De­lay of FBI de­ci­sion irks Md. law­mak­ers

Mikul­ski leads push to put new head­quar­ters in state

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND - By John Fritze john.fritze@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/jfritze

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.

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. Aspokesman 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.

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