Maryland makes final pitch for FBI HQ, but is the scoring system used to decide location changing again?

Leaders at the local, state, and federal levels in Maryland spent hours with officials from the General Services Administration and the FBI on Wednesday to make one last push for the agency’s new headquarters to be located in Prince George’s County.

It’s a process that’s been off and on for more than a decade but seems closer to finally becoming a reality, though exactly when a site will be chosen still isn’t clear.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (at lectern) is flanked by Maryland officials and lawmakers March 8, 2023. (WTOP/John Domen)

But Maryland leaders, who are pushing for the new headquarters to be located in Greenbelt or Landover, left their meeting Wednesday convinced that one of their biggest gripes — that changes to the scoring process made last year tilted the process unfavorably toward Virginia’s site in Springfield — has been heard.

“I am hopeful that the GSA and the FBI will, in fact, go back to the drawing board with the taxpayer considered,” said Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer. “GSA assured us and the FBI assured us they would go back to the table, based upon the information that we have all given them, and reassess the correctness of this process.”

If Maryland leaders have their way, proximity to the FBI Academy at Quantico and other FBI facilities would not be the most heavily weighted factor in the decision about where to locate the headquarters. Instead, it would be given the same weight as the other factors, such as cost, equity concerns, access to transportation, and site development and flexibility.

Currently, the cost to taxpayers accounts for 10% of the equation, the lowest of anything factoring into the decision.

“I think taxpayers would be shocked,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen.

But even if the scoring system is changed, there’s no indication what those changes could look like.

“The only indication they gave to us is at the time of the decision, they wanted to make sure that other elements were being factored in,” said Maryland Gov. Wes Moore. “They were pretty clear that that decision that was made in September is not locked in stone and that they would go back and be able to reevaluate everything after speaking with us and speaking with Virginia and we as a delegation and we at ‘Team Maryland’ plan to hold them to that.”

Moore, as well as Van Hollen and Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, also said they got no pushback when pointing out that the cost of relocating to Virginia would cost American taxpayers over $1 billion more than it would to locate in Prince George’s County.

But the county also impressed upon the two agencies what the president has said about equity, and how that should factor into the decision.

“President Biden has said very clearly in his executive orders that he expected equity to be a part of the discussion now about how we balance federal assets, how we place federal assets in ways that do not continue the systemic disparity that we have seen over time,” said Alsobrooks. “The equity that we are talking about is the equity that has seen the federal government spend upwards of $460 billion in (Fairfax County), Virginia and only $121 billion in Prince George’s County.”

She said Virginia leaders have been confusing diversity with equity.

“We are very clear that this is a legacy-defining decision for the Biden Administration,” said Moore. “And we believe when the decision is made to move the building into the state of Maryland it will be a continuation of that commitment and you can see how that executive order — and the words that have been put together — this is what it looks like in action.”

“I feel positive coming out of here in the sense that GSA said we raised a lot of points that they had not fully considered and that they’re open to re-evaluating the weighting of the criteria,” said Van Hollen.

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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