In 1941, with World War II underway in Europe and Asia, President Franklin D. Roosevelt recognized the challenges presented by a War Department that was spread out in dozens of temporary buildings on the Mall and around the area. Roosevelt approved Arlington County as the home for what eventually became the Pentagon. By doing so, he created a massive complex that kept this nation secure for decades, but he also created a dynamic economic force for Northern Virginia for decades to come.
Some 76 years later, our nation continues to face threats to our national security. Our threats today are terrorism, cyberwarfare, crime and corruption. And the agency on the front lines of our nation’s domestic security and foreign intelligence is the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Today, like the War Department in the 1940s, the FBI is haphazardly dispersed among as many as two dozen buildings, including many that lack security protections. The downtown FBI headquarters, the J. Edgar Hoover Building, is literally falling apart and was not built for the mission of the modern FBI, falling short on the technology, communications and coordination needed to fulfill its responsibilities. The FBI is in desperate need of a consolidated headquarters, and our nation is in desperate need of the most secure headquarters we can provide.
Two of the final three sites identified as potential locations for this consolidated, high-security FBI campus are in Prince George’s County. The third is in Springfield. The two sites in Prince George’s — the former Landover Mall property and the current Greenbelt Metro station parking lot — are best for the agency, best for the federal budget and best for the protection of this nation. They meet all FBI programming, logistical and security requirements and have superior amenities and needed resources for the FBI’s modern mission.
Of all the advantages our two sites have over the competing Virginia site, time and money are the most relevant. The Virginia site is occupied by two substantial federal agencies that would have to be relocated before the FBI could begin construction, creating a five-year delay in accessing the site and more than $210 million in additional expenses for the federal government. Our nation’s leaders cannot afford to waste that time.
Prince George’s County and Maryland, working closely together, have plans in place to allow expedited and timely development of the Greenbelt and Landover sites consistent with all requirements. Prince George’s and the state have made $300 million in commitments to fund the transportation-infrastructure improvements needed at these sites to support the FBI headquarters construction.
Relocating the FBI to one of the Maryland sites is also the best choice for regional growth and equity. For far too long, and for many indefensible reasons, there has been an unequal distribution of federal resources within the metropolitan area. Prince George’s County is home to less than 4 percent of the region’s federal office leasing space. We have more than 75,000 federal workers and only 25,000 federal jobs. One has to look no further than rush-hour traffic reports to see it is our residents who are disproportionately forced to endure Beltway congestion. Metro ridership data clearly shows the number of empty Metro cars heading to Prince George’s County every weekday morning.
It is clear that the best choice to address traffic congestion, help grow our region in an intelligent manner and provide value to the U.S. taxpayer is found in either of the two Prince George’s sites. It is imperative to the security of our nation that this decision is made now and the FBI is provided with a modern consolidated headquarters facility as quickly as possible to provide the best defense against criminals, terrorists, and foreign and domestic threats.
Just as the location of the Pentagon in Northern Virginia changed that area forever, the choice of a Prince George’s County site for the FBI would fundamentally reinvent this county.
The writer, a Democrat, is Prince George’s County executive.