by Madison Hirneisen
Gov. Glenn Youngkin and members of the Virginia congressional delegation made their case Thursday for why the Federal Bureau of Investigation should build their new headquarters in the commonwealth, arguing the location is a better fit than either of the sites under consideration in Maryland.
Virginia officials made presentations to members of the General Services Administration and the FBI in Washington D.C. Thursday regarding a site in Springfield, Virginia, that is one of three locations under consideration for the FBI’s new headquarters. The other two locations under consideration are both located in Prince George’s County in Maryland.
U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-VA, argued Thursday Virginia’s site in Springfield meets each criteria point spelled out in the GSA’s Site Selection Plan – the FBI’s Mission Requirement, transportation access, site development flexibility, advancing equity and cost. In a letter to the GSA last month, Virginia officials touted the site’s proximity to public transportation, the region’s diverse population and the potential for “cost savings on land acquisition” because the federal government already owns the site.
“We think we are more successful than the Maryland site on cost and compatibility,” Warner told reporters Thursday.
Virginia’s meeting came one day after Maryland officials met at the GSA headquarters in D.C., where they argued the existing site selection criteria puts a “finger on the scale” in favor of Virginia. Maryland officials raised particular concerns about site selection criteria that outlines “proximity to Quantico” as a point of consideration.
Maryland officials also told reporters Wednesday that, according to their own estimates, building the new headquarters in Virginia would cost taxpayers $1 billion dollars more than building at either of the sites in Maryland. Virginia officials, however, shot back at this figure during a press conference Thursday, calling those estimates incorrect.
“Those cost estimates are totally wrong, out of left field and have no basis,” Warner said Thursday.
The site under consideration in Springfield, Virginia, is a 58-acre plot that is already owned by the federal government. The site has an existing tenant, but lawmakers insisted the tenant has already decided they are moving away from the site “regardless of what happens with the FBI decision.”
Maryland officials also told reporters Wednesday they asked the GSA to consider several changes to the existing site selection criteria, including that each criteria point be considered at equal weight. Currently, serving the FBI’s Mission is weighted at 35%, transportation is 25%, flexibility is 15%, equity is 15% and cost is 10%.
Warner cast doubt the GSA would consider changing or re-weighing any of the criteria. The Senator recalled negotiation surrounding the final version of the budget act, where he said some members of the Maryland delegation were trying to “force” the GSA to reweigh the criteria, but they ultimately compromised and required the consultations that took place this week.
“The law is quite clear,” Warner said. “If they follow the law, no re-weighing of the criteria.”
Neither Maryland or Virginia officials had any idea of the timeline for the final decision on where the new FBI headquarters will be built. The new facility will have roughly 7,500 jobs tied to it.
Maryland officials underscored Wednesday this decision will have a “legacy-defining” impact on the Biden administration, saying they hope the president will weigh in on the decision. Virginia leaders, however, said the president’s opinion would put a “thumb on the scale.”
“We don’t think asking somebody to put their thumb on the scale makes any sense here,” Kaine said Thursday. “The FBI and GSA have set out criteria that are good criteria, and they should follow those criteria…We want to avoid thumbs on the scale.”
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Madison Hirneisen is a staff reporter covering Virginia and Maryland for The Center Square. Madison previously covered California for The Center Square out of Los Angeles, but recently relocated to the DC area. Her reporting has appeared in several community newspapers and The Washington Times.
Photo “Glenn Youngkin” by Glenn Youngkin. Background Photo “FBI Building” by cisko66. CC BY 3.0.