ABC7: Investigation opened into FBI HQ site selection process

ABC7, WINSTON ROGERS & NICK MINOCK

The General Services Administration (GSA) Office of Inspector General is looking into concerns raised by Virginia congressional leaders with the selection process for the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) new Greenbelt, Maryland location, officials announced Thursday.

The investigation was started following a formal letter signed by U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine along with nine bipartisan representatives back on Nov. 15, according to documents from members of the Va. delegation.

“We intend to begin this work immediately and will share with you and the relevant committees a copy of any report which may result from this evaluation,” GSA’s Acting Inspector General Robert Erickson issued in a letter to Sen. Mark Warner.

“GSA continues to welcome a review of our decision-making process for the FBI headquarters site selection. As a part of our longstanding commitment to transparency, we proactively and publicly released our site selection plan, decision-making materials, and results of our legal review evaluating the FBI’s concerns. We carefully followed the requirements and process, and stand behind GSA’s final site selection decision,” a GSA spokesperson told 7News.

It’s the most recent action from Virginia leaders, who’ve expressed frustrations over the recent decision by the GSA to move the FBI’s headquarters to a proposed site over the Greenbelt Metro station. Leaders argued that the criteria for the site selection had been designed to immediately favor the Maryland site. 

“As identified by the FBI, there existed a potential conflict of interest with that political appointee, tied to the Greenbelt site,” text from that Nov. 15 letter read. “The political appointee then overturned the decision of a panel of career officials who unanimously selected Springfield, in part by changing how certain criteria were calculated and how certain factors were considered, contrary to what had been previously outlined to the public and to Congress by GSA.”

The Virginia leaders cited an internal letter from FBI Director Christopher Wray, who also had concerns about conflicts of interest in the site.

On Nov. 8, Officials announced the new location, stating that Maryland met all the necessary site criteria. Local leaders there argued that their proposed 61-acre site would be placed next to the Greenbelt Metro Station and would be convenient to the roughly 40% of FBI employees who already live in the state.

In a statement issued by a group of Maryland lawmakers Thursday afternoon, including Congress members, and state and county leaders, they assured that the project for the new headquarters would move forward due to them meeting those site standards, and that the move to Greenbelt would be beneficial overall. 

“The GSA made its decision accordingly. Although some may not like that outcome, the GSA has clearly demonstrated that this process was transparent,” the Maryland group’s statement read. “For the sake of our national security and the hardworking men and women of the FBI, it is imperative that we move expeditiously to build a new, state-of-the-art consolidated headquarters that meets the FBI’s vital national security mission.”

“Let us be perfectly clear: the new FBI headquarters project is moving forward, “said the Maryland Delegation, in a statement. “The GSA selected Greenbelt for the new, consolidated FBI headquarters based on the fact that it is the best site. Any objective evaluation will find that the GSA arrived at this decision after a thorough and transparent process.”

On Tuesday, both sides argued over the wording of the official report, Virginia lawmakers are calling it an investigation, while Maryland lawmakers simply refer to it as an evaluation. 

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