The General Services Administration has picked Maryland as the home of the new FBI headquarters, the agency confirmed Wednesday, after a lengthy and high-profile competition over where the new facility would be built.
The GSA most recently had narrowed down the search to three sites, two in Maryland and one in Virginia, and lawmakers and officials from both states aggressively pushed for the project, with jobs and economic benefits on the line.
An issue over the selection criteria even briefly delayed a sprawling $1.7 trillion fiscal 2023 omnibus spending bill in December 2022, which included $375 million to relocate FBI from a dilapidated building on Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest in Washington.
A GSA spokesperson said the agency found Greenbelt, Md., to be the best site because it had the greatest transportation access to FBI workers and visitors and it was the lowest cost to taxpayers, along with giving “the government the most certainty on project delivery schedule.”
“It also provided the highest potential to advance sustainability and equity,” the spokesperson said.
GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan, in a written statement, said GSA “looks forward to building the FBI a state-of-the-art headquarters campus in Greenbelt to advance their critical mission for years to come.”
News of the announcement, which was first reported by The Washington Post, got praise from members of the Maryland congressional delegation.
“The GSA’s analysis of the facts and its consultations revealed that the Greenbelt site is the most fitting site of the three final candidates when all factors were considered together,” the Maryland lawmakers said in a joint statement.
“Our decades-long, bipartisan effort to bring the Maryland sites’ many merits to the GSA’s attention was never about politics. It was always about making the case for what is best for the FBI, our region, and the country,” the Maryland delegation said.
In December 2022, then-House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., had used the fiscal 2023 omnibus bill to push to adjust criteria that the GSA had released that would favor a Virginia site for the headquarters over two in Maryland.
Hoyer’s request was not granted, a Senate Democratic aide said at the time, but it got compromise language ensured that the GSA administrator will conduct “separate and detailed consultations” with representatives from Maryland and Virginia to consider their perspectives in how to weigh the criteria.
On Wednesday, Virginia Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine said in a news release that the FBI’s initial criteria for the decision was changed at the “11th hour” by the Biden administration following political pressure.
“We spent years appropriately criticizing the last Administration for politicizing the new FBI headquarters — only for a new Administration to come in and allow politics to taint the selection process,” the Virginia senators said.
“We’re deeply disappointed that despite the clear case that Virginia is the best home for the FBI, the Administration went a different direction,” they said.
Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va., said on social media that “shamelessly caved to political pressure” and put “blatant politics over the merits.”
“While Virginia’s loss is also the FBI’s, GSA’s reputation for objective procurement free from politics has taken a mortal hit today from which it will struggle to recover for years into the future,” Connolly said in the social media statement.
Congressional drama over the FBI move and the headquarters might not be over yet, as House Republicans have repeatedly criticized the plans.
The House on Wednesday night plans to vote on an amendment from Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., that would stop funds from being used to acquire property for a new FBI headquarters.
“It is not my grave concern that the FBI’s building is crumbling. It is my grave concern that the civil liberties of Americans are crumbling,” Gaetz said Wednesday on the floor. “And I wish we were more worried about that and less worried about whether or not we got new carpet and wallpaper at the FBI building.”
Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., said in a floor speech the current FBI headquarters needs to be addressed because the facility is crumbling. When he toured the facility, he said it was in a state of disrepair.