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Maryland confirmed as pick for new FBI headquarters

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Maryland confirmed as pick for new FBI headquarters

Nov 08, 2023 | 6:19 pm ET
By Jennifer Shutt William J. Ford Danielle E. Gaines
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Maryland confirmed as pick for new FBI headquarters
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The J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building in Washington, D.C. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s new headquarters will be in Maryland, a significant victory for the state following years of jockeying against Virginia and debate throughout several presidencies about where best to locate the law enforcement agency.

The General Services Administration picked the Greenbelt site Wednesday over the Springfield, Virginia, and Landover options, according to a source with knowledge confirming the GSA’s decision to Maryland Matters and States Newsroom.

GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan said in a written statement to States Newsroom and Maryland Matters that “GSA looks forward to building the FBI a state-of-the-art headquarters campus in Greenbelt to advance their critical mission for years to come.”

“Thank you to everyone at GSA, DOJ, FBI, Congress, and others who helped reach this important milestone after a comprehensive, multi-year effort,” Carnahan said.

A spokesperson for the federal agency said in a written statement that “GSA determined Greenbelt to be the best site because it was the lowest cost to taxpayers, provided the greatest transportation access to FBI employees and visitors, and gave the government the most certainty on project delivery schedule.

“It also provided the highest potential to advance sustainability and equity,” the spokesperson said.

The Washington Post originally reported the decision.

The Maryland congressional delegation along with several other officials, including Gov. Wes Moore (D) and Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D) said in a written statement that the decision is a “historic moment” for the FBI and the country.

“Our decades-long, bipartisan effort to bring the Maryland sites’ many merits to the GSA’s attention was never about politics,” they wrote. “It was always about making the case for what is best for the FBI, our region, and the country.”

Virginia Democratic U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine said in a written statement they’re “deeply disappointed that despite the clear case that Virginia is the best home for the FBI, the Administration went a different direction.”

“We spent years appropriately criticizing the last Administration for politicizing the new FBI headquarters — only for a new Administration to come in and allow politics to taint the selection process,” Warner and Kaine said.

Virginia Democratic U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly said in a written statement that he was not given a heads-up about the decision.

“In making this decision, GSA has shamelessly caved to political pressure, putting blatant politics over the merits and amending the weighting of long-established criteria to make this decision all but predictable,” Connolly wrote.

“While Virginia’s loss is also the FBI’s, GSA’s reputation for objective procurement free from politics has taken a mortal hit today from which it will struggle to recover for years into the future,” Connolly added.

Congress will still need to provide funding for construction, which is expected to take several years to complete.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation will be moving from its current headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. The J. Edgar Hoover building, which opened in 1974, puts the FBI between the White House and the U.S. Capitol on a street that presidents often walk down during their Inauguration parades.

Nearly two decades ago, in 2005, the FBI’s Asset Management Plan indicated the agency would soon need a new headquarters, given the building’s structural and space issues.

Plans progressed slowly during the latter years of the Obama administration, but the Trump administration tried to keep the FBI in its existing location with reports alleging former President Donald Trump didn’t want the site potentially sold to a rival hotel.

Plans to move the FBI headquarters to the suburbs outside of Washington, D.C. began moving forward again during the Biden administration.

The Maryland and Virginia delegations pitched their states to the GSA in March, a provision that was required in a government spending package.

The GSA considered five criteria in picking the new location, including FBI mission requirements, access to transportation, site development flexibility, sustainability and equity, and cost.

FBI mission requirements included the distance to the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia as well as the U.S. Department of Justice in downtown Washington, D.C.

The GSA weighted each of the categories, though it changed that criteria in July.

Proximity to the FBI mission-related locations moved from 35% to 25%, transportation access moved from 25% to 20%, site development flexibility stayed at 15%, sustainability and equity increased from 15% to 20% and cost increased from 10% to 20%.

Maryland officials react

The “Team Maryland” statement from congressional, state and county leaders said the failing infrastructure at the Hoover Building was no longer serving the FBI’s operational needs, “which has undermined our national security.”

“The once fabled building has crumbled before our eyes, with nets surrounding the facility for years to protect pedestrians from falling debris. Today’s decision by the General Services Administration (GSA) will ensure we fulfill the FBI’s dire, longstanding need for a new consolidated headquarters that meets the modern-day demands on the Bureau’s work to protect Americans and our nation,” the statement continued. “…We are committed to doing everything we can to ensure the FBI has the best possible headquarters in the quickest timeframe so that we can facilitate a smooth transition to Prince George’s County. We look forward to building a strong, productive partnership with the Bureau and its staff.”

Alsobrooks held a Zoom press briefing Wednesday night and praised Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-5th) as “a leader” in the long effort.

The county executive also said equity played a major part in the GSA’s decision.

For the last 15 years, the county executive said the federal government invested $460 billion in Virginia compared to $120 billion in Prince George’s.

“There’s a huge difference between equity and diversity. Virginia was very confused,” she said. “[Virginia officials talked] about counting heads, how many Black or brown people live in a jurisdiction. When we talked about equity, we’re talking about the investments that were made, how many federal dollars were spent in one jurisdiction versus another.”

She continued: “We know that these investments do yield income and allow for job growth to happen,” Alsobrooks said. “What we were saying is that we wanted to be able to grow our county in our state, and to have this important job center come down to Prince George’s County.”

Del. Jazz Lewis (D-Prince George’s), who was part of Hoyer’s staff between 2014 and 2021, praised his former boss.

“A big congratulations to Congressman Steny Hoyer for quarterbacking this over three presidential administrations, multiple GSA leads and FBI leads at the top of their departments,” Lewis said. “This is the right message to send for equity in the region as far as the placement of facilities. I’m very happy it is landing in gorgeous Prince George’s.”

Greenbelt Mayor Emmett Jordan, who was top vote-getter in Tuesday night’s election, said the city represents the best location that includes being in walking distance of a Metro station.

“We have the capacity to accommodate the project, which would create jobs [and] provide a boost to our local economy and attract retail and commercial businesses to Prince George’s County,” he said. “We’re very excited to hear that the GSA and the FBI have finally made a decision.”