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Feds move a step closer on FBI headquarters

WASHINGTON — The federal agency overseeing the possible construction of new headquarters for the FBI said Wednesday it has notified the firms selected to bid on the project, and that it remains committed to a consolidated facility despite recent delays.

Maryland and Virginia are competing for the 2.1-million square foot project, which would house roughly 11,000 jobs, making it one of the largest federal facilities in either state. The Obama administration is considering three sites — two in Prince George's County and one in Fairfax County, Va.

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The announcement Wednesday, while incremental, comes after the General Services Administration delayed the process this year. The New York Times reported in September that several agencies involved in the effort have been engaged in a behind-the-scenes dispute over funding.

The agency did not disclose which firms were selected to compete for the project. In a brief statement, the GSA said it anticipates awarding a contract to a developer in late 2016.

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Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, who has been a central player in the effort to land the FBI in Maryland, zeroed in on a nuanced point in the agency's statement: that the administration is seeking a full consolidation of the FBI's employees.

A leading justification offered by supporters of a new building is that the FBI's current headquarters, the J. Edgar Hoover Building in downtown Washington, cannot accommodate all the agency's employees in the region. The FBI's workforce is scattered among 22 annex buildings in the Washington region.

"I have been insistent and persistent that we move forward with the FBI's request for a fully consolidated headquarters, allowing the bureau to fulfill its modern mission with facilities that are safe, secure and suited to its needs," Mikulski said in a statement.

Another argument for the new facility: The Hoover building needs an estimated $80.5 million in repairs and upgrades.

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The agency hopes to offset the cost of the new building with the sale of the Hoover site, which is located in an increasingly desirable section of downtown Washington. But it is not clear how the agency would make up the difference, absent a tough-to-secure appropriation from Congress.

Reps. Steny H. Hoyer and Donna F. Edwards and Sen. Ben Cardin — all Democrats — issued a joint statement Wednesday saying that the administration has told them it will include a request for funding for the project in the fiscal 2017 budget to cover that gap.

"We look forward to reviewing the details of such a proposal and to working with the administration during the authorization and appropriations processes," they said in the statement. "We also encourage GSA to stay close to their announced timeline and to keep Congress apprised of any adjustments as they arise."

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