WASHINGTON - The U.S. General Services Administration says it is launching an investigation into concerns about the selection of Maryland as the site for the FBI’s new headquarters after Director Christopher Wray suggested that the decision process may have been unfairly influenced.
GSA Acting Inspector General Robert Erickson announced the investigation Thursday in response to a Nov. 15 letter signed by nearly a dozen Virginia congressional leaders stating that the site selection process had been "fouled by political considerations and alleged impropriety."
The letter was signed by Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-Va.), and Reps. Don Beyer (D-Va.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), Jen Kiggans (R-Va.), Jennifer McClellan (D-Va.), Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.), and Rob Wittman (R-Va.).
The Virginia lawmakers allege that after receiving pressure from representatives for Greenbelt, Md. — the site selected for the new headquarters — the GSA began making changes to the site selection criteria and scoring rules.
They claim these changes were made despite objections from the FBI. The lawmakers say one June 26 memo from the FBI to the GSA said the original scoring criteria "best balanced the many wide-ranging elements considered for optimal site selection."
According to the lawmakers, Wray also raised concerns about the replacement of the GSA official tasked with confirming the recommendation of the site selection panel and certifying a final site selection.
"Director Wray, once again, raised serious objections to the change," the letter from the lawmakers read. "These concerns were never fully addressed by GSA."
The letter goes on to say that in August, the site selection panel made a unanimous decision to select Springfield, Va., as the home for the new FBI headquarters but the new Site Selection Authority overturned that decision, in part due to the new scoring changes.
According to the FBI, "the justification offered for those changes have been both varied and insufficient."
"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. 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," a joint statement from the Virginia lawmakers released Thursday said.
The announcement that Greenbelt had been selected as the location of the new FBI headquarters was announced on Nov. 8. The site is an empty 61-acre plot near the Greenbelt Metro Station.
In a statement sent to FOX 5, a General Services Administration spokesperson said: "GSA determined Greenbelt to be the best site because it was the lowest cost to taxpayers, provided the greatest transportation access to FBI employees and visitors, and gave the government the most certainty on project delivery schedule. It also provided the highest potential to advance sustainability and equity."
It’s not yet known how the investigation could impact the multi-billion dollar project that has been years in the making but it must be funded by Congress.
After nearly two decades of discussion about moving the FBI to a new headquarters, President Joe Biden said in 2022 that the J. Edgar Hoover Building could no longer support the long-term mission of the agency
Both Maryland and Virginia jumped at the opportunity to be the new home of the FBI. Now, the battle continues as Virginia hopes to shake Maryland’s win and get a second chance at housing the headquarters.
Members of Maryland's federal, state, and local governments responded in a joint statement Thursday, saying, "Let us be perfectly clear: the new FBI headquarters project is moving forward. The GSA selected Greenbelt for the new, consolidated FBI headquarters based on the fact that it is the best site. Any objective evaluation will find that the GSA arrived at this decision after a thorough and transparent process.
"After assessing the facts, the GSA determined that Greenbelt offers the lowest price and best value to taxpayers, the easiest access to public transportation, the most schedule certainty to ensure the FBI can move to a new headquarters that meets its mission and security needs as soon as possible, and the greatest opportunity to advance the Biden-Harris Administration’s equity goals. The GSA made its decision accordingly. Although some may not like that outcome, the GSA has clearly demonstrated that this process was transparent.
"For the sake of our national security and the hardworking men and women of the FBI, it is imperative that we move expeditiously to build a new, state of the art consolidated headquarters that meets the FBI’s vital national security mission."