Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan is calling on the U.S. House committee that controls government spending to bar any federal dollars from going towards a long-planned rebuild of the FBI headquarters in the Maryland or Virginia suburbs outside Washington, D.C.
Jordan, instead, wants the federal law enforcement agency to look for locations outside the D.C. region, suggesting the Redstone Arsenal Campus in Huntsville, Alabama as one option and thrusting himself into a years-long battle between Maryland and Virginia for the location of a new HQ.
“We recommend that the appropriations bills eliminate any funding for the FBI that is not absolutely essential for the agency to execute its mission, including as a starting point eliminating taxpayer funding for any new FBI headquarter facility and instead examining options for relocating the FBI’s headquarters outside of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area,” Jordan wrote in the letter.
No other lawmakers signed onto the letter, so it wasn’t clear why several of the paragraphs said “we” instead of “I.”
The language Jordan wants the House Appropriations Committee to add would require the FBI to “submit an operational plan within 90 days to move the FBI Headquarters out of the National Capital Region.”
“The operational plan should also consider the existing resources and infrastructure available at the FBI’s Redstone Arsenal Campus in Huntsville, AL,” Jordan suggested.
An FBI spokesperson pressed back on the proposal, saying in a written statement that the “facilities at Redstone Arsenal cannot accommodate the minimum of 8,500 personnel planned to occupy the new HQ suburban and downtown facilities.”
Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said in a statement the city is “proud of the FBI presence in Huntsville and will support whatever Congress decides is best for the betterment of our country.”
The attraction of Huntsville
Huntsville, which overtook Birmingham to become Alabama’s largest city in 2021, has long been a hub for federal investment. The Redstone Arsenal has been a major employer in the area since World War II. The Arsenal hosts NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command.
The FBI moved an explosive analysis center to Redstone in 2016 and has moved thousands of jobs to the area, attracted in part by Redstone’s secure location.
The federal government has invested about $3 billion in the Huntsville FBI facility, according to al.com. About 1,500 employees worked there at the start of the year.
Jordan’s proposal would have the annual funding bill say that “centralization of FBI operations in the National (Capital) Region has led to duplication of activity best left to the respective field offices, contributed to reduced autonomy in local field offices, and allowed improper political influence to taint law enforcement investigations and activity.”
That language is especially partisan and unlikely to pass the Democratically controlled U.S. Senate, assuming it is added to an appropriations measure.
Another hitch is that the annual Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill, which includes funding for the FBI and where Jordan suggested the policy riders go, may not be the correct place for such a provision.
The Financial Services and General Government bill is the measure that includes funding for the General Services Administration, which has been working for well over a decade to find a new location for the FBI’s headquarters.
House Republicans released that bill last month after adding $3.5 billion for the GSA to move forward with a “new, suburban Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) headquarters,” according to the GOP summary of the measure.
Maryland v. Virginia
The GSA has narrowed down the options for a new site to locations in Greenbelt, Maryland; Landover, Maryland; and Springfield, Virginia. The three locations are all just outside of Washington, D.C.
The FBI has said for years it needs a new headquarters since the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building along Pennsylvania Avenue in downtown Washington, D.C., has significant structural and space issues.
Last year’s omnibus funding package, which Congress approved in December, called on the GSA to consult with representatives from Virginia and Maryland to ensure the criteria used to pick a final site “is consistent with Congressional intent.”
The language was part of an ongoing, years-long battle between the Maryland and Virginia congressional delegations to secure the new location within their states.
The Virginia congressional delegation and Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin advocated for their state in February. The Maryland congressional delegation and Democratic Gov. Wes Moore made their case for the new FBI headquarters in March.
An FBI spokesperson said in a written statement on Tuesday that “the FBI continues to work with GSA to undertake a fair and transparent site selection process to include collaborating on the appropriate site selection plan and criteria.”
“The FBI is confident in GSA’s expertise to select a location that will meet the needs of our workforce, meet the mission of the FBI, and will be a good deal to the taxpayer,” the spokesperson said.
Wednesday hearing with FBI head
Jordan, who chairs the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, has numerous grievances with the FBI, including over its investigations into former President Donald Trump. FBI Director Christopher Wray is scheduled to testify before the committee on Wednesday.
In the 11-page letter, Jordan requests the Republican-controlled spending panel make several other changes to its spending bills. Jordan is not a member of that committee.
Among those requests is preventing the U.S. Justice Department from using any of its funding “to conduct a politically sensitive investigation until the Department of Justice establishes a policy requiring non-partisan career staff to oversee such investigations.”
Jordan also makes suggestions for several other government spending bills, including language for the Financial Services, Homeland Security, Labor-HHS-Education and State-Foreign Operations bills.
It wasn’t immediately clear why Jordan is making the requests directly of the committee, instead of offering amendments when the bills come to the House floor for debate.
The move could signal that House Republican leadership doesn’t have the votes to bring the bills to the floor before the August recess. The House GOP narrowly controls that chamber and can only lose four votes on partisan bills.
The annual government funding bills are supposed to clear Congress and garner the president’s signature by the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1, though that rarely happens.