FBI director is potential hurdle in relocating agency to the suburbs, Cardin says

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The J. Edgar Hoover Building on Pennsylvania Avenue in D.C. Wikimedia Commons photo.

Maryland and Virginia leaders have opposing views when it comes to where the FBI should build its new headquarters.

Maryland representatives insist that Greenbelt and Landover make the most sense, while their counterparts across the Potomac River greatly prefer the third option identified by the General Services Administration, a site in Springfield, Va.

What regional leaders agree on is that the FBI must abandon its current building, a crumbling hulk on Pennsylvania Avenue, near the U.S. Capitol. They have been pushing the U.S. General Services Administration, the federal government’s property management arm, to move the agency out of D.C. for over a decade.

The CIA and the National Security Agency are both located in leafy, secluded suburban locations, and area leaders want the same for the FBI.

The Biden administration’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget request includes a provision requiring the head of GSA to make a decision about a new suburban headquarters, and congressional officials have said the agency could disclose its choice as early as September.

But in remarks to the Maryland Association of Counties conference last week, Sen. Ben Cardin (D) identified another potential hurdle to Maryland’s dream of luring the prestigious agency to Prince George’s County. He said FBI director Christopher Wray wants the agency to remain downtown.

“Maryland has the strongest offer. Make no mistake about it,” Cardin said. “But there’s a lot of politics. We’re having a problem with the FBI director, who doesn’t really want to move, so we’ll see what happens.”

The FBI did not respond to an inquiry Monday about the most recent developments related to the agency’s headquarters.

When congressional efforts to move the FBI started to gain traction, Wray floated a new proposal, suggesting the creation of a new suburban campus for the agency’s cyber workforce, which includes several thousand employees, while keeping a substantial portion of its employees in the District.

“The FBI can more effectively serve the American people from a headquarters located downtown,” the FBI told the Washington Post in a statement in April. “But our mission would be enhanced by a consolidated suburban cyber and technology campus within the national capitol region to serve as a command center for cyber operations, consolidate the FBI’s existing cyber and technology footprint, and accommodate future growth.”

Members of Congress were unmoved by the suggestion, and the two states continue to press for the entire agency to relocate.

“There is no higher priority that we have in regards to government location than the FBI,” Cardin told the MACo “town hall” in Ocean City. “Our full congressional delegation, everyone on Team Maryland, is very supportive of this.”

Virginia’s delegation, led by Rep. Gerry Connolly (D) believes the Springfield site is superior in part because it would be closer to where many FBI employees live. But Cardin said the two Maryland sites — at the Greenbelt and Landover Metro sites — are the standouts.

“Any reasonable outcome — fair outcome — on this will be (that) we will win this competition,” he declared flatly. “We have competition from Northern Virginia. I cannot tell you what’s going to happen. I can tell you that we made a very strong pitch for this.”

The senator said he expects the GSA to solicit requests from private sector landowners and developers “as early as the next few days,” with a final decision this fall.

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