A proposal to provide the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) with a new headquarters was the focus of a hearing today led by Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Chairman Lou Barletta (R-PA). At today's hearing, Chairman Barletta said that any such project must meet the needs of the FBI as well as be a good deal for taxpayers.
The FBI and the General Services Administration (GSA) -- which acts as the "landlord" for the federal government -- have determined that the J. Edgar Hoover Building no longer meets the needs of the FBI as a headquarters due to growth, security, and information technology requirements. The Hoover Building was first occupied in 1974. Today, the FBI headquarter functions are dispersed over 3 million square feet of space and 21 separate locations.
Various concepts for a new, consolidated FBI headquarters in the National Capital Region have been proposed, but there is no clear consensus on which option is the best or most cost-effective approach. For example, the FBI has proposed a possible lease transaction for a new headquarters, while the GSA has previously recommended the federal government construct a new facility. The GSA has also recently indicated it may favor an exchange of the Hoover Building in the acquisition of a new facility.
Barletta held today's Subcommittee hearing to examine the various proposals to providing a new FBI headquarters, and to help determine the Administration's preferred approach.
"The FBI headquarters may be one of the most significant public buildings projects Congress could consider this year," Barletta said. "Several studies have documented the functional, operational, and security problems with the Hoover building on Pennsylvania Avenue. The FBI has a vital mission, and it has some compelling reasons for relocating its headquarters function.
"However, a new facility would cost over a billion dollars and financing it in today's budget climate will be extremely challenging," Barletta cautioned. "When it comes to this proposal, the Committee has two general goals. Any potential project should meet the security and operational requirements of the FBI, and it needs to be a good deal for the taxpayer. We want to be helpful, but I do not envision the Committee writing a blank check. We expect reasonable limitations on the size, scope, and cost of the project in order to protect the taxpayer from overbuilding and overspending."
In order to try to address these goals, Members of the Subcommittee today raised a number of questions with today's witnesses, including GSA's Public Buildings Service Commissioner Dr. Dorothy Robyn, and the FBI's Associate Deputy Director Kevin L. Perkins.
For example, Members asked witnesses whether a consolidated FBI campus would be the best alternative, how to ensure a fair and competitive site selection process, whether a consolidated facility could be constructed or purchased at a reasonable cost, what the value of the J. Edgar Hoover Building is and what should be done with it if vacated, whether GSA is capable of managing such a complex project, and how Congress could limit the financial risk to the taxpayer by such a large project.
Deputy Director Perkins testified today that through consolidation, the FBI headquarters footprint could be reduced by approximately 1 million square feet, and taxpayers could save approximately $43 million annually.
However, when questioned about the expected delivery of a proposal by GSA, Commissioner Robyn said that a GSA proposal would be "premature."
Barletta said, "Frankly, I'm surprised that given the history of this project, the federal government's landlord still thinks it's "premature' to make a decision about which alternative for the FBI headquarters makes the most sense for the agency and the taxpayer."
Members of Congress from the Capital Region -- Representatives Steny Hoyer, Frank Wolf, Jim Moran, Gerald E. Connolly, and Donna F. Edwards -- also testified today.