House appropriators reject GSA’s $3.5B plan for new FBI headquarters

After questioning the Greenbelt decision, FBI Director Chris Wray also tells lawmakers his agency is working closely with GSA on the FBI headquarters project.

House appropriators are pushing back on the General Services Administration’s plan to invest billions in a new FBI headquarters in suburban Maryland.

The GOP-led House Appropriations Committee’s fiscal 2025 general government spending bill rejects a $3.5 billion proposal from the General Services Administration to finance a new FBI headquarters building in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The spending bill passed out of the general government and financial services subcommittee along party lines on Wednesday morning. It’s now slated to be considered by the full committee. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) reportedly urged House Appropriations Committee Chairman Tom Cole (R-Okla.) to prohibit taxpayer funding for any new FBI headquarters facility.

The Biden administration nominally ended a decade-long disagreement over the future of the FBI headquarters when GSA announced the new Greenbelt site last November. GSA selected a Maryland site over competing sites in Virginia.

But ever since, lawmakers have been scrutinizing GSA’s site selection and the broader plan for replacing the crumbling J. Edgar Hoover Building in downtown DC.

GSA’s budget proposal

GSA’s fiscal 2025 budget request proposed the $3.5 billion as an upfront investment in the new FBI headquarters building.

Agency officials want to allocate the investment through a new Federal Capital Revolving Fund that would “fully fund the costs of very large civilian real property capital projects that are difficult to accommodate in the annual appropriations process,” GSA’s budget request states.

Under the proposal, GSA would then pay back into the revolving fund in annual payments of $233 million over the next 15 years.

GSA would also draw on funding that Congress has already appropriated for acquisition and construction of a new FBI headquarters in Greenbelt. Lawmakers have approved about $845 million for the project so far, including $200 million in the fiscal 2024 spending deal reached in late March.

But in addition to rejecting the $3.5 billion funding request, the House Appropriations Committee bill would also prohibit previous funding from being spent on the FBI headquarters project until GSA sends the committee a “spend plan to continue operation of the current headquarters or to identify another existing, federally-owned DC building to serve as the headquarters.”

While House appropriators have started to move their spending bills, appropriators in the Democrat-led Senate have yet to start marking up their corresponding 2025 spending legislation.

Wray talks FBI headquarters

Meanwhile, FBI Director Chris Wray told lawmakers this week that his agency is supporting GSA’s work to establish the new Greenbelt site.

“We are working closely with GSA,” Wray said during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing. He noted GSA submitted a report to Congress in March detailing its plans for site acquisition and design of the new facility.

Wray had called GSA’s decision-making into question shortly after last November’s announcement. He told FBI employees in an email that he had “concerns about fairness and transparency in the process and GSA’s failure to adhere to its own site selection plan.”

Wray’s email cited concerns about then-Public Buildings Service Commissioner Nina Albert’s decision to override the recommendations of a selection panel that had recommended Springfield, Va., for the new FBI headquarters.

In a statement at the time, GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan pushed back on Wray’s claims. She said his “suggestion that there was inappropriate interference is unfounded.”

Carnahan also said GSA stands behind “the process, the decision, and all of the public servants who carefully followed the process and made a good decision on behalf of the FBI and the public.”

During this week’s hearing in the Senate, Wray did not raise any further public concerns about the decision to locate the new FBI headquarters in Greenbelt.

“We are working closely with GSA, in cooperation with them, in full compliance with the law,” Wray said. “The specifics of exactly what conversations, what meetings – that part I couldn’t tell you right here right now. But my understanding is that we continue to work closely with GSA on the project.”

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