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Virginia and Maryland debate new criteria for FBI headquarters

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(The Center Square) — In response to talks with Maryland and Virginia officials, the GSA – the government agency tasked with choosing a location for the new FBI headquarters – has again adjusted its criteria, leaving the neighboring states still jockeying for selection after years of indecision.

It took a decade of complaints about the security, space and functionality of the existing Washington, D.C., FBI headquarters for Congress to appropriate funds and authorize the search for a new one in 2012.

In 2014, the General Services Administration narrowed its list of 35 possible sites down to three: Greenbelt or Landover, both in Prince George’s County, Maryland, or Springfield, Virginia.

With the Fiscal Year 2022 Appropriations Act, Congress directed the GSA to make its final selection. The GSA published the criteria for the decision in its Site Selection Plan in September and then amended the plan in November. Then Congress directed the GSA, in the Fiscal Year 2023 Appropriations Act, to gather remaining information by consulting with representatives from both states, which was done in March.

But Maryland leaders weren’t satisfied with the criteria or the weight placed on them.

At the time, the criteria were: serving the FBI’s mission 35%, transportation 25%, flexibility 15%, equity 15% and cost 10%.

“Flexibility” refers to the campus’ potential to expand, if needed, and its ability to adjust to “future programmatic changes,” as well as ease of acquiring the property and starting construction. “Equity” refers to “advancing racial equity and support for underserved communities through the Federal Government” and to “sustainable land use,” facilitating climate change resilience and “equitable development that promotes environmental justice and spurs economic opportunity for disadvantaged communities.”

In particular, as The Center Square previously reported, one sub-criteria under missional requirements was the “proximity of the site to the FBI Academy Quantico” in Virginia.

Maryland representatives felt that was an unfair consideration, and they also thought that the criteria – and equity in particular – should be more evenly weighted.

The major five criteria remain the same, but the GSA has updated the weightings to 25%, 20%, 15%, 20% and 20%, respectively, placing a greater value on equity and the project cost.

“The consultations with the delegations provided valuable feedback, and helped us refine our plan to maximize value for the FBI and the public,” said Nina Gilbert, GSA commissioner of the Public Buildings Service. “We have updated the plan to incorporate new government-wide directives and to increase the cost consideration to deliver better value for taxpayers.”

The Landover location is the largest site, at approximately 80 acres, and is privately owned. The Greenbelt location is 61 acres, located at the Greenbelt Metrorail Station, and is owned by the state and the

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. The Springfield location is 58 acres in Fairfax County, Virginia, and is currently owned by the GSA.

While Springfield is closest to the Ronald Reagan International Airport and the FBI at Quantico, the Greenbelt and Landover locations are less strong economically and would more clearly meet the GSA’s equity criteria.

Maryland representatives also argued that “it would cost taxpayers $1 billion more” to build at the Springfield site than at either Maryland location.

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