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GSA Inspector General Launches Inquiry Into FBI HQ Selection

The FBI's J. Edgar Hoover Building on Pennsylvania Avenue

The inspector general of the federal government's real estate arm is looking into the decision to build a new headquarters for the FBI in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The General Services Administration announced the selection Nov. 8, choosing to build on Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority-owned land in Prince George's County over a federally owned site in Springfield, Virginia. The announcement immediately received blowback from the FBI and members of Virginia's congressional delegation.

In a joint statement, members of Virginia's congressional delegation called the process "tainted," citing a letter from FBI Director Christopher Wray asking the GSA to scrap the decision. Wray wrote that a three-person site selection panel unanimously favored Springfield, but then-Public Buildings Service Commissioner Nina Albert, a former WMATA executive, chose the Greenbelt site instead, The Washington Post reported.

Robert Erickson, the acting inspector general of the GSA, confirmed in a letter to Virginia Sen. Mark Warner on Thursday that his staff would look into the FBI headquarters selection.

"My office is initiating an evaluation of GSA’s selection of the site," Erickson wrote. "Our objective will be to assess the agency’s process and procedures for the site selection to relocate the FBI Headquarters. We intend to begin this work immediately and will share with you and the relevant committees a copy of any report which may result from this evaluation."

In a joint statement, Warner and the rest of the Northern Virginia delegation —  Sen. Tim Kaine and Reps. Don Beyer, Gerry Connolly, Morgan Griffith, Jen Kiggans, Jennifer McClellan, Bobby Scott, Abigail Spanberger, Jennifer Wexton and Rob Wittman — hailed the decision and called for the GSA to stop its work on building out the Greenbelt site.

"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," the legislators said in the statement.

"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."

Albert left her role at the GSA shortly before the FBI decision was announced and was named D.C. deputy mayor of planning and economic development. In response to Wray's letter and Virginia's cries of foul play, GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan stood by the decision to move the FBI to Maryland.

"Any suggestion that there was inappropriate interference is unfounded," Carnahan said in a Nov. 9 statement. "The choice of Greenbelt, Maryland, is fully consistent with the decision-making process as well as all laws, regulations, and ethical considerations. We stand behind the process, the decision, and all of the public servants who carefully followed the process and made a good decision on behalf of the FBI and the public."

Following the release of Erickson's letter, the GSA released a statement pointing to its release of materials that detail the agency's process in making the FBI headquarters decision.

"GSA continues to welcome a review of our decision-making process for the FBI headquarters site selection," a GSA spokesperson wrote in an email. "As a part of our longstanding commitment to transparency, we proactively and publicly released our site selection plan, decision-making materials, and results of our legal review evaluating the FBI’s concerns. We carefully followed the requirements and process, and stand behind GSA’s final site selection decision."

UPDATE, NOV. 30, 5:10 P.M. ET: This story has been updated with a statement from a GSA spokesperson.