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GSA eyes swapping current FBI headquarters for new one

Nov. 19, 2012 - 07:35AM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments
Many experts are speculating that GSA may have to sell off the existing FBI headquarters building in Southwest Washington to raise money to erect a new headquarters elsewhere.
Many experts are speculating that GSA may have to sell off the existing FBI headquarters building in Southwest Washington to raise money to erect a new headquarters elsewhere. (File)

The General Services Administration is tasked with finding the FBI a new headquarters. But it has a problem: It may not be able to afford one.

So many experts are speculating that GSA may have to sell off the existing FBI headquarters building in Southwest Washington to raise money to erect a new headquarters elsewhere.

Bob Peck, former public buildings commissioner at GSA, said the agency would not just sell the property outright but instead use a special authority to essentially trade the land for a new facility.

“The government probably will offer the site in exchange for a new FBI building, rather than as an outright sale,” Peck said.

He said the current FBI building would most likely be torn down by a developer because it is not worthy of renovation.

He said the parcel would bring between $400 million and $600 million — far short of what the agency would need.

A 2005 law authorizes GSA to enter into leases or other special financing deals with the private sector to exchange, trade, lease or otherwise negotiate for new construction or renovation projects.

The Government Accountability Office estimated in 2011 that a new FBI headquarters would cost $1.5 billion, while the cost to renovate the existing facility ranged from $850 million to $1.1 billion and would still not fully meet the agency’s security needs.

Funding for GSA construction projects plummeted from $894 million in 2010 to $82 million in 2011 and to $50 million in 2012.

The renovation budget dropped from $414 million in 2010 to $280 million in 2011, holding steady at $280 million in 2012. GSA asked for $494 million for 2013, but it has only $280 million under the current continuing resolution.

The FBI headquarters is about 37 years old and is prone to flooding. Its concrete exterior is deteriorating, and its heating and cooling systems are aging and in need of repair, according to the GAO.

GAO estimates that repairs to the ventilation, ductwork and electrical systems would alone cost more than $67 million.

GSA spokesman Dan Cruz declined to say whether an exchange-type deal may be used to acquire a new FBI headquarters, but he said GSA is exploring the use of such deals more in the future as a way to leverage excess or underutilized federal properties at a time when GSA’s construction budgets are getting tighter.

For example, GSA hopes to trade a 72-year-old, underutilized, 783,000-square-foot courthouse in Los Angeles for a new, more appropriately sized 175,000-square-foot facility. GSA is currently soliciting private-sector feedback.

Cruz said GSA is also exploring the possibility of using its exchange authority to modernize several buildings in southwest Washington.

In 2011, a Senate committee directed that the new FBI headquarters be located within two miles of a Metrorail station, be located on no more than 55 acres of federally owned land and consist of no more than 2.1 million rentable square feet.

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