Could the new FBI headquarters end up in the suburbs after all?

WASHINGTON — When President Donald Trump signed the new spending bill on Friday, he also improved odds that the new FBI headquarters would land somewhere in Maryland or Virginia.

One of the many provisions in the 2,200-plus page document effectively banned the federal government from spending any money to move ahead with plans to rebuild the headquarters on the existing downtown D.C. campus.

After the Obama administration drew out a process that had narrowed down the headquarters site to Springfield, Landover and Greenbelt, last summer the Trump administration announced plans to rebuild the facility on the current site of the J. Edgar Hoover Building.

The GSA had cited insufficient funding from Congress to move out of the District last year, saying it was no longer cost-effective to leave Pennsylvania Avenue, despite previous administrations’ decisions to move out of the city for cost purposes.

“Until the administration can explain why it decided to abruptly change course from a consolidated headquarters with a campus setting [outside of the District], Congress should not move forward with GSA’s new recommendation,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said in a prepared statement.

Inspector General Carol Ochoa announced in February that it was launching an investigation into the matter after a request from Virginia Congressman Gerry Connolly.

She said the investigation would include whether the revised plans would account for the full costs and security requirements of the project.

“There will be no movement at all to put this facility at its old location … Prince George’s County believes very strongly [in] the chance to revive the procurement and start where we left off,” said David Iannucci, assistant deputy chief administration officer for economic development in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

He admitted that when the GSA decided to “cancel the procurement” last year, Maryland was “dealt a body-blow.”

Iannucci was also concerned with the GSA’s sudden decision that the more expensive location — in downtown D.C. — was now the cheapest.

“So far, I count more than $65 million of sunk costs by private parties and the three levels of government that essentially would be wasted, would be gone, if they were to completely abandon the previous procurement for the three locations in Virginia and Maryland and go back to the existing location,” he said.

But with the new spending bill’s provision, things are looking up for the state’s economy, which spent $300 million in traffic improvements in the county in preparation.

“All the work that’s gone into this effort, by the federal government, state governments and the county doesn’t have to be lost,” Iannucci said. “That’s really up to the folks at the federal government frankly getting a lot smarter than they’ve been in the last couple of months and making a decision that’s consistent with the security needs of the FBI employees.”

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John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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