ABC7: Va. Congressional delegation asking for investigation into FBI HQ site selection process

ABC7, CHRISTIAN FLORES

Members of the Congressional delegation representing Virginia sent a letter to the General Services Administration (GSA) requesting an investigation into how Greenbelt, Md. was selected as the site for the new FBI headquarters instead of the Springfield, Va. location.

Last week, the GSA announced the FBI headquarters will move from its current downtown D.C. location to Greenbelt, Md., next to the Metro station there.

However, Virginia leaders are raising suspicions that this decision was political.

In their letter, they cite concerns raised by FBI Director Christopher Wray about the site selection process and point to accusations of a high-ranking official being politically motivated to select the Maryland site and overrule a three-member panel that had previously unanimously chosen the Virginia location.

“There is overwhelming evidence suggesting that the General Services Administration (GSA) administered a site selection process fouled by political considerations and alleged impropriety – one that was repeatedly curated to arrive at a predetermined outcome,” the letter said. “The agency, instead, installed a political appointee as the Site Selection Authority. Director Wray, once again, raised serious objections to the change. Additionally, the FBI identified potential conflicts of interest that the appointee had related to the Greenbelt site, and raised concerns about potential impartiality. These concerns were never fully addressed by GSA. In August 2023, the site selection panel, comprised of two career GSA officials and one career FBI official, reached a unanimous decision to select Springfield, Virginia as the home for the new FBI headquarters. The new Site Selection Authority unilaterally overturned the decision of the panel, including by making changes to the scoring – contrary to GSA’s own site selection plan – which benefited consideration of the Greenbelt site, and hurt the Springfield site.”

U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., was one of the members who signed the letter. She told 7News that an investigation would provide more transparency into this selection that will have an impact on residents of both states.

“There are elements of that decision. Ultimately, the decision was to put it in Virginia. That decision was overruled by one individual, so members of the Virginia delegation, together in a very united front, are challenging the way that decision was made,” Spanberger told 7News on Wednesday, shortly after the letter requesting an investigation became public. “Any time there are going to be investments of federal contracts within the commonwealth or anyone else, the expectation I think every American – in this case, Virginians – should have is that the decision is fair and followed by particular guidelines. We do want resolution and understanding how one person was able to overrule the decision and negatively impact Virginia in doing so.”

During a press conference after the GSA’s announcement last week, Maryland leaders rebuffed the accusations of political motivations behind the decision – pointing to cost and proximity to the Metro station, since the new building is expected to take over the parking lot of the Greenbelt station.

“Those who didn’t win are upset,” said U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md. “A site that was a half a mile from Metro could not compete with a site that was 452 feet from Metro. A burdened site could not compete with costing $1 billion, at least, more to build. That is why the GSA made that decision: on the merits, not for political reasons, not for any other extraneous reasons, on the merits.”

The potential for economic benefits had set off a tug-of-war between the neighboring states over who would get the new headquarters.

At that same press conference, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said this decision would bring in more than 7,500 jobs and $4 billion of economic activity into the state.

Spanberger said there are several reasons why she and her colleagues wanted the new headquarters to move to Virginia.

“From a national security standpoint, for continuity of the FBI’s mission. They work frequently, at least from a national security perspective, with other intelligence agencies – many of which, in particular the CIA, are headquartered in Virginia. FBI agents and analysts train at Quantico in Virginia. Allowing them to execute on their missions rather seamlessly is important,” Spanberger said. “The economic benefit to Virginia would be that here would be the headquarters of a large federal agency that does vital work in keeping our country safe, that the local workforce who keep the lights on and keep that building going day-in and day-out would presumably be Virginians from Fairfax County, from Prince William County. The benefit to the local economy when anybody works in that building goes out to lunch or stops at the store on the way home, the impact would be tremendous.”

Maryland leaders said last week the next steps will be accepting bids to build the new headquarters.

7News On Your Side asked Spanberger if she believes the letter and possible investigation could actually overturn the decision, or at least stall construction in Maryland.

“I think that’s a number of steps past where we are right now, but I think the central challenge that we – the members of the Virginia delegation – face is the very clear reality that Virginia was chosen on the merits of the commonwealth and then one individual overruled that decision,” Spanberger said. “Getting to the bottom of how that was able to occur and how we can ensure it doesn’t happen in any other potential bids in the future is the primary element of our work at the moment.”

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