UPPER MARLBORO - The FBI has has needed a new headquarters for over a decade. The J. Edgar Hoover Building on Pennsylvania Avenue is too small to house the entire agency, resulting in the staff being scattered across more than 40 annexes in the region. The aging building itself is also deteriorating.
The General Services Administration (GSA) conducted an environmental impact study and selected three sites—including two in Prince George’s County —where a new a new headquarters could be located. However, they abruptly halted the process in July, citing an $882 million funding gap for the project.
Following an August U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) oversight hearing, the EPW gave the GSA 120 days to submit a plan for a new FBI headquarters.
A new letter from the EPW granting a further extension and outlining specific requirements for a revised plan for the headquarters could breathe new life into the possibility of bringing the project to Prince George’s County.
In a letter signed by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), chairman of the EPW, and Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), a ranking member of the committee, the EPW granted the GSA a 60-day extension to revise their building plan.
They said the EPW committee expects “a viable strategy to move forward” “in the interest of helping the FBI meet its security and operational needs.”
This plan must be submitted to the EPW committee by Jan. 29, 2018.
“Providing the FBI with a new headquarters to carry out its critical mission to protect the American people is a top priority for GSA, and we look forward to continuing to work with Congress to develop the best possible solution in as timely a manner as practicable,” a GSA spokesperson said in a statement.
Local government leaders hope that , as the GSA proceeds with their plans, the agency will pick up where they left off in the process. This would mean the three final contenders for the headquarters would be Greenbelt and Landover in Prince George’s County and Springfield in Northern Virginia.
“They’ve got people who are committed to the sites in Maryland, which should be back on the table, the site in Virginia, they’re committed to it. So, why not just start the process from where they left off?” County Executive Rushern Baker, III said.
Baker recently met with officials from the GSA and Office of Management and Budget (OMB), who, he said, indicated they intend to examine all options for moving forward, including reopening the bidding process.
Even if the federal government choses to resolicit bids, there may not be many more options.
“There are not many 60, 80 acre sites near Metro stations in the Washington region,” said David Iannucci, Assistant Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for economic development. “We actually believe they’re not going to find new locations, and I frankly believe the federal government unofficially feels the same way, that new sites are not going to emerge.
“At the same time, none of our sites in Maryland, and I’m going to say the same for Virginia, are likely to be available forever in the future. There’s going to be continued public demand and private sector demand for these sites, and if the federal government doesn’t move quickly, they could lose some of these options.”
The EPW delineated certain specifics the GSA must include in their plan. These would include need and feasibility, location and site considerations, and an analysis of how the work already done in the project can be utilized to keep costs down.
Iannucci said he and the Baker administration perceive the extension and the specific requirements as a positive.
“We, the Baker administration, are hopeful by the end of the 60 days we’ll come back with a clear Plan B by the GSA for the consolidated FBI headquarters project,” Iannucci said.
A statement released by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-M) expressed his opinion that the GSA should rely on their previous work when moving forward with the development for a new FBI headquarters.
“I am heartened by reports that GSA, FBI and OMB actually are discussing how to deliver a fully consolidated facility for the FBI and I urge all parties to utilize the environmental impact and site work that GSA spent millions on during the earlier procurement process,” he said.
Iannucci said the county has spent $1 million on the project so far. He added that the GSA and developers have also spent millions on the enterprise.
“It’s easy to tabulate $50 million having been expended so far by public and private sector entities in pursuit of this frustratingly elusive goal,” Iannucci said.
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.-5) indicated his support for bringing the headquarters to the county.
“I remain confident that Prince George’s County continues to be the best choice for the fully consolidated FBI headquarters,” he said in a statement.
Iannucci said bringing the FBI headquarters to Prince George’s “would be a legacy achievement, a once-in-a-generation opportunity.”
“It would rebrand Prince George’s County forever, but it would also reinvent our economy, in not only the Washington metropolitan region, but around the nation,” he said.