Members of House jockey for FBI headquarters at hearing


The J. Edgar Hoover Building, where the FBI is currently headquartered. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press)

Officials at the General Services Administration are evaluating 35 responses the agency received March 4 in its search for ideas about how it might trade the dated J. Edgar Hoover Building — a prime development site — to secure a new headquarters for the FBI.

There was virtually complete agreement at the hearing, held by the House subcommittee overseeing public buildings, that the FBI needs a new home. At the time it was completed in 1974, the Hoover building was configured with vast amounts of paper storage, a firing range and a crime lab.

“These features, among others, now represent deficiencies,” said Dorothy Robyn, commissioner of the GSA’s public buildings service. Only about 1.3 million square feet of the 2.1 million-square-foot building can be used for what today’s FBI needs: office space.

Six local members of the House appeared at the hearing to raise the merits of their jurisdiction for the FBI and its roughly 11,000 headquarters jobs. Many of them also raised concerns that politics would cloud the process.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told the subcommittee that of FBI headquarters employees, 43 percent live in Maryland, 33 percent in Virginia and 17 percent in the District. (Neither GSA or FBI officials would confirm the numbers.) He and Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) said Prince George’s County was the ideal location for the agency. “We will try to make that case in the next months,” Hoyer said.

Reps. Jim Moran and Gerald E. Connolly, Democrats from Virginia, advocated for two sites: a federally owned warehouse in Springfield and the Center for Innovative Technology campus, in Herndon.

Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) said he did not want the GSA to require the FBI to relocate within two-and-a-half miles of the Beltway, as a 2011 Senate resolution proposed, because he said it would unfairly disqualify Loudoun and Prince William counties. “When you write that down you aren’t saying the name [of another location] but you are in effect forcing them to go,” he said.

Kevin Perkins, FBI associate deputy director, said that the agency was open to any sites that could meet the operational and security requirements. By consolidating 21 headquarters locations — many of them leased — into one 2.1 million-square-foot facility he estimated that the FBI could save $44 million annually.

Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.), the subcommittee’s chair, warned that although he recognized the FBI’s need for a new headquarters, “I do not imagine the committee writing a blank check.”

Robyn said it will be likely be months before the GSA reviews the ideas that were submitted and decides whether to issue a more targeted search for a private development partner.

Along with GSA Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini, Robyn has other hurdles to clear, including how to structure a deal that will not require up-front appropriations for a new building and what to do if the Hoover building does not fetch a high-enough price for a new facility. The GSA proposed a swap, and Robyn said that idea still appeared feasible.

Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz

Jonathan O'Connell has covered land use and development in the Washington area for more than five years.

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