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NEW: FBI headquarters site selection now under federal investigation

The current FBI headquarters in D.C. (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) The federal government has officially decided to review its decision to award the FBI’s new headquarters to Prince George’s County, Maryland, over Fairfax County.

The inspector general’s office for the General Service Administration has initiated an evaluation of the “process and procedures” that led the agency to choose a 61-acre site near the Greenbelt Metro station for the FBI’s future headquarters campus, according to a letter sent to Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) today (Thursday).

“We intend to begin this work immediately and will share with you and the relevant committees a copy of any report which may result from this evaluation,” acting Inspector General Robert Erickson wrote.

The GSA announced on Nov. 9 that the Greenbelt site had prevailed over the former Landover Mall in Prince George’s County and its own Franconia Warehouse Complex (6808 Loisdale Road) in Springfield, concluding a combative search that spanned three presidential administrations.

Local, state and Congressional representatives in Virginia quickly blasted the decision, arguing that the GSA should’ve followed a panel recommendation that identified the Springfield site as the “most advantageous.” Those criticisms coalesced into a call for an investigation after a leaked letter showed that FBI Director Christopher Wray had opposed the Greenbelt location and raised conflict-of-interest concerns.

Wray suggested former GSA Commissioner of Public Buildings Nina Albert may have interfered with the process to favor the Greenbelt site, which is owned by Metro, her previous employer. The GSA disputed Wray’s claims, noting that it had reviewed Albert for possible ethics conflicts in 2021 and found that her history with Metro wasn’t disqualifying.

Warner and fellow senator Tim Kaine welcomed the inspector general’s announcement of an investigation in a joint statement with Virginia’s House of Representatives delegation, including Reps. Don Beyer, Gerry Connolly and Jennifer Wexton.

Given the overwhelming evidence suggesting that the General Services Administration (GSA) administered a site selection process fouled by politics, we agree that an inspector general investigation is the appropriate next step. We applaud the inspector general for moving quickly and encourage him to move forward to complete a careful and thorough review. In the meantime, the GSA must pause all activities related to the relocation until the IG’s investigation is complete.

A spokesperson for the GSA’s Office of the Inspector General confirmed the office has started an evaluation of the headquarters site selection in response to the request from members of Congress, which it is taking seriously.

“All inspectors general regularly receive requests to conduct oversight from Members of Congress and must regularly decide whether the subject matter of the request supports directing OIG resources to answer some, none, or all of the issues raised in the request,” the office said in a statement. “GSA OIG’s decision to start an evaluation reflects the importance of the FBI headquarters project and is consistent with our past work in this area.”

Currently located at 935 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in D.C., the FBI has been seeking a replacement for the aging J. Edgar Hoover Building for more than a decade now. The GSA initiated a search in 2012, but it got put on hold during Donald Trump’s presidency.

In a subsequent review, the Justice Department’s inspector general determined that the Trump administration’s push to keep the FBI headquarters in D.C. was not influenced by “improper considerations or motives.”

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