Maryland lawmakers make one final pitch to build new FBI headquarters in their state

Maryland lawmakers are making one final pitch to the Biden administration to bring the FBI’s new headquarters to their state. The Maryland delegation met with...

Maryland lawmakers are making one final pitch to the Biden administration to bring the FBI’s new headquarters to their state.

The Maryland delegation met with officials from the General Services Administration on Wednesday, before a final decision is made on a new headquarters for the FBI.

GSA is considering three sites for the new FBI headquarters: Greenbelt, Maryland; Landover, Maryland and Springfield, Virginia.

Maryland lawmakers, in their final pitch, urged GSA officials to give equal weight to the five criteria they will use to reach a final decision.

Virginia lawmakers will make their own case to GSA officials on Thursday.

GSA is basing its decision on the FBI’s mission, access to transportation, site development flexibility, cost, and the project’s impact on the administration’s equity goals.

“GSA and FBI are committed to fully considering the feedback we receive as we work to ensure a fair and transparent process that results in a site that will best serve the FBI and the American people for generations to come,” a GSA spokesperson said Wednesday. “Following this week’s consultations, GSA and FBI will deliberately consider the input we received to determine next steps on the site selection process.”

Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) joined Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin in a letter last month saying the Springfield site is ideal, because it is the closest to the FBI’s National Academy and National Crime Lab, as well as the Justice Department’s headquarters in D.C.

GSA is currently basing 35% of each site’s final score on proximity to the FBI’s law enforcement training center in Quantico, Virginia, and the DOJ’s headquarters.

Maryland lawmakers said the weighting of this criteria unfairly favors the Springfield site, and that proximity to these facilities never factored into federal or congressional deliberations prior to the release of GSA’s criteria in September 2022.

“You can’t be any closer to Virginia, while you’re in Virginia,” Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.) said.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said GSA’s prioritization of a new FBI headquarters being close to Quantico “showed a clear bias” and “was not consistent with congressional intent.”

“It questioned the integrity of the process. And that’s why GSA was asked to have these consultations and to look at changes in the selection plan criteria weighting issues. We made that point very clearly,” Cardin said.

The Maryland delegation claims proximity to Quantico and other “non-consolidating facilities,” such as the DOJ’S downtown D.C. headquarters, didn’t factor in considerations made by GSA, the FBI or Congress until September 2022.

“We are concerned that 11 years into this process, the surprise emphasis on proximity to Quantico and other non-consolidating FBI National Capital Region facilities was added to the criteria only to put a finger on the scale toward one site and is not based on any real needed requirement of the FBI to carry out its vital national security mission,”  the lawmakers wrote in a letter to GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said GSA, under its current rubric, is minimizing the total cost of each proposed site by only making it 10% of their score.

“GSA regularly comes up before Capitol Hill and says they don’t have enough money to do their operations,” Van Hollen said.

Van Hollen said it would cost GSA an additional $1 billion to put a new FBI headquarters in Springfield, because GSA would have to demolish current buildings and relocate two federal tenants.

Maryland lawmakers estimate it will take three-to-five years to relocate to current tenants at the Springfield site.

Rachel Cohen, communications director for Warner’s office, said the $1 billion figure cited by Maryland lawmakers is misleading, because the money is being spent to relocate a government tenant at the Springfield site — regardless of the GSA’s decision on the FBI’s headquarters.

“It’s true that there is a tenant currently located at the Springfield site, but they are moving anyway —  and have been planning to do so for years regardless of which location the GSA selects — and in fact, most of the funding for that move has actually already been appropriated by Congress,” Cohen said.

Cohen said the FBI considers its proximity to its facilities in Quantico as “operationally important to them being able to meet their mission.”

“All FBI employees are initially trained at the Bureau at FBI Quantico, with many returning to the site for programs designed to advance their skills,” she added.

Maryland Governor Wes Moore said GSA officials told the delegation its weighting of the five criteria is not “locked in stone,” and subject to change prior to a final decision.

“They are now going to go back with all the information and all the data, and actually be able to have an opportunity to both work in coordination with us, but also reassess that decision in September to put such a heavy weight on one of the options,” Moore said.

Maryland lawmakers have also appealed to the Biden’s administration’s equity agenda and its focus on expanding government outreach to underserved communities.

Moore said putting the FBI headquarters in Prince George’s County, with a majority Black population, would bring additional economic opportunity to the area.

“This is a decision that is going to have a legacy-defining impact for the Biden administration, and a true generational impact on the impacted communities. There’s only one right answer, and that is for this building to end up in Maryland,” Moore said.

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said he’s “hopeful that the GSA and the FBI will, in fact, go back to the drawing board with the taxpayer considered, and certainly the mission of the FBI uppermost in its mind.”

The fiscal 2023 omnibus spending bill gives GSA $375 million to construct a new suburban FBI headquarters, but also requires GSA to go through some final steps before the agency can decide whether to build in Maryland or Virginia.

The omnibus also requires GSA to “evaluate the viability of the GSA’s site selection criteria for the FBI headquarters to ensure it is consistent with congressional intent.”

The lawmakers, in their letter to GSA, also said the Maryland sites are also best suited to support the FBI’s cybersecurity mission.

The lawmakers said “Maryland stands at the center of cybersecurity,” with the National Security Agency, Cyber Command and the Defense Information Systems Agency all based out of Fort Meade.

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