Local governments on the hunt for the FBI


The J. Edgar Hoover Building at 935 Pennsylvania Ave NW no longer meets the agency’s security requirements, according to a GAO report. (Rich Clement/Bloomberg)

Even though Congress has not yet authorized or funded a search for new headquarters for the FBI, local jurisdictions are strategizing about how best to lure the agency and its 12,000 employees to their turf.

A November report from the Government Accountability Office said the “deteriorating” J. Edgar Hoover Building on Pennsylvania Avenue was unable to meet the agency’s security requirements. The report suggested the agency consider consolidating employees from its 22 Washington area locations into a larger headquarters space.

But Congress has been slow to approve even existing lease or consolidation requests from the federal government, such as 690,000 square feet for the National Science Foundation. And it has drawn out funding for other major consolidations previously approved, such as the Department of Homeland Security headquarters project at St. Elizabeths hospital.

In December, a Senate committee passed a resolution that would authorize the GSA to seek a new headquarters facility on up to 55 acres within two miles of a Metro station and 2.5 miles of the Beltway, but neither the full Senate nor even a House committee has acted.

That has not stopped local government officials, however, from preparing plans, proposing sites and amping up rhetoric aimed at landing the agency should it become available, and should Congress choose to fund its relocation. In all likelihood, the battle will involve local governments subsidizing private development plans in order to offer the GSA the lowest price possible, just as they did in competing for corporate relocations such as the headquarters of Northrop Grumman and parts of the engineering and construction services firm Bechtel.

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III’s administration has created a working group of officials from the county’s department of planning and department of public works and transportation, as well as the county’s economic development corporation in order to coordinate a push for the FBI.

“In the event that both houses of Congress are in agreement about this and ready to move forward, we want to be ready to throw our helmet in the ring so to speak,” said Aubrey D. Thagard, assistant deputy chief administrative officer for economic development in Prince George’s.

“The good news is that there are plenty of places where that could be a real boost to the county,” Thagard added.

Maryland’s congressional delegation has also joined the fray, with Sen. Ben Cardin (D) and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D) telling the Baltimore Sun in December that they were working to see if the agency could leave the District for Maryland.

Not to be outdone, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution last week urging Virginia’s congressional delegation to take similar action and proposing a specific site for the project: a half-empty warehouse owned by the GSA near the Franconia-Springfield Metro station that was a contender to land Defense Department workers that instead were relocated to the Mark Center under the Defense Base Closure and Realignment process.

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