Spotlight: FBI

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Justice, serves as both a federal criminal investigative body and an internal intelligence agency. It was established in 1908 as an unnamed force of special agents and, after several name changes, it eventually became the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1935. Its mission is “to protect and defend the United States against terrorist and foreign intelligence threats, to uphold and enforce the criminal laws of the United States, and to provide leadership and criminal justice services to federal, state, municipal, and international agencies and partners.” Its motto is “Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity.”

As of November 30, 2011, the Bureau had 35,704 employees, including 13,864 special agents and 21,840 support professionals (intelligence analysts, language and information technology specialists, scientists, and others) working around the world. The FBI is organized into five functional branches—the National Security Branch; the Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch; the Human Resources Branch; the Science and Technology Branch; and the Information and Technology Branch—and the Office of the Director, which contains most of its administrative offices. The Bureau’s total budget for fiscal year 2011 was approximately $7.9 billion.

From the FBI’s inception in 1908 until 1975, its headquarters was housed in the Department of Justice building. In 1962, Congress approved a separate building for the Bureau, and in 1963, the General Services Administration (GSA) purchased a site for the building along Washington, D.C.’s Pennsylvania Avenue between Ninth and Tenth Streets, N.W., at a of cost $41.17 per square foot. Construction—which was delayed many times by the removal of GSA building appropriations from the federal budget and numerous design changes—ultimately began in December 1967. The building received its official name, the J. Edgar Hoover F.B.I. Building, through a law signed by President Richard Nixon on May 4, 1972, two days after Hoover’s death. The first employees occupied the building in June 1974; President Gerald R. Ford dedicated it in September 1975, and the $126 million, 2,800,876-square-foot structure was fully occupied in June 1977. It’s never been a favorite of architects or urban planners, who despise the blank face it presents along “America’s Main Street.” Washington architect Arthur Cotton Moore, in a 2005 Washingtonian interview, called its concrete wall “an urban sin” and a Washington Post editorial last November referred to it as a “crumbing, obsolete concrete pile of Brutalist architecture.”

As the FBI’s mission and workforce have expanded since September 11, 2001, it has outgrown this aging headquarters building, and has taken additional space in more than 20 annexes throughout the city. Over the past decade, the FBI and GSA—which handles leasing for the agency—have been considering three broad alternatives to meet FBI headquarters needs: modernizing the Hoover Building; demolishing the Hoover Building and constructing a new headquarters on the site of the existing one; and acquiring a new headquarters at a new site. According to a November 2011 GAO report, “the FBI’s headquarters facilities—the Hoover Building and the headquarters annexes—do not fully support the FBI’s long-term security, space, and building condition requirements.” On December 8, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed a resolution authorizing GSA to seek a new location for a consolidated FBI  headquarters.

In addition to this headquarters building, the FBI maintains 56 field offices (also called divisions) in major metropolitan areas throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. The three largest of these are  in Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington, D.C. Within the field office areas are a nearly 400 additional “resident agencies” located in smaller cities and towns.  More than 60 international offices, known as “legal attachés,” are housed in U.S. embassies throughout the world.

Many specialized FBI functions, including a training academy with a mock city and 1.1-mile driving track, are located on a 385-acre complex in Quantico, Virginia.  The Bureau maintains a Criminal Justices Information Service “data campus” on 986 acres of land in Clarksburg, West Virginia. The heart of this campus is a 500,000-square-foot office building completed in 1995 that contains a 100,000-square-foot computer center.  The FBI also operates a records management and call center facility in Winchester, Virginia.