The Hill: Watchdog launches probe into FBI headquarters selection process

THE HILL, SARAH FORTINSKY

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the General Service Administration (GSA) is launching a probe into the agency’s site selection process for the new FBI headquarters.

The GSA announced the selection of Greenbelt, Md., to house the new FBI headquarters earlier this month, drawing fierce backlash from Virginia’s congressional delegation, which accused the administration of allowing “politics to taint the selection process.”

In a letter to Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) on Thursday, acting Inspector General Robert Erickson said his office is “initiating an evaluation of GSA’s selection of the site.”

“I have received your letter of November 15, 2023, expressing your concerns about the General Service Administration’s (GSA) site selection process for the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Headquarters site,” Erickson wrote in a letter to Warner, who formally requested the investigation in a letter on Nov. 15 to the OIG.

“Our objective will be to assess the agency’s process and procedures for the site selection to relocate the FBI Headquarters. 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,” Erickson added.

GSA said it welcomed the review in a statement to The Hill on Thursday.

“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 said.

The selection of Greenbelt came after a years-long process that ultimately left three finalists, including Landover, Md., and Springfield, Va. Members of Virginia’s and Maryland’s congressional delegations, along with state officials, lobbied hard for the headquarters, which will bring with it jobs and an economic boost.

In a statement Thursday, Warner and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) led a bipartisan group of Virginia members saying they “welcomed the news” that the OIG will investigate the selection process.

“Given the overwhelming evidence suggesting that the General Services Administration (GSA) administered a site selection process fouled by politics, we agree that an inspector general investigation is the appropriate next step,” the statement read.

“We applaud the inspector general for moving quickly and encourage him to move forward to complete a careful and thorough review. In the meantime, the GSA must pause all activities related to the relocation until the IG’s investigation is complete,” the statement continued.

The statement was signed Virginia Reps. Don Beyer (D), Gerry Connolly (D), Morgan Griffith (R), Jen Kiggans (R), Jennifer McClellan (D), Bobby Scott (D), Abigail Spanberger (D), Jennifer Wexton (D) and Rob Wittman (R).

The selection of Greenbelt, Md., came after GSA lowered the importance of proximity to FBI’s Quantico facility in the selection process criteria, decreasing its weight from 35 percent to 25 percent, thereby making Greenbelt a more favorable option.

FBI Director Christopher Wray reportedly told agency employees about his concern regarding “a potential conflict of interest” in the selection process, pointing to a senior GSA official’s previous employment with Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which owns the Greenbelt site.

The GSA has defended the Greenbelt selection, saying it “is fully consistent with the decision-making process as well as all laws, regulations, and ethical considerations.”

“GSA and FBI teams have spent countless hours working closely together over many months, so we’re disappointed that the FBI Director is now making inaccurate claims directed at our agency, our employees, and our site selection plan and process,” U.S. General Services Administrator Robin Carnahan said in a statement earlier this month.

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