For years, Fairfax and other local jurisdictions have been jockeying for position as the federal government picks a new headquarters location for the FBI, which just about everyone agrees has outgrown its Pennsylvania Avenue digs in downtown D.C.
Among the leading contenders was a Springfield-Franconia site in Northern Virginia, situated near a Metro station and major freeway interchanges.
But all the studies, meetings and entreaties came to naught recently when the General Services Administration (GSA) abruptly announced that it was abandoning plans for the move, leaving most FBI headquarters personnel downtown while transferring others to satellite offices in Idaho, West Virginia and Alabama.
Today, Northern Virginia Congressman Gerry Connolly, Ranking Member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Government Operations subcommittee, formally asked GSA Inspector General Carol Ochoa to investigate the decision.
“I am writing to request that your office conduct an investigation into the abrupt decision by the General Services Administration to abandon longstanding plans to move the Federal Bureau of Investigations into a new headquarters where it can consolidate its 11,000 personnel in the National Capital Region,” Connolly wrote.
“Farce within a farce”
“The GSA’s sudden retreat on the FBI headquarters plan is a “farce within a farce” that flies in the face of a decade’s worth of analysis, planning, time and investment,” Connolly said. “If we are to restore confidence and transparency at GSA, we need the Inspector General to immediately look into this specific procurement process.”
In his letter to Ochoa, Connolly said: “GSA’s top officials were unable to justify their sudden decision to abandon years of detailed planning, and they provided insufficient information about the factors on which they based their decision. For these reasons, we request that your office investigate this decision-making process to address at least the following questions:
(1) What information did GSA analyze when making its decision? Did it include detailed considerations of short-term and long-term costs, security, timeliness and the benefits of co-location of staff?
(2) Did GSA compare these and other factors adequately to other locations that had been under consideration?
(3) To what extent were communications from outside sources considered, including not limited to the FBI, the Department of Justice, GAO, the White House, the Office of Management and Budget, state or local officials, or private sector entities?
(4) Does the current GSA proposal properly account for the full costs of the project, including rental payments and other expenses?”
Doesn’t add up
In his letter to the IG, Connolly notes that GSA’s new plan to keep the FBI at the Hoover Building fails to meet many of the criteria they listed in their original prospectus, including operational and security challenges and the need to consolidate. Furthermore, Connolly alleges that the math for the new plan simply doesn’t add up.
“In the presentation, the agencies obscured the actual “total shortfall” for the original full consolidation project by assigning a value of $0 to the Hoover Building. GSA previously valued Hoover at $750 million,” Connolly wrote. “If any value of more than $237 million were assigned to the Hoover Building, the “total shortfall” for the Hoover rebuild would actually be greater than the previous full consolidation concept.”