Virginia members of Congress ask for investigation into site pick for new FBI headquarters

By: - November 15, 2023 7:57 pm

FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Eleven members of Virginia’s 13-member congressional delegation are asking the acting inspector general for the federal General Services Administration to launch an investigation into the agency’s site selection process for the new Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters.

“There is overwhelming evidence suggesting that the General Services Administration (GSA) administered a site selection process fouled by political considerations and alleged impropriety — one that was repeatedly curated to arrive at a predetermined outcome,” the Nov. 15 letter said.

The request followed the announcement last week that the FBI’s new headquarters will be located in Greenbelt, Maryland, rather than in Landover, Maryland, or Springfield, Virginia.

That decision, which was made by the GSA, has sparked a furious backlash from Virginia’s members of Congress and Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who have pointed to concerns raised by FBI Director Christopher Wray about “the fairness and transparency” of the selection process. In a letter to FBI staff about the Greenbelt choice shortly after it was publicized, Wray alleged that there may have been “a potential conflict of interest” involving a high-ranking GSA official who overrode an agency panel’s unanimous recommendation that the headquarters be located in Springfield.

“The FBI observed that, at times, outside information was inserted into the process in a manner which appeared to disproportionately favor Greenbelt, and the justifications for the departures from the panel were varied and inconsistent,” Wray wrote. “Moreover, with one immaterial exception, each of the senior executive’s deviations from the unanimous panel either benefited the Greenbelt site or disfavored the Springfield site.”

While Wray did not name the official in his letter, documents released by the GSA last Thursday identified the individual as Nina Albert, the agency’s former commissioner of public buildings and a prior employee of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which owns the Greenbelt site.

Virginia’s congressional delegation draws heavily on Wray’s account in its request for an investigation into what the signatories describe as “a fatally flawed procurement.”

“In defending the indefensible, GSA has decided to proceed with the selection of Greenbelt over the objections of its client agency, the FBI,” wrote the group, which included Virginia Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, Democratic Reps. Gerry Connolly, Bobby Scott, Don Beyer, Abigail Spanberger, Jennifer Wexton and Jennifer McClellan, and Republican Reps. Rob Wittman, Jen Kiggans and Morgan Griffith.

Maryland, Virginia lawmakers tussle over FBI HQ decision at congressional hearing

Republican Reps. Ben Cline and Bob Good did not sign onto the letter. Good weighed in on the controversy on X, writing, “We ought not build a new FBI building, borrowing & spending taxpayer money for a multibillion dollar facility larger than the Pentagon. Instead, we ought to be SCRUTINIZING the money spent by a compromised FBI that targets conservatives, parents, & faith groups.”

Plans for the FBI to move out of its aging and decrepit headquarters in downtown Washington, D.C. have been underway for almost two decades, with Virginia and Maryland competing against each other to secure the prize.

At a hearing held by the U.S. House Oversight and Accountability Committee Tuesday, GSA’s administrator and Maryland representatives defended the Greenbelt choice, saying there was no merit to the conflict of interest claim and that Greenbelt would present the least cost to taxpayers.

“I am proud of the work that our team did,” said GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan. “This was inevitable that someone was going to be disappointed, between two states that were working very hard to land this facility.”


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Sarah Vogelsong
Sarah Vogelsong

Sarah is Editor-in-Chief of the Mercury and previously its environment and energy reporter. She has worked for multiple Virginia and regional publications, including Chesapeake Bay Journal, The Progress-Index and The Caroline Progress. Her reporting has won awards from groups such as the Society of Environmental Journalists and Virginia Press Association, and she is an alumna of the Columbia Energy Journalism Initiative and Metcalf Institute Science Immersion Workshop for Journalists.