Six Democratic senators sent a letter to the Department of Justice Inspector General Sept. 20, requesting an investigation into the White House’s involvement in rescinding a proposal to consolidate the FBI headquarters.
“Many resources have been devoted over the last decade to this project for which there is consensus that the FBI’s existing headquarters building is in serious disrepair and must be replaced,” wrote Sens. Tom Carper, D-Del.; Ben Cardin, D-Md.; Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.; Mark Warner, D-Va.; Tim Kaine D-Va.; and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.
“Despite reaching significant milestones in this process, earlier this year, the [General Services Administration] reversed course and revised its plan for the FBI headquarters consolidation project. This announcement was met with much confusion and skepticism.”
The Government Accountability Office released a report in 2011, which found that the state of the FBI’s Hoover Building and headquarters annexes did not fulfill agency security, space and condition requirements.
In response to that report, the FBI noted that a primary concern was the impact fragmenting the workforce across multiple worksites would have on agency operations.
The agency initially proposed to build a new headquarters in either Maryland or Virginia that would better suit the agency’s needs.
But in July 2017, the FBI changed course and proposed that it keep a portion of its employees in downtown Washington, D.C., moving the rest to other locations in Alabama, Idaho and West Virginia.
The Washington Post reported in July that President Donald Trump had personally gotten involved in the decision.
The GSA inspector general initially reviewed the decision-making behind the change, finding that GSA Administrator Emily Murphy’s testimony before the House Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee had left the misleading impression that she had no discussions with the White House on the change.
“In addition, the IG found discrepancies in the cost comparisons between previous cost estimates and the revised plan for consolidation, concluding that officials are greatly underestimating the cost of keeping the headquarters in the District,” the Senators wrote.
“Specifically, the GSA excluded the $750 million value for the J. Edgar Hoover Building exchange in its total shortfall calculation and did not acknowledge the $65,000 per person increase associated with rebuilding in a new location.”
The letter requested that the DOJ IG investigate how the FBI came to the decision to change its headquarters plans, whether White House officials had been involved in that decision-making process, whether cost justified the change of plans and how the new plan accounts for the FBI acknowledgement that dividing the workforce would impact operations.
“The process is rife with inconsistencies and questions, and raises concern that there is a coordinated effort to conceal facts or mislead members of Congress. For these reasons, we request that your office conduct a thorough investigation,” the senators wrote.
Jessie Bur covered the federal workforce and the changes most likely to impact government employees for Federal Times.