chairperson will provide a final, written product to the contracting officer that contains: the worksheets developed by the panel members; the overall consensus rating developed by the panel for each criterion; and narratives for any criteria upon which the panel could not arrive at a consensus.”
In addition to the plan, GSA released a four-page summary of the selection criteria and evaluation methodology.
“GSA anticipates making a selection in the coming months,” said a press release. “In parallel, efforts are underway to identify critical space for an FBI downtown D.C. facility, complementing the new suburban campus, in accordance with the FY 2023 president’s budget. This site will allow for continued FBI accessibility to the Department of Justice and other key partners.”
Biden’s budget request for fiscal 2023, released in March, says that in addition to the new headquarters, “FBI and GSA will work to identify a federally-owned location in the District of Columbia to support a presence of approximately 750–1,000 FBI personnel that would support day-to-day FBI engagement with DOJ headquarters, the White House, and Congress.” A final spending package for fiscal 2023 has not been finalized yet and a short-term measure is likely with the Sept. 30 deadline.
The process to establish a new, consolidated headquarters has been a years-long saga.
In July 2017, the Trump administration scrapped a decade-plus plan to relocate the headquarters and Democratic lawmakers accused them of wanting to keep the bureau in its current location near the Trump International Hotel (which has since closed) to prevent 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 still ongoing, according to the IG’s website.