GSA Launching Investigation Into FBI HQ Decision

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In response to questions raised by Virginia politicians, the General Services Administration (GSA) has agreed to look into the site selection process that saw Greenbelt, Md., chosen as the future site of the new FBI headquarters. 

“Our objective will be to assess the agency’s process and procedures for the site selection to relocate the FBI headquarters,” Robert C. Erickson, Jr., acting inspector general of the GSA, wrote to Virginia Sen. Mark Warner in a letter on Thursday.

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After a lengthy years-long search, the GSA on Nov. 8 chose Greenbelt over Springfield, Va., with plans for the FBI to relocate from its current headquarters at the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington, D.C., where the bureau has been located since 1975.  

Immediately afterward, Virginia leaders and FBI Director Christopher Wray raised questions about the selection process that led to the site choice.

“There is overwhelming evidence suggesting that the General Services Administration administered a site selection process fouled by political considerations and alleged impropriety – one that was repeatedly curated to arrive at a predetermined outcome,” Virginia leaders wrote in a Nov. 15 letter to Erickson, and asked for an investigation into the matter.

The group, led by U.S. Rep. Gerald Connolly and Sens. Warner and Tim Kaine, pointed to how in August the site selection panel, composed of two career GSA officials and one career FBI official, unanimously chose Springfield, Va., as the future home for the new FBI headquarters. However, a new Site Selection Authority unilaterally overturned the panel’s decision by making changes to the scoring criteria, contrary to GSA’s own site selection plan. They argue those changes benefited Greenbelt and hurt the Springfield site.

“GSA changed the original site selection criteria — which had been developed by GSA experts, in accordance with the agency’s own best practices for site selection, in a way that favored the Greenbelt site, and did so over the objections of the FBI director,” they wrote. “Then GSA changed the person tasked with confirming the final site selection from a career official to a political appointee.”

The FBI identified potential conflicts of interest that the appointee had in relation to the Greenbelt site, and raised concerns about potential impartiality, according to an FBI memo by Wray that was picked up by multiple news outlets.

After the announcement of the new investigation, the Virginia congressional delegation applauded the action and called on the GSA to pause all activities related to the relocation until the investigation is complete.

“Given the overwhelming evidence suggesting that the GSA administered a site selection process fouled by politics, we agree that an inspector general investigation is the appropriate next step,” the Virginia politicians wrote. 

The search for a new FBI headquarters began under the administration of George H.W. Bush and continued under President Barack Obama, while the aging J. Edgar Hoover Building continued to deteriorate. President Donald Trump almost canceled the process, but congressional urging put it back on course in 2022.  

In September of that year, the GSA narrowed the choices from 30 potential sites to three: a 62-acre site adjacent to the Greenbelt Metro station and the former Landover Mall, both in Prince George’s County, and the 58-acre GSA-owned Franconia Warehouse Complex in Springfield, Va.

In Greenbelt, a 62-acre site would include not only the FBI headquarters, but also a mixed-use development that would include apartments, a hotel and retail offerings. A developer has yet to be named. 

Keith Loria can be reached at Kloria@commercialobserver.com.