Everyone Wants the New FBI Headquarters, But Who Gets It Remains Undecided
On Wednesday, a Virginia delegation explained why their state should be chosen for the new location, and got opposition from lawmakers advocating for Maryland to win the long-running fight.
Virginia lawmakers and the governor made their case – again – on Wednesday for why their state should be chosen for the FBI’s new headquarters. The decision for where the law enforcement agency should be housed has been a years-long process, spanning multiple administrations.
There are currently three options on the table, two locations in Maryland and one in Virginia. In accordance with the fiscal 2023 omnibus package, the General Services Administration will hold separate meetings with representatives from each state to discuss their perspectives on why they think they best meet the selection criteria released in September and updated in November. The agency is looking to have those meetings in the coming weeks, according to a Feb. 10 letter to lawmakers from a GSA official, WUSA9 reported.
At a press conference on Wednesday morning at Northern Virginia Community College in Springfield, Va., next to the prospective site, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin said there is a “rock solid case” for Springfield to get the headquarters because of the proximity to the training center in Quantico, various transportation modes and cost savings due to the fact that GSA already owns the site. He noted that in recent years Amazon, Boeing and Raytheon Technologies have all moved their headquarters to the state.
“This process has been going on almost 15 years,” said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. “Many of us were very concerned when the prior administration came in and basically put the whole process on hold. Together with our friends in Maryland we said we need to finish this process” and that there shouldn’t be “further political interference,” as some Democrats have alleged.
Warner credited the Biden administration for adding criteria about diversity to the selection process. Specifically, the criteria looks to further 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.
Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., said “our friends across the river have done everything they can to try to cook the books to get the FBI to relocate to Maryland,” such as trying to change the selection criteria. The headquarters decision debate was a hold up during government funding negotiations in December.
He reminded that the current headquarters in downtown Washington, D.C., is outdated and unable to meet today’s needs and capabilities. In addition to Quantico, the National Counterterrorism Center, FBI archives, Pentagon and CIA headquarters are all in Virginia, said Connolly. “This isn’t about what’s best for Maryland and this isn’t about what’s best for Virginia. It’s about what’s best for the FBI.”
Others present at the rally include: Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., Reps. Don Beyer, D-Va., and Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., in addition to local officials and leaders. The speakers amplified the diversity in the area as well as the economic boom that it would get from the headquarters coming there.
Warner noted that there was no Plan B for the site in Virginia and that he trusted GSA and the FBI to make the right decision and pick Springfield because of everything it offers.
The rally comes two days after Virginia’s bipartisan congressional delegation and Youngkin outlined in a letter to the GSA administrator and FBI director how the Springfield site best meets GSA’s selection criteria.
“GSA and FBI are committed to deliberate and thoughtful engagement with our partners in Congress on this project, including through consultations outlined in the FY23 omnibus,” a GSA spokesperson told Government Executive in response to the letter. “We look forward to receiving feedback from stakeholders and are also committed to a fair and transparent process that results in selecting a site that best meets the needs of the FBI and the American people over the long-term.”
The FBI did not have any specific comment on the letter, but the bureau said in a statement, “From the beginning, it has been our priority to identify a new headquarters solution that best meets the needs of the FBI and our workforce and is a good deal for the taxpayers.”
One of the five site selection criteria, which the FBI developed with GSA “focuses on how the sites support coordination with other FBI facilities in the National Capital Region, to include Quantico,” which is “home to approximately 4,800 personnel, is a core part of FBI day-to-day operations, today and in the future,” said the statement. “Close proximity to Quantico and other operational assets will enable collaboration amongst the FBI workforce and limit long commute times as FBI employees travel back and forth between locations.”
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said in a statement to Government Executive, that GSA and the FBI have determined that all three sites will meet the FBI’s mission, “but only the two sites in Prince George’s County live up to the president’s mission to install a whole-of-government approach to equity – and the two Maryland sites come in at a lower cost to the taxpayer.” They are located in Greenbelt and Landover.
Also, “it’s deeply concerning that the FBI has tried to tilt the scales towards Virginia in the weighting of the decision-making criteria, undermining the president’s executive order, years of congressional intent, and the needs laid out by prior FBI leadership,” he continued. “We will continue to fight for a new, consolidated FBI Headquarters in Prince George’s County which is best suited to meet the mission of the FBI and the goals of the Biden-Harris administration.”
Various other Maryland lawmakers, such as Reps. Glenn Ivey, D-Md., whose district includes both proposed Maryland sites, and Steny Hoyer, D-Md., tweeted on Wednesday using #FBIinMaryland to make their case.
In a related matter, Connolly introduced legislation last week that would rename the headquarters because J. Edgar Hoover, the first FBI director, whom the building is named after “was a racist, a bigot, and a homophobe,” the lawmaker stated. Connolly previously introduced this legislation during the 116th and 117th Congresses.