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Obama administration delays selection of new FBI site

Officials in Virginia and Maryland who have been competing for years to land a new headquarters for the Federal Bureau of Investigation will have to wait a few more months to find out which state has the winning pitch.

The General Services Administration said Monday it will delay selecting a site for the headquarters until March. The agency initially planned to choose between the three sites in play — two in Maryland and one in Virginia — by the end of the year.

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The delay drew pointed criticism from members of Maryland's congressional delegation, including Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, who has made landing the headquarters in Maryland a priority for the final months before her retirement in January.

Mikulski, the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, along with other members of the delegation, helped secure federal funding for the project late last year. A spending measure approved by Congress in December included $390 million for the headquarters.

"I'm deeply disappointed in more delay," Mikulski said in a statement. "I will continue to work my earrings off to put the funds in the federal checkbook for a new, fully consolidated headquarters. This is a headquarters that belongs in Prince George's County, keeping our country and the American people safe while creating new jobs in Maryland."

Rep. Steny Hoyer, the Southern Maryland lawmaker and No. 2 Democrat in the House, who also has been heavily involved in the effort, agreed.

"I am deeply disappointed that GSA is delaying a decision once again," Hoyer said in a statement. "Additional delays undermine the FBI's mission and our national security, as well as employee morale and safety. I will continue to monitor this process to ensure it is fair and stays on schedule, and I strongly oppose any additional delays."

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

The General Services Administration said in a statement it was rolling back the date because it received an "overwhelmingly positive response from developers to the solicitation." The agency set a June deadline for potential developers to submit proposals.

"GSA and FBI are encouraged by the proposals received and are confident that, if Congress provides the resources requested in the president's Fiscal Year 2017 budget, we will be able to deliver on our commitment to provide a world class facility for the FBI and a good deal for the taxpayer," the statement read.

Whether Congress can deliver funding for the project has been another central question in the years-long effort to build the headquarters. The GSA has proposed offsetting part of the cost of a new building with the sale of development rights for the FBI's current headquarters, the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington, D.C.

The prospect of bringing a new FBI headquarters to the state has managed to unite political forces in Maryland, namely the state's mostly Democratic congressional delegation and its Republican governor, Larry Hogan. A spokesman for the governor, Douglass V. Mayer, said the administration remains "very confident" the FBI building will be built in the state.

"From day one, we have worked closely with our partners in the federal delegation and will continue doing everything possible to bring home this win," Mayer said.

The political ramifications of the delay, if any, are not clear. With Mikulski on the Appropriations Committee, Maryland could have an advantage that it will lose next year when she retires. And if Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton wins the White House, that would put a Virginia senator and former governor, Tim Kaine, in the vice president's office.

But the site selection process is supposed to be free from political influence.

The FBI's workforce is scattered among 22 annex buildings in the Washington region. The Hoover Building also needs significant repair.

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"While we would have preferred that the GSA adhere to its original schedule of the end of the calendar year, the extra time does not change the fact that we believe Prince George's County has without question the two best sites for the future location of the consolidated FBI headquarters," said David Iannucci, senior economic development adviser to Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker III.

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