GSA cancels search for new FBI headquarters in DC suburbs

WASHINGTON — Federal officials are scrapping plans to move FBI headquarters to a suburban location.

The decision, announced by the General Services Administration Tuesday morning, is the latest setback in an effort to relocate the bureau. The Washington Post first reported GSA’s decision.

A GSA spokesperson cited a funding crunch for the decision to cancel the headquarters search. Former president Barack Obama’s administration had sought $1.4 billion for the project this year, but lawmakers had only agreed to $523 million — leaving an $882 million funding gap.

GSA demanded that the project, estimated to cost $2.5 billion, be fully funded by Congress before moving ahead.

“Moving forward without full funding puts the government at risk for cost escalations and the potential reduction in value of the J. Edgar Hoover property that developers were to receive as part of this procurement,” the GSA spokesperson said in a statement.

The relocation plans would have been partially funded by trading the crumbling Hoover Building to a developer.

The FBI building project has been under discussion for years. The three final choices for the new site were Greenbelt and Landover, in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and Springfield, Virginia.

GSA said Tuesday the cancellation “does not need lessen the need for a new FBI headquarters” and that the agency will work with the FBI to address space requirements.

The cancellation could have a big impact on the three local communities vying for the project..

Both Prince George’s and Fairfax counties had made strong pitches for the building during the process.

The new headquarters would have brought about 11,000 jobs to the site that was picked.

A Fairfax County report in 2015 said that the average FBI worker would have a 28-minute commute to Springfield, compared with 36 to Landover and 37 minutes to Greenbelt.

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III said in March that the selection of either of his locations “would do the same thing for Prince George’s County that the Pentagon did for Northern Virginia.” He added, “Based on everything that the FBI and GSA and [the Office of Management and Budget] have told us that they want, our two sites are really the ones that meet their requirements.”

A huge project at the Greenbelt Metro station combining a hotel, office, retail and residential buildings has been on hold for years, pending the decision on the FBI site. Metro’s real estate director said last year that the project “would not move forward” if the FBI chose a different site.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Democrat representing Virginia’s 11th district, called the Post report “evidence of the consequences that flow from Donald Trump’s multiple conflicts of interest.”

Connolly cited, among other things, the president’s relationship with the GSA, the Trump International Hotel’s proximity to the J. Edgar Hoover Building, and the continuing fallout from former director James Comey’s dismissal.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat representing Maryland’s 8th District, called the reports “deeply troubling.”

“At a time when President Trump refused to fund a new headquarters in his budget and has repeatedly attacked the FBI and its employees, this would be unacceptable,” he said.

WTOP has reached out to two Republicans — Rep. Barbara Comstock, a Republican representing Virginia’s 10th District, and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan — and is awaiting comment.

The decision upset Fairfax County Supervisor Jeff McKay, who represents the Lee District.

He released this statement:

“I am shocked and appalled at the decision to cancel the relocation of the FBI headquarters. This project has been years in the making, and it would’ve provided a safer, more centralized headquarters for the hardworking men and women in the Bureau. Not only that, but it would’ve allowed Virginia and Fairfax County to continue to show their great partnerships with the federal government and its employees, and benefit our entire region.

“Although this news is not what we wanted, I am still proud of our hard work to revitalize downtown Springfield and make it into a top three finalist for the headquarters relocation. We will continue to build upon and improve Springfield.”

But District of Columbia Councilmember Jack Evans said the proposed plans to relocate the headquarters have been unworkable for years.

“I applaud the fact that somebody pulled the plug,” Evans said in a telephone conversation Monday evening.

Evans said he sees no reason to send the headquarters outside of the city, which has other locations that could work. He says he hopes the government will move quickly to identify a site for the headquarters in the city.

“I see no reason to ship it out to the outer regions,” Evans said of plans to move to Virginia or Maryland. “Nobody wants to go out there” he said of the proposed sites in those states.

The Associated Press and WTOP’s Kristi King and Jack Moore contributed to this report.


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