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June 12, 2023

After FBI document shows preference for HQ relocation in Virginia, Md. officials blast off

Credit: Maryland Matters

An FBI document prepared for Maryland’s congressional delegation states the agency’s new headquarters should be relocated near its training academy in Quantico, Virginia.

The nearly five-page document, first reported this week by WUSA9, states that “the importance of proximity has remained a key element of the new FBI HQ project since its inception.”

The letter comes in response to questions Maryland officials had in March when they met with representatives of the U.S. General Services Administration, which will make the final decision soon on whether to build a new FBI building in Northern Virginia or at one of two sites in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

According to the document dated this month, about 544 FBI employees who work at a facility that would be folded into a new consolidated headquarters “made a trip through the Quantico gate” last year between July 4 to Sept. 2. The number of trips by those employees totaled 1,754.

The document notes the “data remains imperfect.”

The FBI headquarters is housed within the aging J. Edgar Hoover building in downtown Washington, D.C., built in the 1960s. The new headquarters could house an estimated 7,500 employees.

The agency’s national press office said in an email Friday afternoon that officials don’t comment on documents the FBI “may have provided to Congress.”

“We continue to work with GSA to undertake a fair and transparent site selection process to include collaborating on the appropriate site selection plan and criteria,” according to an agency statement. “We are confident in GSAs expertise to select a location that will meet the needs of our workforce, meet the mission of the FBI, and will be a good deal to the taxpayer.”

A representative from the GSA didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) said in a statement the FBIs recent response “remains inadequate.”

“This document from the FBI once again provides the same numbers they have given to the Maryland Delegation numerous times without answering our questions,” he said. “We continue to ask to why this small group of headquarters employees traveled between Quantico and the Hoover Building and how long their trip to Quantico lasted.”

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) said in a statement the “imperfect data” trips account for only 6% of the FBI workforce traveling to Quantico with any regularity.

Elected officials are fighting to relocate the FBI headquarters based on five factors laid out by the GSA: FBI mission-related requirements; transportation access; site development flexibility; promoting, sustaining, siting and advancing equity; and cost.

A plan for the site selection was amended last year, calling for the new FBI headquarters to be in proximity to the bureau’s academy in Quantico, Virginia. That criterion accounts for the highest among all five factors at 35%.

Maryland politicians have blasted the percentage for being that high and not giving enough emphasis to equity, especially when assessing Prince George’s as one of the largest majority-Black jurisdictions in the nation.

Gov. Wes Moore (D), in a statement, said the siting decision was a “legacy-defining opportunity” for the Biden administration to “lift up” a Black community “that has long been neglected.”

“If the Biden Administration undertakes a fair and rigorous process, Maryland is the best choice,” Moore continued.

Meanwhile, Virginia officials have argued Fairfax County, where the potential commonwealth site would be located, is “one of the most diverse communities in America.” U.S. Census Bureau data report that 21% of the county’s population is Asian, 17% Hispanic or Latino and 11% Black.

Maryland officials have stated relocating to Maryland would cost about $1 billion less, which Virginia officials have disputed, because of renovation work that would need to be done at the Springfield, Virginia, site. The tract of about 58 acres is already owned by the GSA near the Franconia-Springfield Metrorail station, Virginia Railway Express and other federal offices.

Maryland leaders have said the two Maryland sites occupy land ready more readily available for development.

The land in Landover occupies the largest tract, of 80 acres, near FedEx Field, home of the Washington Commanders. The land is also near the Blue Line corridor where the Maryland Stadium Authority will oversee nearly $400 million in investments to renovate that area.

The Greenbelt tract of 61 acres includes a Metrorail station owned by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, also known as Metro. In addition, Rep. Glenn Ivey (D-Maryland) said in an interview Friday that the land is within walking distance of a federal courthouse.

He said the FBI letter doesn’t mention cost. However, it does highlight “partnership engagements” for training, seminars and other conferences held at Quantico with various academies, institutes and the National Academy Associates (NAA) Youth Leadership Program.

“Most of the things that are on there [in Quantico] could be done in Prince George’s County as well,” Ivey said. “If we are looking where the rubber meets the road on a day-to-day basis, it’s in the federal courthouses. It’s in the FBI field offices. Our sites have better proximity than the Virginia site does to those offices.”

The majority Democratic Maryland Congressional delegation has criticized House Republicans for their attacks on the FBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Last month, GOP members sought to try and block FBI funding for the new headquarters.

The House Committee on Oversight and Accountability postponed a hearing Thursday to begin contempt proceedings against FBI Director Christopher Wray. The Republican-led hearing alleges the president or “immediate family members” received millions of dollars from foreign nationals or companies without oversight. Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said the documents contained a “debunked” conspiracy theory.

Maryland leaders also criticized Republican Virginia officials such as Gov. Glenn Youngkin for previous attacks on the FBI and the DOJ.

Youngkin posted a message on his personal Twitter account Friday morning, the day after former President Donald Trump (R) was indicted by a special counsel for mishandling classified documents at his Mar-a-Largo resort in Florida.

“These charges are unprecedented and it’s a sad day for our country, especially in light of what clearly appears to be a two-tiered justice system where some are selectively prosecuted, and others are not,” Youngkin said. “Regardless of your party, this undermines faith in our judicial system at exactly the time when we should be working to restore that trust.”

Rep. David Trone (D-Maryland) was direct in his criticism of Youngkin and Republican counterparts.

“We must ask ourselves: Why should the FBI headquarters be moved to a state where it’s unwanted and under threat by the state’s governor and Members of Congress? It’s outrageous and embarrassing,” Trone said in a statement. “In Maryland, we will always welcome the FBI and the hardworking Americans defending our country.”

Youngkin’s spokesperson Macaulay Porter said in statement that Virginia remains the best site.

“Virginia is well-positioned to support the FBI headquarters with a diverse workforce, extensive transportation network and close proximity to public and private sector partners,” she said. “Virginia’s competitive advantage is clear and partisan attacks won’t change that.”