By ASHKAN MOTAMEDI,
Capital News Service
WASHINGTON — The final selection process for a new location for the headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is back on track after years of delay.
FBI headquarters have been located in the J. Edgar Hoover Building in the nation’s capital since 1974, but the building is deteriorating. Trippy.com in 2012, the agency’s house was named the “ugliest” building in the world, and in 2005 architect Arthur Cotton Moore said the building “created a void along Pennsylvania Avenue”.
Talks between the FBI and the General Services Administration have begun on a new site for the headquarters under the Bush administration. But more focused efforts were made under the Obama administration to move headquarters from the District of Columbia to what was eventually reduced to three potential sites in the suburbs, two in Maryland and one in northern Virginia.
The Biden administration has a September 11 deadline to select one of three proposed sites. The new headquarters would house approximately 7,500 employees.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, was one of the key lawmakers to move the headquarters to a new suburban location. However, the Trump administration had previously blocked efforts to move the headquarters out of Washington.
“We were extremely disappointed when the Trump administration derailed this process for four years,” Van Hollen said in an interview with Capital News Service. “We could have gone ahead to meet the FBI’s security needs…on the plan to consolidate headquarters in one of those locations.”
Van Hollen, who is the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee, worked with his Republican counterparts to insert language into a recent bipartisan spending bill passed by Congress to resume the process of relocating FBI headquarters.
“I think senators on both sides of the aisle share the view that we need to provide the FBI with a safe house, and one that allows them to consolidate their operations,” Van Hollen said.
President Joe Biden’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2023 also includes language calling for a consolidated FBI headquarters in a new location outside of the District of Columbia.
“Over the next year,” the president’s budget states, “the GSA and FBI will finalize an updated schedule of requirements for a secure suburban campus, including final staffing numbers, to inform a request for 2024 budget for the new facility. The GSA will also take the first steps to acquire the site of the new suburban site, if necessary. »
The three potential headquarters are in Greenbelt and Landover, Maryland, and Springfield, Virginia.
“I think this is the right decision for the FBI and the country,” Van Hollen said. “I think either location in Prince George’s County will put them in a position to consolidate their operations in a secure environment and perform their duties on behalf of the country.”
Van Hollen said the two Maryland locations both have access to public transportation, including the subway. Van Hollen also said the greater economic activity would benefit surrounding regions.
Representative Gerry Connolly, D-Virginia, supports the Springfield location.
“The Springfield, Va. site is the best option for a new consolidated FBI headquarters and, if assessed on merit, would be the clear favorite for this major purchase,” Connolly said in a statement to Capital. News Service.
“Northern Virginia is home to the FBI Academy at Marine Corps Base Quantico and the Central Records Complex in Winchester,” Connolly said. “Additionally, the region has the highest concentration of intelligence community (IC) agency headquarters located in the suburbs of the country. Proximity to FBI assets and long-time IC partners is a key competitive advantage for the site.
Like the Maryland sites, the Springfield site is close to public transportation.
“The Springfield site is also at the transportation hub of Interstate 495 and Interstate 95, the Washington Metro system (and) the Virginia Railway Express, which is expected to add significant additional capacity in the coming years, and other transit services,” Connolly said. .
But not everyone agrees with the proposed idea of a move, including the current leadership of the FBI. The agency wants to keep its headquarters in Washington and has even suggested the idea of having a separate cyber campus.
“The FBI can more effectively serve the American people from a downtown headquarters,” the FBI said in a statement to CNS. “Our mission would be enhanced by a consolidated suburban cyber and technology campus in the National Capital Region to serve as a command center for cyber operations, consolidate the FBI’s existing cyber and technology footprint, and accommodate future growth. .”
The FBI Agents Association has joined the FBI in expressing support for maintaining the headquarters in Washington.
“We believe what’s best for the mission is for the FBI headquarters to remain in Washington, DC, close to the Department of Justice and our DOJ counterparts,” said association president Brian O’ Hare in a statement to the CNS.
But local lawmakers disagree.
“I don’t think the leadership of the FBI should be stripped of the men and women who make up the FBI,” Van Hollen said. “That’s why the legislation says the head office has to move.”
Like Van Hollen, Connolly rejected the FBI’s desire to stay in Washington.
“It’s been known for a while that director (Christopher) Wray doesn’t want to move,” Connolly said. “An administrator cannot make this kind of decision, nor circumvent the law.”
Van Hollen said the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in suburban Langley, Va., could be an example of what a suburban campus would look like for a new FBI headquarters. The National Security Agency headquarters at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, is another good model, he said.
“These are important models that offer both the ability to consolidate operations and meet security requirements,” the senator said.
Biden’s proposed budget directs the GSA and FBI to find a federally owned site in the District of Columbia that would be a satellite office for between 750 and 1,000 FBI employees who would be needed for day-to-day contact with the Department of Justice, other parts of the executive and Congress.
The next step in the process is a briefing from the GSA by June 13 on all three sites to relevant congressional committees.
“The United States General Services is committed to continuing to support the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to meet the needs of the FBI’s mission, to execute in accordance with congressional direction, and to obtain the best value for the American people. “, according to a GSA. declaration to the CNS.
“During our conversations with the Biden administration, we urged them to make a final decision on the actual location,” Van Hollen said. “I hope they stay on track, but what I have no doubt about is that this process will move forward.”
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