Maryland officials expressed confidence Thursday that the FBI’s new headquarters will, indeed, be built in Prince George’s County — even as the head of the FBI blasted the selection process.
“The FBI building is coming to the state of Maryland,” Gov. Wes Moore said confidently — and repeatedly — when asked by reporters about the fate of the project.
“We’re thankful the building is going to happen in Maryland, is going to happen in Prince George’s County, and I could not be more excited about it,” the Democratic governor said.
After more than a decade of an up-and-down process, a site next to the Greenbelt Metro Station was picked to house the new FBI headquarters, replacing the outdated J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington, D.C. The announcement was made Wednesday night by the U.S. General Services Administration. The Greenbelt site was selected over another Prince George’s site in Landover, and one in Springfield, Virginia.
As Maryland officials were celebrating, FBI Director Christopher Wray expressed doubts about the GSA’s process, alleging a key official had a conflict of interest because they used to work for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which owns the Greenbelt parcel.
“Unfortunately, we have concerns about fairness and transparency in the process and GSA’s failure to adhere to its own site selection plan,” Wray wrote, according to The Washington Post. “Despite our engagement with GSA over the last two months on these issues, our concerns about the process remain unresolved.”
GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan responded with a statement saying that after working closely with the FBI on the project, “we’re disappointed that the FBI Director is now making inaccurate claims directed at our agency, our employees, and our site selection plan and process.”
The statement continued: “Any suggestion that there was inappropriate interference is unfounded. The choice of Greenbelt, Maryland, is fully consistent with the decision-making process as well as all laws, regulations, and ethical considerations. We stand 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.”
White House principal deputy press secretary Olivia Dalton also defended the process. She did not comment on whether President Joe Biden had any direct involvement in the final site decision.
”I can tell you it was a fair and transparent process,” Dalton told reporters on Air Force One as Biden, a Democrat, traveled to Illinois on Thursday. “The 61 acres in Greenbelt is both the lowest cost to taxpayers, most transportation options for FBI workers, and we had the most assurances about the expeditious means with which a project could get underway.”
The Greenbelt selection has also come under fire from some Virginia officials, who have complained for months that the GSA tweaked the weighting of selection criteria in a way that favored Maryland. Virginia’s U.S. senators, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, criticized the GSA for changing the rules “at the 11th hour.”
And a bipartisan group of Virginia politicians, including Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, issued a statement Thursday alleging “political interference” in the selection process.
“Any fair weighing of the criteria points to a selection of Virginia,” the statement read. “It is clear that this process has been irrevocably undermined and tainted, and this decision must now be reversed.”
Boosters of the Maryland bid downplayed those concerns.
The project is seen as a potential boon to Prince George’s County and the state, bringing thousands of jobs to a majority-Black county that has relatively few federal agency offices despite being so close to the nation’s capital. Officials in Prince George’s and at the nearby University of Maryland think the FBI headquarters can be a catalyst for economic growth.
“We’re looking forward to seeing all of the generational and transformational growth and prosperity that will come to Prince George’s County as a result of this decision,” said Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, a Democrat.
Moore, speaking to reporters in Catonsville, said that the Greenbelt site ranked at the top in nearly every category considered, including cost, environmental impact, access to transit and social equity.
Moore noted: “We won on every criteria, according to a very diligent process, with the exception of proximity to Quantico [Virginia], which would have been pretty difficult for us to win on that one.”
The FBI appeared to favor the site in Springfield because it is closer to the FBI training academy in Quantico. An FBI document circulated this summer argued that Springfield would be more convenient for the FBI employees who need to go back and forth between the headquarters and the training academy.
“I have yet to hear anybody explain why we should spend $1 billion to $2.5 billion [more] to build this in Springfield as opposed to Greenbelt,” said U.S. Rep. Glenn Ivey, a Democrat whose district includes Greenbelt. “If you’re going to do that, you owe the federal taxpayers a big explanation as to why that makes sense.”
It wasn’t immediately clear whether Wray or others supporting the Virginia site would have any means of recourse to challenge the decision. There also isn’t a clear timetable for funding, planning and constructing the FBI building at Greenbelt.
U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen said there’s already enough money available “to get shovels on the ground” and pledged to work as a member of the Appropriations Committee to secure funding for the whole project.
Moore said he hopes the project will move forward quickly. The governor and the Maryland General Assembly already put $100 million in the state budget to help pay for costs associated with the project.
“Our meetings with the GSA and the FBI and all the other partners, they are starting ASAP,” Moore said. “Because we want to get moving now.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.