Virginia’s political leaders made their case Wednesday for moving the FBI’s headquarters from the nation’s capital to the state, arguing that the federal government would be wise to follow the steps of Amazon and other big companies that have come to the commonwealth.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin, U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, and nearly every other political leader from northern Virginia held a news conference in Springfield, one of three sites under consideration to replace the crumbling J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington, D.C.
The other two sites under consideration are in Maryland.
Budget documents estimate that roughly 7,500 jobs are tied to the new facility.
In recent weeks and months, Maryland officials have argued that equity concerns should push the General Services Administration to pick one of the two sites in their state’s Prince George’s County, which has a majority Black population.
At Wednesday’s news conference, speakers pushed back on that assertion, noting that the Springfield region of Fairfax County, Virginia, also has a majority-minority population and that the region as a whole has a large international community.
Warner said it would behoove the FBI to come to northern Virginia to take advantage of its internationally diverse workforce.
“In prior times ... you could generally spot an FBI guy right away. And it’d generally be a white guy in a white shirt,” he said. “We need to make sure that we have a diverse workforce. We need to make sure that workforce is diverse racially. We need to make sure that diverse workforce is made up of different faith traditions.”
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin touted the state’s momentum in getting corporations such as Amazon, Boeing and Raytheon to locate headquarters in Virginia in recent years.
“We have a robust infrastructure. We have business-ready sites. We have a world class education system. We have a vibrant and diverse workforce,” he said.
Plans to replace the FBI’s existing headquarters — a crumbling, sprawling piece of Brutalist architecture built in 1974 — have been under discussion for 15 years. Momentum to pick a new site stalled during the Trump presidency, when plans to move the headquarters to the suburbs were scrapped in favor of a proposal to rebuild at the existing site.
Critics said Trump intervened in the process because he didn’t want to see the Washington site redeveloped in a way that would create competition for a hotel he owned that is essentially across the street from FBI headquarters.
Now, though, the General Services Administration has refocused on the region’s suburbs and named three finalist sites: Springfield, Greenbelt, Maryland and Landover, Maryland. Both states will make their final pitches to the agency in the coming weeks on criteria spelled out by the GSA.
Weighted highest, at 35%, is serving the FBI mission, including proximity to the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, and to the Justice Department in Washington. Transportation access is weighted as 25%. Development flexibility is weighted as 15%. Promoting racial equity and sustainable siting is weighted as 15%, and the cost to acquire and prepare the site is weighted as 10%.
Maryland leaders have argued that the criteria give Virginia too much of an advantage for its proximity to the FBI academy in Quantico and that promoting racial equity should be given greater weight.
“The bottom line is that both GSA and FBI have certified that all three sites will meet the mission of the FBI. But only the two sites in Prince George’s County live up to the President’s mission to install a whole-of-government approach to equity – and the two Maryland sites come in at a lower cost to the taxpayer,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., told Federal Times. “It’s deeply concerning that the FBI has tried to tilt the scales towards Virginia in the weighting of the decision-making criteria, undermining the president’s executive order, years of Congressional intent, and the needs laid out by prior FBI leadership.”
Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said he has “no doubt” that Maryland can better serve the needs of the FBI than Virginia.
“I am confident that either Greenbelt or Landover will be the next home to the consolidated headquarters and will keep advocating for the communities in my state to secure one of the two sites,” he said in a statement.
Molly Weisner is a staff reporter for Federal Times where she covers labor, policy and contracting pertaining to the government workforce. She made previous stops at USA Today and McClatchy as a digital producer, and worked at The New York Times as a copy editor. Molly majored in journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.