Reports: GSA canceling search for new FBI headquarters site

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Washington, July 11, 2017 | comments
Meredith Somers and Jared Serbu

The long, long search for a new Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters is finally at its end. Not because the government has settled on one of the three sites in the running, but because the General Services Administration has decided to cancel the project altogether.

GSA is expected to formally notify the three developers who had proposed different headquarters sites in the Washington, D.C. suburbs on Tuesday that it is ending the competition that each had poured millions of bid and proposal dollars into, agency officials told the Washington Post and the Washington Business Journal Monday evening on the condition of anonymity.

The federal government’s decision leaves no clear path toward replacing the J. Edgar Hoover building, the crumbling Pennsylvania Avenue edifice that senior FBI leaders have been lobbying to permanently evacuate for more than a decade over concerns about its physical integrity, inability to effectively house a modern workforce and concerns about vulnerability to terrorist attack.

A final selection for a new headquarters had already been delayed several times because of hesitation on Capitol Hill about the overall project’s price tag. The Obama administration had proposed to partially defray the costs by trading the downtown Washington real estate upon which the Hoover building now sits to the same developer chosen to build the new facility, but the government’s share was still estimated to be well north of $1 billion at any of the potential construction sites.

After having winnowed the field to three developers’ proposals — one each in Springfield, Virginia; Greenbelt, Maryland; and Landover, Maryland — GSA postponed a final award late last year and again in March because appropriators had not yet allocated the funding needed to begin the initial stages of the project, including the environmental reviews needed to prepare the new site for construction. And in what may have been a foreshadowing of today’s news, the Trump administration did not include any funds for the new FBI project in its 2018 budget proposal.

But lawmakers representing the D.C. region had hoped that the funding impasse had been yet another bump in the road for the project, and seemed to be caught off-guard by the news that the administration was abandoning it altogether.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said he had not been aware of GSA’s decision to end the competition before it was publicly reported on Monday evening.

“I think this process is going to discourage other private entities from wanting to bid on this kind of operation,” Connolly said in an interview with WTOP, Federal News Radio’s sister station. “Having invested millions of dollars up-front to compete and having gone through the process in good faith, I think they’re going to conclude that the federal government is an unreliable partner, and it’s capable of pulling the plug after all of that time and money is expended.”

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) also said he had not been notified about GSA’s decision to end the search for a new headquarters.

“Reports that the Trump administration would pull the plug on a new FBI headquarters — something desperately needed for America’s national security — are deeply troubling and something I would strongly oppose. At a time when President Trump refused to fund a new headquarters in his budget and has repeatedly attacked the FBI and its employees, this would be unacceptable.”
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