The federal government released new criteria for a new FBI headquarters campus, with changes that are expected to benefit two potential Maryland locations over another option in Springfield, Virginia.
The criteria, released by the General Services Administration on Friday afternoon, would place greater emphasis on cost, as well as the federal government’s goals to locate agencies in sustainable locations that strengthen the vitality of communities and advance racial equity.
The new criteria also de-emphasize, by 10 points, the new site’s proximity to the bureau’s training academy in Quantico, Virginia.
Congressional staff members were briefed on the new criteria Friday afternoon, just as the General Services Administration released a new site selection plan.
The FBI headquarters is housed within the aging J. Edgar Hoover building in downtown Washington, D.C., built in the 1960s. The new headquarters could house an estimated 7,500 employees.
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.
When the site selection plan was amended last year to include a proximity to Quantico, Maryland officials blasted the decision, calling on the Biden administration to focus on its commitment to advancing racial equity by prioritizing the two sites in Prince George’s County, one of the largest majority-Black jurisdictions in the nation.
Maryland officials have also stated relocating to Maryland would cost about $1 billion less, which Virginia officials have disputed, because of renovation work that would need to be done at the Springfield.
The FBI has said for years it needs a new headquarters since the Hoover building 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.
“The consultations with the delegations provided valuable feedback, and helped us refine our plan to maximize value for the FBI and the public,” Nina Albert, GSA Commissioner of the Public Buildings Service, said in a statement Friday. “While the core elements of the site selection plan remain the same, we have updated the plan to incorporate new government-wide directives and to increase the consideration of cost to deliver better value for taxpayers. We believe these adjustments will support a process that results in a site that best serves the FBI and the public for years to come.”
Nicholas Dimos, the FBI assistant director for the Finance and Facilities Division, said in a statement that the new plan maintains the priorities for the agency: “fulfill FBI mission needs, meet the needs of the FBI workforce, and provide maximum value for taxpayers, relying on GSA’s expertise and best practices in site selection.”
“The FBI looks forward to continuing the partnership with GSA and the expeditious selection of a new suburban headquarters site,” Dimos said.
Friday’s change in criteria scoring was welcomed by Maryland’s top political leaders.
“Team Maryland” — Gov. Wes Moore, Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller, U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, U.S. Reps. Steny H. Hoyer, Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes, Kweisi Mfume, Jamie Raskin, David Trone, and Glenn Ivey, and Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, all Democrats — released a joint statement Friday afternoon.
“We are encouraged to see today’s announcement from the General Services Administration corrects the flawed approach released in September that ignored taxpayer costs and the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to equity,” the group stated. “Today’s revised guidelines are a critical step in the right direction.”
“We remain as confident today as we have been for the past decade: Greenbelt and Landover provide the best operational and cost-effective options for the new, consolidated FBI Headquarters,” the statement continued. “These sites meet and exceed the criteria laid out by GSA. They are shovel-ready with exceptional access to transportation and will spur greater equity and opportunity, in line with the Biden-Harris Administration’s executive orders. We will continue working with GSA to ensure these factors are taken into consideration.”
In an additional statement, Alsobrooks was optimistic but cautioned that “there is much more work to do.”
“Securing the FBI headquarters is a generational opportunity for Prince Georgians and all Marylanders, and I will continue to fight fiercely to bring this home,” she said.
The three sites under review were selected in 2014 by the General Services Administration because they all met the baseline requirements of the FBI, including being able to accommodate the size of a new headquarters facility and meet the federal government’s unique security requirements.
In the Fiscal Year 2022 Appropriations Act, Congress directed GSA to select the location for the FBI’s suburban campus from among the three sites.
Earlier this week, Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan called on the House committee that controls government spending to bar any federal dollars from going to a new headquarters in the D.C. region, suggesting a move instead to Alabama.
An FBI spokesperson pressed back on the proposal earlier this week and said 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 Tuesday.
The General Services Administration expects to make a site selection in the coming months.
At the same time, efforts are underway to identify space for an FBI downtown D.C. facility, which would complement the new suburban campus and maintain accessibility to the Department of Justice headquarters and other agency partners.
This breaking news story was updated.