In March, a funding bill passed by Congress ordered the General Services Administration to begin the process of selecting a suburban location for a new FBI headquarters, with a goal of having the new site selected by the end of the fiscal year.
With a new fiscal year starting Oct. 1, the GSA, which acts as the federal government’s landlord, likely won’t meet that goal. But it appears to be moving closer to making a final decision.
Earlier this summer, the GSA signaled that the sites in Greenbelt and Landover, in Maryland, and Springfield, Virginia, all still qualified.
In recent days, the GSA has published a scoring system that a panel of three people — two from the GSA and one from the FBI — will use to select the final location.
Five criteria, all weighted differently but which add up to 100 points, will be used to rank the three sites. The highest value is described as FBI mission requirements, which is worth 35 points. The factors that determine which site best helps meet that criteria are proximity to the FBI’s training academy in Quantico, proximity to other FBI offices in the area and proximity to DOJ headquarters in downtown D.C.
The Springfield site has a clear advantage there.
Transportation access is worth 25 points. The sub-criteria there measure each site’s walking distance from Metro, MARC, VRE or bus lines, and their proximity to either of three major airports servicing the DMV.
Two other criteria are each worth 15 points: Site development and flexibility will be scored on what’s there now and how each individual site can handle future changes or expansion, as well as how fast the government could begin construction.
In addition, 15 points will be awarded to the site that best promotes sustainability, by strengthening “the vitality and livability of the communities in which federal facilities are located,” and how they “advance racial equity for underserved communities.”
The final 10 points will be awarded to the site based on cost: How much does the government have to pay for the land, and how much will construction costs be?
Details of the scoring system elicited reactions from congressional offices representing both sides of the Potomac River.
“The selection criteria published by GSA and the FBI place the highest premium on the new headquarters being at the nexus of other FBI assets in the region, most notably the FBI Academy at Quantico. That is Virginia’s obvious strength, as we have said all along,” said Virginia Rep. Gerry Connolly, in a statement to WTOP. “Our location best serves the mission of the FBI, which should be the top priority in choosing a site — as GSA and the FBI reaffirmed with their site selection criteria.”
The panel that makes the decision will ultimately rank each site using a color-coded system as they determine which best fits the criteria. The site that is most advantageous to the government will be marked with blue, second most will be given a green rating, and third most will be given a yellow rating.
The three voting members will assign a color to each sub-criterion, and then meet together to determine how each of the five criteria ultimately rank.
“The Maryland Congressional Delegation will continue to work with the state of Maryland and Prince George’s County to bring the new, consolidated FBI Headquarters to one of the two Maryland sites — Greenbelt or Landover,” Maryland Congressman and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said in a statement to WTOP. “The Maryland sites offer the best opportunity for the FBI to complete its vital national security mission while also advancing the goals of security, equity, and access to transportation.”
In another statement, Maryland Rep. Anthony Brown said, “Prince George’s County remains the best location for the FBI’s new consolidated headquarters. For decades, Prince George’s County, the largest historically Black jurisdiction in the National Capital Region, has gone overlooked by federal agencies in investment and in locating good-paying jobs in our communities. These inequities persist despite Prince George’s boasting a talented workforce, modern infrastructure, and proximity to core national security interests.”
Brown said locating the FBI headquarters in Prince George’s County would help spur economic growth there.
In addition, GSA has confirmed in recent statements that it will be looking for a new office downtown to house some FBI headquarters personnel. Throughout the process, there has been resistance to a move to the suburbs from some in FBI leadership, in part because of a desire to remain downtown and within walking distance to the Department of Justice.
Right now, the FBI’s downtown headquarters is across the street from the Department of Justice. Finding a new downtown office that allows some FBI leaders to stay close to DOJ is also part of GSA’s new task.
In its most recent filings, GSA offers no hint as to when a final decision will be made, beyond saying sometime “in the coming months.”