ABC7: Va. lawmakers ask OMB to pause FBI headquarters relocation process amid GSA investigation

ABC7, JEANNE TYLER MOODEE LOCKMAN

A bipartisan group of lawmakers representing Virginia is requesting that the U.S. Office of Management and Budget pause the relocation process for the FBI headquarters as the General Services Administration (GSA) Office of Inspector General investigates the selection process for the new Greenbelt, Md. location, over Springfield, Va.

The request came after last week’s announcement that an investigation was underway, and was made in a letter signed by U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), and Representatives Don Beyer (D-VA), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Morgan Griffith (R-VA), Jen Kiggans (R-VA), Jennifer McClellan (D-VA), Bobby Scott (D-VA), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) and Rob Wittman (R-VA).

“It is vital that both GSA and the FBI fully cooperate and provide relevant information to the Inspector General’s review, and that they allow time and space for investigatory efforts to reach a thorough conclusion,” the lawmakers said. “We urge the Administration to pause efforts to advance this headquarters process, allowing for transparent and fair review.”

Also on Tuesday, a former GSA official at the center of criticism from these members of Congress, as well as FBI leadership, defended her decision to choose Greenbelt over Springfield.

Nina Albert, now D.C.’s acting Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, was asked about her decision-making process at an unrelated press conference Tuesday.

While she was a high-ranking official with GSA, she chose Greenbelt as the new FBI headquarters, despite a three-person panel unanimously choosing Springfield. Both FBI Director Christopher Wray and the Congressional delegation from Virginia have claimed she may have made this decision for political reasons, since it would benefit her former employer – Metro – since they own the Greenbelt land.

“Actually, everything is quite transparent and open-book,” Albert said. “GSA, on their website, has all of the documents that explain what my decision-making process was, what the site selection process was, and obviously I will cooperate because it’s very important the American people understand what went into that process.”

In those GSA documents, Albert outlined distance to mass transit and lower cost as deciding factors favoring Greenbelt, while the three-member panel pointed to distance to other FBI operations and airports as reasons favoring Springfield.

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The chairmen of the two U.S. House committees launching an inquiry into the site selection process have since sent a letter to Albert, requesting she appear for an interview with both committees, while also raising concerns about how her background played a role in her decision.

“Your previous work as a senior official at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) also raises serious concerns about impartiality given that the agency owns the parcel of land designated for the new facility Officials announced the investigation on November 30 in response to concerns raised by Virginia congressional leaders and a formal letter signed by Sens. Warner and Kaine, along with nine bipartisan representatives on November 15,” the letter stated.

FBI Director Christopher Wray also raised concerns about the fairness and transparency of the selection process, saying there was a potential “conflict of interest.”

“The decision bears significant impact on the law enforcement and national security missions of the FBI – GSA’s client agency on this project,” the Virginia lawmakers continued in their letter. “All of the parties involved, including GSA and the FBI, had previously stated publicly the need for a process that was fair, transparent, and determined by the merits of the prospective sites. In light of the objections from the FBI, there is concern that this standard was not met. This process must be paused to allow for a fair and transparent review to address these concerns.”

When officials announced the new location on November 8, Maryland leaders argued that the proposed 61-acre site would be next to the Greenbelt Metro station, making it convenient to the roughly 40% of FBI employees who live in the state.

In a statement shared after the launch of the GSA investigation, a group of Maryland lawmakers assured that the project would move forward and that the move to Greenbelt would be beneficial overall.

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