House debates future of FBI headquarters

Local members of Congress prodded federal officials to consider their jurisdictions for a future FBI headquarters at a House subcommittee hearing Wednesday, all the while pressing for a politics-free decision.

General Services Administration officials are evaluating 35 responses the agency received this month in its search for ideas about how it might trade the dated J. Edgar Hoover Building, a prime development site, to secure a new FBI headquarters.

There was little argument that the FBI needs a new home during the hearing held by the House subcommittee overseeing public buildings. 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 office space.

Six local House members appeared at the hearing to lobby for their respective jurisdictions. A new FBI headquarters will also mean about 11,000 workers.


Completed in 1974, J. Edgar Hoover Building in D.C. was configured with vast amounts of paper storage, a firing range and a crime lab. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

House Minority Whip Steny H. 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 F. Edwards (D-Md.) said Prince George’s County was the ideal location.

Reps. James P. 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.

Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) said he did not want the GSA to require the FBI to relocate within 21 / 2 miles of the Capital Beltway, as a 2011 Senate resolution proposed, because 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 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 chairman, 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 likely will be months before the GSA reviews the ideas submitted and decides whether to issue a more targeted search for a private development partner.

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