House Questions FBI HQ Consolidation Process

The FBI’s search for a new headquarters—as well as GSA’s proposal to swap the dated J. Edgar Hoover (JEH) Building for a new FBI campus outside of downtown Washington, D.C.—could be complicated by the House committee that still must authorize GSA to proceed with the project. (The Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works already has passed a resolution authorizing GSA to proceed—and has placed several restrictions on the search, including a size limit of 2.1 million square feet and a location within two miles of a Metrorail station and 2.5 miles of the Capital Beltway.)

Although the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management hearing on the proposed headquarters relocation scheduled for earlier this week (Wednesday, March 6) was postponed indefinitely because of the expected snow, the subcommittee did release a “summary of subject matter” memo that presents the FBI and GSA’s differing opinions: the FBI recommended a lease transaction for the new headquarters, while GSA recommended building a new campus on federal land with federal funding. The two agencies’ cost analyses for various types of transactions explain, at least in part, why they came to these conclusions. The FBI estimates that federal construction would cost almost $3 billion, compared to GSA’s estimate of less than $1.9 billion. The agencies came up with similar estimates for lease construction (between $2.4 and $2.5 billion) and ground lease/leaseback ($2.0 to $2.1 billion). GSA also considered an “acquisition by exchange” scenario, which would leverage the value of the JEH Building by exchanging it for a new facility, estimating the cost of that process at $1.9 billion.

The subcommittee intends to consider “a number of issues that could complicate the project and unnecessarily increase costs to the taxpayer. In addition,” the memo noted, “the Committee will need to decide, as it considers whether to authorize this project, what limitations and parameters should be included in a committee resolution to help mitigate against any potential issues.” These issues include ensuring that the full value of the JEH Building is realized, maximizing competition (which may involve widening the search to properties outside the limits identified by the Senate committee’s resolution), managing the transaction appropriately and exploring budgetary scoring concerns

Meanwhile, GSA received 35 responses to its request for information—from landowners, developers and local governments in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia expressing interest in building a new headquarters for the FBI, buying the JEH Building or a combination of both—by the March 4 deadline. Although it has not released the details of these responses, the agency did issue a statement saying that they demonstrated “significant interest from the private sector to assist in developing a new, consolidated facility in the National Capital Region,” and has announced that it intends to proceed with the process and may issue a formal request for proposals.