Local lawmakers annoyed by change to criteria for new FBI HQ location

The General Services Administration Warehouse in Springfield, potential site of the FBI’s new headquarters (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

There has been another change in criteria for determining where the new FBI headquarters will go, prompting annoyance and even anger from several local officials.

Late last week, the General Services Administration (GSA) announced that it will now weigh cost and “advancing equity” as factors of higher importance when deciding if the new FBI headquarters will end up in Springfield or one of two sites in Prince George’s County, Maryland, per an updated site selection plan.

“The consultations with the delegations provided valuable feedback, and helped us refine our plan to maximize value for the FBI and the public,” said GSA commissioner Nina Albert in a press release. “While the core elements of the site selection plan remain the same, we have updated the plan to incorporate new government-wide directives and to increase the consideration of cost to deliver better value for taxpayers. We believe these adjustments will support a process that results in a site that best serves the FBI and the public for years to come.”

The federal agency also lowered the importance of transportation accessibility and the proximity of being near other FBI facilities (like Quantico, which is in Virginia). Proximity remains the highest determining factor, though, sitting at 25%.

This is the second time in less than a year that the GSA “updated” its criteria for selecting the location of the new headquarters. It also comes a little over a month after the FBI stressed the importance of having a headquarters close to its pre-existing facilities.

GSA anticipates making a decision on where the new FBI headquarters will go “in the coming months,” the press release notes. Some had anticipated a decision was going to be announced in March, but that didn’t happen.

The late-stage shift has prompted a number of Virginia lawmakers to speak out, arguing that this change is a result of political inference and constant lobbying from Maryland officials seeking to gain an edge for the Prince George’s sites.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, whose 11th District includes the Springfield site, was particularly incensed. In a statement posted on social media, Connolly accused Maryland of trying to “cook the books” and the GSA of caving to political pressure.

Virginia Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner put out a combined statement reiterating their confidence that the FBI will still end up moving to Fairfax County, coupled with worries that the change will further delay a decision that’s been in the works for years.

The GSA didn’t pluck its initial criteria out of thin air — it spent years talking to experts and carefully deliberating on what is best for the mission of the FBI. While we are concerned that these changes to the criteria will further delay what has already been a drawn-out, decade-long process to select a new site to replace the dilapidated headquarters downtown, we remain confident that Virginia continues to be a home run in every category, and encourage the GSA to draw this process to a close sooner rather than later.

In a statement to FFXnow, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay also expressed his displeasure, particularly with the likelihood of another delay of a final decision.

“Despite last minute changes to the selection criteria, I still believe the Springfield site in Fairfax excels in all of the criteria and is the best choice for the FBI, its employees, and taxpayers,” McKay wrote. “Our advantages on transportation, proximity, cost and equity are clear. We know our site is the best and all these criteria changes in the eleventh hour do not seem transparent or fair. Every time there is a delay, it is the critical workforce of the FBI that suffers and that needs to end. I urge the GSA and FBI to make their selection without further delays.”

McKay has previously accused Metro of playing sides since one of the Prince George’s County sites is a Greenbelt property owned by the agency.

The search for a new FBI headquarters location dates all the way back to the Bush administration, when space and security concerns post-9/11 prompted the GSA to start looking for a new building.

GSA announced in 2014 that three sites were finalists — two in Prince George’s County and a 58-acre site in Springfield currently home to a GSA-owned warehouse complex. It’s been a battle ever since, despite then-president Donald Trump nearly canceling the search in 2017.

Earlier this year, both Virginia and Maryland delegations met with the GSA for their final pitches.

Where ever it goes, a new FBI headquarters is expected to bring upwards of 7,500 jobs, millions of dollars to the local economy, and bragging rights.