National Capital Area Counties Vie for New FBI HQ

At least three Washington, D.C., area counties have expressed interest housing a new $1.2 billion FBI headquarters complex and the nearly 12,000 jobs it will bring.  On December 8, 2011, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works approved a resolution directing that the new headquarters facility meet the following qualifications. It must:

  • Be located within two miles of a Metrorail station and 2.5 miles of the Beltway (I-495);
  • Be on a federally owned site of no more than 55 acres and provide for Level V security;
  • Contain no more than 2.1 million rentable square feet, with a maximum of 109 usable square feet per person for office space and 174 usable square feet per person overall;
  • Have no more than 4,300 parking spaces.

While the Baltimore Sun has reported that Maryland Senator Ben Cardin steered the resolution through the committee—and Cardin told the Sun that “I’m very bullish on this being located in Maryland”—several Virginia counties also have their eyes on the FBI. On January 10, Fairfax County was first off the starting line, when its Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted a resolution to send a letter to Congress urging lawmakers to consider relocating the headquarters on a partially vacant 70-acre GSA warehouse site in Springfield, adjacent to the Franconia/Springfield Metrorail station. The Board also urged the Commonwealth’s Congressional delegation to lobby for the move, which it estimated would save the federal government nearly $44 million a year.

Fairfax County board members acknowledge that their bid will face stiff competition from Prince George’s County, Maryland, which also will propose sites and enlist help from its state congressional delegation. “We’re going to be working to develop a solid plan that will highlight a number of sites across the county that will fit the needs of the FBI,” Aubrey Thagard, assistant deputy chief administration officer told Federal Times last week.

Sites in the District of Columbia and Montgomery County, Maryland, also may meet the qualifications. Wherever the new headquarters is located, it won’t be completed in the near future. A lease procurement, even were it to begin immediately, would take at least a year but that could turn to two or three years, especially if GSA attempts to acquire a site through assignable purchase option.  Then, design and construction should take three more years in the absolute best case.  The GAO notes that its review of the preliminary GSA and FBI schedules indicates that the project would probably not be completed until 2020 and we believe that is probably about right.

UPDATE: Our original version of this story cited a November, 2011 GAO report which concluded that  “fiscal year 2014 is likely the earliest that any budget request and prospectus might be put forth for congressional consideration.”  However, our colleague Ron Kendall of Ron Kendall and Associates, wrote us to note that the Senate has already authorized the project as a lease, and if the House acts to authorize a lease as well, the GSA is cleared to start a procurement, because leases don’t require line-item appropriations.  GSA only needs to have sufficient new obligational authority in its rental of space account—which it won’t need immediately.  The GAO report appeared to assume federal construction, in which case, a 2014 project start would have been about right but a lease could conceivably be executed earlier, moving the timetable forward.