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GSA Changes FBI HQ Selection Criteria, Boosting Factors That Maryland Pushed

The FBI's current HQ, the J. Edgar Hoover Building on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The federal government is still working on the years-long process of choosing a new location for the FBI headquarters, and it has just revised its criteria in a move that appears to favor Maryland over Virginia.

The General Services Administration Friday afternoon released an updated set of selection criteria that increased the importance of project cost and equity, while reducing the importance of proximity to other FBI facilities and transportation access. 

The proximity factor had previously been given a 35% weighting, but the new selection criteria decrease that to 25%, while transportation access dropped from 25% to 20%. The factor concerning sustainability and equity rose from 15% to 20% weighting in the new criteria, while the weighting of cost rose from 10% to 20%. The final criteria, site development flexibility and scheduling risk, remained at 15%. 

Maryland and Virginia officials met with GSA officials in March to discuss the three finalist sites — two are in Prince George's County, Maryland, while one is in Springfield, Virginia — and the agency's selection criteria.

“The consultations with the delegations provided valuable feedback, and helped us refine our plan to maximize value for the FBI and the public,” GSA Public Buildings Service Commissioner Nina Albert said in a release Friday. “While the core elements of the site selection plan remain the same, we have updated the plan to incorporate new government-wide directives and to increase the consideration of cost to deliver better value for taxpayers."

At a press conference following the March meeting, Maryland officials argued the heavy importance the GSA had placed on proximity to other FBI facilities favored Virginia, where it has the FBI Academy in Quantico, and they called for increasing the prioritization of equity and cost. 

Maryland officials say their two sites would be cheaper because they are shovel-ready, while the Springfield one has an existing GSA facility that would need to be demolished, but Virginia officials have pushed back on that. Maryland leaders also say the government should prioritize equity by investing more in the majority-Black Prince George's County, but Virginia officials have said the Springfield area is also diverse. 

The GSA's Friday release said it “anticipates making a site selection in the coming months,” the same language it used in a September release when it announced the prior selection criteria.

Efforts to relocate the FBI have been underway since the Obama administration, when the GSA narrowed the competition down to the three finalists. The Maryland locations are a 61-acre property near the Greenbelt Metro station controlled by the state and WMATA and a 80-acre property at the former Landover Mall owned by Lerner Enterprises. The Springfield, Virginia, site is a 58-acre, federally owned warehouse property.

The GSA also said it is working to identify space in Downtown D.C. to retain a presence in the central business district near the White House and the Capitol. It has been headquartered since 1975 at the J. Edgar Hoover Building on Pennsylvania Avenue NW.