After years of back-and-forth and speculation about where the new FBI headquarters will be located, the General Services Administration has confirmed Wednesday that a site in Greenbelt, Maryland, has been selected.
Maryland and Virginia both lobbied hard for the chance to be the new headquarters, and the selection of Greenbelt quickly sparked a series of angry reactions from Virginia officials.
The Washington Post first reported the news.
A General Services Administration spokesperson said in a statement that “GSA determined Greenbelt to be the best site because it was the lowest cost to taxpayers, provided the greatest transportation access to FBI employees and visitors, and gave the government the most certainty on project delivery schedule. It also provided the highest potential to advance sustainability and equity.”
“GSA looks forward to building the FBI a state-of-the-art headquarters campus in Greenbelt to advance their critical mission for years to come,” GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan said in the statement, calling the selection an “important milestone” following a multiyear effort.
Frustration from Virginia officials
Virginia officials expressed disappointment over the Maryland choice.
“We’re deeply disappointed that despite the clear case that Virginia is the best home for the FBI, the Administration went a different direction,” Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine said in a joint statement Wednesday night.
Rep. Gerry Connolly, whose district includes one of the potential sites in Fairfax County, echoed the Virginia senators’ criticism, saying that the GSA has “shamelessly caved to political pressure,” leading to the 11th-hour change by the agency of the criteria for site selection.
“We spent years appropriately criticizing the last Administration for politicizing the new FBI headquarters — only for a new Administration to come in and allow politics to taint the selection process,” Warner and Kaine said.
In 2022, GSA indicated it had narrowed down its search to three possible sites — Greenbelt and Landover in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and Springfield in Fairfax County, Virginia.
Officials in Virginia touted Springfield for its proximity to the FBI Academy in Quantico.
Later, the GSA, which acts as the federal government’s landlord, released a contentious scoring system that would be used to help make the final selection. The scoring system drew rowdy debate from lawmakers in Virginia and Maryland with accusations of an unfair process and political interference.
The new criteria gave more weight to cost and social equity concerns than closeness to the FBI Academy.
Maryland officials respond to claims the decision was politicized
Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks thanked the GSA for being “so thoughtful in this decision” while responding to the backlash from Virginia officials.
“I think after hearing from both Virginia and Maryland, GSA was able to make a decision, which we believe was always the right decision based on the criteria that had been set out for at least the last decade,” Alsobrooks said while on a call with reporters.
“Greenbelt, for example, is the only site that is located at a transportation hub at the Greenbelt Metro,” she said.
Maryland Rep. Glenn Ivey, who represents the 4th congressional district where Greenbelt is located, echoed arguments from Alsobrooks and Gov. Wes Moore that the location will save taxpayers money.
“It’s hard to argue with $1 billion to $1.5 billion in savings for federal taxpayers,” he told WTOP. “That’s the difference between the cost of building it in Prince George’s County as opposed to building in Virginia.”
Alsobrooks said that’s because the Maryland location is “shovel ready,” whereas the proposed Virginia location would require buildings be demolished or relocated.
Sweet victory for Maryland officials
In the past, Maryland leaders highlighted how the locations in Landover and Greenbelt “could provide a bigger economic and employment impact than it would in Virginia” and would support the Biden-Harris administration’s “commitment to equity.”
“It was hard to deny that the federal government had already spent, over the last 15 years, $460 billion in Virginia [and] had only spent $120 billion investing in Prince George’s County,” added Alsobrooks.
The county executive said, “we know that these investments do yield income and allow for job growth to happen.”
About 7,500 jobs are connected to the facility.
When it came to the issue of equity, Alsobrooks said Virginia officials were “very confused.”
“When we talked about equity, they just started talking about counting heads — how many Black or brown people lived in a jurisdiction,” she said.
Maryland senators, representatives, Moore and Alsobrooks called the announcement a “historic moment.”
Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones said the “GSA got it right” and that the state’s “commitment to the FBI has been unwavering” in a social media post.
“After a thorough deliberation process and consideration of stakeholder input, the GSA selected the Greenbelt site as the location for the new FBI headquarters,” the Maryland leaders said in a joint statement. “The GSA’s analysis of the facts and its consultations revealed that the Greenbelt site is the most fitting site of the three final candidates when all factors were considered together.”
“It’s a big win for Prince George’s County, kudos to [Congressman] Steny Hoyer,” Ivey said. “He’s been working on this for more than a decade, and it’s great to see it finally come to fruition.”
Rep. Steny Hoyer has long called for the headquarters to come to Maryland and urged the GSA to alter its criteria for picking a headquarters site — which he argued unfairly favored Virginia before its most recent update.
The bureau has been in its location on Pennsylvania Avenue in D.C. since 1975, but talks about moving the headquarters has been ongoing for at least a decade.
The move was largely put on hold under President Donald Trump’s administration, when FBI officials in 2019 recommended keeping the headquarters in D.C. across the street from the Justice Department.
When President Joe Biden took office, discussions around moving the FBI headquarters again picked up momentum.
WTOP’s Mike Murillo and The Associated Press contributed to this report.