MARYLAND MATTERS: Maryland lawmakers are making a final push to convince the federal government to relocate the headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to Prince George’s County. They’re planning a “Team Maryland” show of force during a meeting with federal officials on Wednesday morning.
Last week, Maryland state Sen. Ron Watson (D-Prince George’s) stood on the Senate floor to encourage his colleagues to join the effort.
“While [this] has been a great priority for us, and our governor calls it his personal priority, this is a Maryland priority,” Watson said Friday. “And no one can dispute how important it is to have this federal agency in the state of Maryland.”
Two of the three potential sites for a new and expanded headquarters are in Prince George’s County. The other site is in Springfield, Virginia.
The FBI has outgrown the building in Washington, D.C. that the agency — now with about 7,000 employees — has occupied since 1974.
On Wednesday, Maryland officials plan to make “final pitches” before representatives with the General Services Administration, the federal agency that will decide whether to relocate the FBI headquarters to a site in Greenbelt or Landover in Prince George’s or to the site Virginia.
Members of Maryland’s congressional delegation are scheduled to hold a press conference after the GSA meeting in Washington, D.C. Plans call for them to be joined by Gov. Wes Moore (D), Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller (D), Maryland Commerce Secretary Kevin Anderson, Maryland Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefeld and Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D).
The push to relocate the FBI, which began more than a decade ago, has created a squabble between the neighboring states vying to become home to the new headquarters.
Equity is a key aspect for both state’s pitches after President Joe Biden signed an executive order two years ago that calls for advancing equity for all races and for underserved and marginalized populations in federal agencies’ programs and policies to help those communities.
Virginia officials made their case last month, stating in a letter that the 58-acre site in Springfield sits on a warehouse complex owned by the GSA, close to a commercial airport and “a short walk” from the Franconia-Springfield Metrorail station.
The letter, signed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R), eight Virginia Democrats and one Republican in Congress, also notes that the site is in a diverse region; nearly 30% of Northern Virginia’s population is foreign-born population, double the national average.
Maryland leaders say Prince George’s represents the president’s equity goals more clearly, as it is one of the nation’s biggest majority Black jurisdictions.
“I think we can certainly meet those requirements as laid out by President Biden …looking at a lens of equity in the process,” said Del. Nicole Williams (D-Prince George’s), who resides in Greenbelt.
Williams and other officials say a change in some site criteria, announced in November, aids Virginia by specifying that the new FBI headquarters should be close to the agency’s academy in Quantico, which is about 27 miles from the Springfield location.
The estimated distance to Quantico from Landover site is 51 miles, and from Greenbelt is about 54 miles.
“That’s like playing the game [of football] and all of a sudden in the fourth quarter when you’re in the red zone and moving the goal post. It doesn’t make any sense,” Williams said.
Maryland’s U.S. Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D) and Ben Cardin (D) and U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-5th) led efforts to secure language in a December omnibus spending bill that includes $375 million toward the project. In addition, the bill required the GSA administrator, within 90 days of its passage, to “conduct separate and detailed consultations with individuals representing the sites…to further consider perspectives related to mission requirements, sustainable siting and equity, and evaluate the viability of the GSA’s site selection criteria for the FBI headquarters…”
The General Services Administration has outlined five criteria in the relocation project: FBI mission-related requirements; transportation access; site development flexibility; promoting, sustaining, siting and advancing equity; and cost.
According to the amended site plan, a selection panel will assess, compare and grade each site.
However, the equity benchmarks will not be compared by the selection panel comprised of two GSA employees and another with the FBI.
“Rather the panel members will review the information against policies and goals articulated in each of the [President Biden’s] Executive Orders,” according to the plan. Nine other non-voting members will serve as technical and legal advisors and a contracting officer will provide guidance, safeguard sensitive materials, review potential conflicts of interests and other duties.
Although Virginians tout the Springfield site’s proximity to the FBI academy and U.S. Department of Justice, Marylanders have expressed reasons why Greenbelt or Landover are best suited.
The 61-acre tract in Greenbelt already includes that city’s Metrorail station which is managed by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. The land has a walking/biking trail that leads to apartment and townhouse complexes nearby. Future renovation is also planned in the city’s Beltway Plaza Mall.
The Landover location occupies the most land with 80 acres on the former Landover Mall site inside the Capital Beltway. The land sits up the street from FedEx Field, home of the Washington Commanders, and along the Blue Line corridor that incorporates four Metrorail stations in Prince George’s. The Maryland Stadium Authority is charged with overseeing state investments of nearly $400 million to renovate the corridor and vicinity.
Del. Jazz Lewis (D-Prince George’s), who lives about a mile from the Landover site, said no remediation work would have to be done there to accommodate the new headquarters.
“It’s just a blank, empty slate waiting for its opportunity to shine, again,” he said. “I just believe that if we are thinking about both equity and moving forward for our country in how we make decisions, but also how do we do so responsibly for our taxpayers, the choice is really simple: Prince George’s County.”
Photo: The J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building in Washington, D.C., is in ill repair, and Maryland and Virginia are scrambling to relocate the headquarters in their jurisdictions. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.