Where Will The FBI HQ Go? The Omnibus Tells GSA To Consult With Lawmakers
The FBI headquarters was a sticking point in the final hours of government funding negotiations.
This story was updated to include a response from the FBI.
The process for the FBI to get a new headquarters has been a years-long undertaking spanning multiple administrations, that spawned allegations of improper interference. This week it reportedly became a sticking point in government funding negotiations that ultimately ended in a compromise.
On Monday night, as lawmakers raced to finish the fiscal omnibus -- the continuing resolution expires on Friday -- reports surfaced that debate over where to locate the FBI headquarters was the hold up. There are currently three options on the table, two in Maryland and one in Virginia. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., wanted to “de-weight” the General Service Administration's criteria, released in September and updated in November, in order to favor Virginia less, Roll Call reported. But that didn’t happen and instead Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., helped facilitate a deal, according to Congressional Quarterly.
“In considering the September 2022 and amended November 2022 GSA site selection plan for the FBI suburban headquarters, not later than 90 days after enactment of this act, prior to any action by the GSA site selection panel for the new federal FBI headquarters, the GSA administrator shall conduct separate and detailed consultations with individuals representing the sites from the State of Maryland and Commonwealth of Virginia,” reads the text of the omnibus, released early on Tuesday morning.
This is to “further consider perspectives related to mission requirements, sustainable siting and equity, and evaluate the viability of the GSA’s site selection criteria for the FBI headquarters to ensure it is consistent with congressional intent as expressed in” a 2011 congressional resolution and further described in a GSA fiscal 2017 prospectus. “Following those consultations, the administrator shall proceed with the site selection process.” The omnibus allocates $375 million for the new headquarters.
One of the joint explanatory statements for the omnibus notes that the “delay in the new FBI headquarters project only increases the need to secure viable space for supporting a variety of mission, workforce, and land requirements.”
According to Politico, before the deal was brokered by Schumer, certain House Democrats “circulated a letter from Black leaders, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, urging the Biden administration to favor majority-Black Prince George’s County, [Md.], in order to ‘bring economic growth and development to this community that has been historically underserved,’” and some members of the Congressional Black Caucus were getting ready to enter the dispute.
“As the GSA weighs the final site selection, their top priority must be to ensure a fair and transparent process in line with both congressional intent and with the administration’s commitment to addressing long-standing inequity in the siting of federal projects and agencies,” said Hoyer and Sens. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, and Ben Cardin, D-Md., in a statement on Tuesday afternoon. “This language will help us as we pursue that goal.”
The Maryland lawmakers added that, “Taking into account the needs of the bureau, the cost of the sites, and the federal government’s responsibility to consider the equity impacts of agency location decisions, it’s clear that Prince George’s County is the best option for the new headquarters. We will continue pushing for a process that fairly considers and recognizes these immense benefits.”
GSA did not respond for comment by the time of this article’s publication on the omnibus text.
“We continue to work with GSA to undertake a fair and transparent site selection process to include collaborating on the appropriate site selection plan and criteria,” said the FBI in a statement. “We are confident in GSA's expertise to select a location that will best serve the needs of the FBI long into the future.”
This situation follows a years-long saga.
The Government Accountability Office said back in November 2011 the current headquarters facilities are “aging and inefficient,” 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.”
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 now-closed Trump International Hotel to prevent commercial developers from constructing a new property on the site that would compete with the hotel. That was one of the many controversies surrounding Trump and 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 watchdog’s website.
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