FBI Scraps HQ Relocation Plans
Despite roughly a decade of work to nail down a suitable site for a new headquarters, the Trump Administration announced this week that it has scrapped plans to relocate the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) from its current headquarters in the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington, D.C. to a new facility in either Maryland or Virginia.
The three finalist sites – Springfield, VA; Greenbelt, Maryland; and Landover, MD – were announced in 2014, but the final selection has been repeatedly delayed by the General Services Administration (GSA), which is tasked with supporting the basic functions of federal agencies.
The GSA claimed that an $882 million funding gap was responsible for the decision. Republican Congressman Lou Barletta pointed the finger at the decision to structure the procurement as a building exchange, which he argued “precluded the project from being built in phases.” Nonetheless, the announcement drew bipartisan criticism, with some questioning whether the stated motives were authentic, noting the tense relationship between the Trump Administration and the FBI, as well as the GSA’s current, controversial role as leaseholder of the Trump Hotel in D.C.
“I think it’s a violent collision of a lot of things, a bureaucratic nightmare. You have a president with conflicts of interest and at war with the FBI, and neither the FBI nor GSA has agency heads,” said Fairfax Supervisor Jeff C. McKay (D-Lee), a leading advocate of the Springfield site.
The agency has occupied its current headquarters for 43 years and the need for relocation has been widely recognized. A 2011 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) affirmed the FBI’s contention’s that the building was outdated and insufficient.
The Washington Post notes that the current building “lacks required security setbacks from Pennsylvania Avenue. Netting hangs on the Ninth Street NW facade to prevent broken concrete from hitting passersby 160 feet down on the sidewalk below,” and that “staff on the 10th floor sit in a space designed to house 35 million fingerprint cards, which were relocated to West Virginia in 1995.”
Other criticisms have noted that a cancellation at this stage could end up being extremely costly, with the Washington Post quoting one official estimating $50 million had thus far been spent by local companies and jurisdictions to prepare for the ultimate relocation, in addition to the funds and manpower expended by the FBI, GSA, et al…over the past decade.
At a Congressional hearing following the announcement, Rep. Barletta expressed optimism that, with a restructured plan, “We have the opportunity to fix this project and get it back on track,” though the specifics regarding how that would come to pass or what the timeline would look like are thus far unclear.
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