Maryland, Virginia vie for new FBI headquarters

Cardin, Van Hollen, Hoyer tout potential sites in Landover and Greenbelt.

Published 2/12/2023 2:56 p.m. EST

Virginia lawmakers are making their final push to build a new FBI headquarters in their state, while Maryland officials try to persuade the federal government to put it in Maryland.

The Washington Post reports that the jockeying is happening as the General Services Administration gets closer to a decision in the decade-plus-long effort.

In a letter to the GSA and FBI submitted Feb. 3, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, and most of that state’s congressional delegation made a detailed case in hopes of swaying the federal government to prefer a 58-acre site in Springfield, Virginia, instead of locations in Landover and Greenbelt in Maryland. The two Maryland sites are located in Prince George’s County and about 35 miles south of Baltimore.

Virginia lawmakers also sought to compete more aggressively with Maryland on one component that Maryland has sought to elevate: that building the FBI in their community advances racial equity. President Joe Biden signed an executive order in 2021 that made advancing racial equity through federal agencies a priority, a move that considers the effects of federal investment in certain underserved communities.

“We didn’t want to shortchange ourselves in what we believe is a very powerful equity argument for Springfield, Fairfax,” U.S. Rep. Gerald Connolly, a northern Virginia Democrat who represents Springfield, said. “We’re a profoundly diverse community. Springfield itself is a majority-minority community.”

In an 11th-hour negotiation with Virginia congressional leaders, Maryland lawmakers secured language in a December federal spending bill that gave both states 90 more days to make final presentations to the GSA. Those consultations will begin in the coming weeks.

The agency is preparing to select the FBI headquarters location using five criteria: weighted most at 35% is serving the FBI mission, including proximity to the FBI Academy in Quantico and the Justice Department. Transportation access is weighted as 25%. Development flexibility is weighted as 15%. Promoting racial equity and sustainable siting is weighted as 15%, and cost to acquire and prepare the site is weighted as 10%.

U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer and U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, who are all Maryland Democrats, unsuccessfully sought to adjust how the criteria was weighted in the spending bill. They believe the current weighting unfairly advantages the Springfield location for its proximity to Quantico, and de-prioritizes racial equity and cost.

“The way they weighted this thing is just wrong,” said Cardin, arguing it doesn’t make sense to put so much stock into proximity to Quantico and less into equity and cost. “It looks like it’s just aimed at trying to help tilt the scales towards Virginia.”

Hoyer said Maryland is seeking to give equal weight to each criteria. But their efforts rankled the Virginia delegation, which believes the weighting is sound and that lawmakers should not use their muscle to “micromanage” the GSA’s selection process, as U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, put it.

FBI spokeswoman Sofia Kettler said in a statement that proximity to Quantico was included because the FBI Academy “is a core part of FBI day-to-day operations, today and in the future.”

Asked whether the criteria was set in stone, and to respond to Maryland’s criticisms, the GSA simply said the agency would hear everyone out.

“GSA and FBI are committed to deliberate and thoughtful engagement with our partners in Congress on this project, including through consultations outlined in the appropriations act,” the GSA said in a statement. “We look forward to receiving feedback from stakeholders and are also committed to a fair and transparent process that results in selecting a site that best meets the needs of the FBI and the American people over the long-term.”

The current headquarters in downtown Washington, D.C. — the J. Edgar Hoover Building on Pennsylvania Avenue — has long concerned Congress, as the building has deteriorated. The building, an example of Brutalist architecture that covers two combined city blocks, was dedicated in 1975.

The Maryland and Virginia consultations with the GSA are expected to begin the week of Feb. 27 or March 6.

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