Congress

GSA addresses plans for FBI headquarters at House hearing

By faustasyan shutterstock  photo ID: 365684687 FBI HQ J EDGAR HOOVER building 

The head of the General Services Administration (GSA) said her agency was aiming to move forward with plans to build new headquarters for the FBI after the years-long effort was derailed by the Trump administration.

GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan told lawmakers on Tuesday her agency was beginning to work in close collaboration with the bureau to replace its deteriorating facilities, and that she had been in contact with FBI Director Chris Wray to better understand the needs of the bureau "in light of the changed circumstances over the last few years."

"We'll welcome any kind of direction or input from Congress as we take this important project on," Carnahan said during testimony to the House Committee on Transportation's Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management.

"I get that this is a matter of great urgency, but we also have to make sure that we are responding to the needs of the FBI and what they're working on going forward," she said.

Senate and House appropriations bills are seeking updates from the FBI and GSA on the establishment of a new FBI headquarters in the National Capital Region.

Concerns about the deteriorating condition and security of the FBI's J. Edgar Hoover building in Washington D.C., which is managed by GSA, have been growing for more than a decade. Congress previously provided nearly a billion dollars in total to construct the new headquarters, but plans were put on hold by the Trump administration. Many Democrats have alleged that Trump did so to avoid the commercial development of the current FBI site, which sits across Pennsylvania Avenue from the Trump International Hotel.

During the Trump administration, GSA officials defended the agency throughout the controversy and said the decision to  eventually demolish and construct a new headquarters on the current downtown Washington, D.C. site was made by the Bureau's leadership team rather than the White House.

The FBI did not respond to a request for comment.

"For the last four years, [former President Donald Trump] did all he could to block our efforts to construct a new FBI consolidated headquarters that meets the security and capacity needs of the bureau, solely because it stood to hurt his personal financial interests," Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee's Financial Services and General Government panel, said in a statement last month after announcing that provisions to finalize a plan for the new headquarters were included in the Senate appropriations bill. "We fought back tooth and nail, and now, it's past time to get this project back on track."

The Justice Department Office of Inspector General launched an investigation into the previous administration's handling of the project after a GSA Inspector General report in 2018 stated that the White House of took a stronger role in the matter than former GSA Administrator Emily Murphy had revealed during her congressional testimony earlier that year. The DOJ IG report is listed among the watchdog's "ongoing work" in its most recent semiannual report to Congress, released in June 2021.

About the Author

Chris Riotta is a staff writer at FCW covering government procurement and technology policy. Chris joined FCW after covering U.S. politics for three years at The Independent. He earned his master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where he served as 2021 class president.

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