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The debate over whether the FBI should move to a new location in the District upon departure from its obsolete headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue NW is murky. But bring suburban jurisdictions into the fray and it becomes a free-for-all.
Five regional representatives testifying before a congressional subcommittee this morning on the relocation of the FBI delivered some version of the following: The process should be apolitical, and my goal is the best deal for taxpayers. That said, my county is clearly the best option, and here are the reasons why.
Rep. Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat whose district includes part of Prince George’s County, spoke first on behalf of P.G. County, a leading candidate to land the FBI. Hoyer laid out four criteria that a viable FBI location must meet: a minimum of 45 to 50 acres (a swipe, perhaps, at D.C.’s proposal for a 10-acre location at Poplar Point), a location in the national capital region, public transit access, and the ability to house 11,000 FBI employees. Prince George’s, he said, “has ample undeveloped land near the Metro, in fact more so than any other jurisdiction.” He cited a study finding that 43 percent of FBI employees in the region live in Maryland, versus 17 percent in D.C. and 33 percent in Virginia. He noted that the state of Maryland, including neighboring Montgomery County, is united behind Prince George’s.
Rep. Donna Edwards, also a Maryland Democrat representing much of P.G. County, backed Hoyer’s claims. She repeated the 43 percent figure and added that P.G. County has more Metro stations (15) than any other county in the region. And appealing to the subcommittee’s declared desire for thrift, she noted that real estate prices near Metro stations are lower in P.G. County than elsewhere.
The representatives from Virginia felt otherwise. Reps. Frank Wolf, Gerry Connolly, and Jim Moran all highlighted the proximity of other security agencies in Virginia, including the FBI Academy in Quantico, the CIA in Langley, and the coming FBI records complex in Winchester. Contradicting Hoyer and Edwards’ claims, Wolf said Northern Virginia is home to the majority of the FBI personnel in the region. (A GSA spokesman was unable to provide figures when I asked last week.) Moran specifically pitched two locations: the GSA warehouse in Springfield, which he said offered up to 60 acres near the Franconia-Springfield Metro station and recently improved roadways; and the Center for Innovative Technology headquarters near the future Silver Line.
But the Virginia congressmen also pushed back on the Senate committee resolution requiring the new headquarters to be within two miles of a Metro station and 2.5 miles of the Beltway. A House memo released in anticipation of today’s hearing cast some doubt on the requirement. Wolf urged the subcommittee to “remove any strictures” that might prevent consideration of farther-out Virginia sites, perhaps in Loudoun or Prince William County, and Moran agreed.
FBI Associate Deputy Director Kevin Perkins threw a bit of cold water on the Virginians’ plea, and gave a slight boost to P.G. County, when he testified that “the site must be served by mass transit.”
Not to miss out on the action, Rep. Nick Rahall, Democrat of West Virginia, made a (probably) joking pitch for his home state, which hosts some federal security facilities. “While these titans of the Beltway lock horns,” he said, “let us all remember that there is a calm safe and serene atmosphere” in West Virginia. That prompted Republican Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania to note that Pennsylvania, too, isn’t all that far from the capital.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery