DALLAS – The lack of full funding for the proposed $2 billion swap of the FBI headquarters for a new facility in the Washington suburbs means the project may remain in limbo.
The omnibus budget accord that lawmakers are expected to pass on Wednesday includes $523 million for the project in fiscal 2017 and holds out the promise of another $315 million in transfers from other accounts. Congress appropriated $390 million for the FBI move in the fiscal 2016 omnibus budget.
President Obama asked Congress to allocate $1.4 billion for the project in his last proposed budget.
The project to replace the aging J. Edgar Hoover Building in downtown Washington was put on hold by the General Services Administration in March, shortly before the scheduled announcement of a preferred partner in the project. A GSA spokesman on Tuesday declined to discuss the issue while the budget pact is pending before Congress.
The GSA intends to pay for the new FBI building in part through the trade of the 6.7-acre J. Edgar Hoover Building site to a private partner who will build a larger and more secure facility on one of three selected sites – two in Maryland and one in Virginia – outside the city.
Fully funding the new FBI headquarters is a matter of national security, according to two Democratic congressmen from Maryland.
"While providing an additional $523 million is a significant step forward to continuing the project, we are disappointed that the project was not fully funded,” Reps. Steny Hoyer and Anthony Brown said in a joint statement. “Prince George’s County remains the best choice for the FBI, and we are committed to ensuring the project receives the funding needed to get it done. We urge the General Services Administration to make a site decision and begin building the new, consolidated headquarters."
Maryland’s two Democratic senators also urged the GSA to move ahead with the FBI project before full funding is achieved.
The budget accord’s appropriation of $523 million is a “significant step” toward a new FBI headquarters, said Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin.
“While we had looked for full funding immediately, now that Congress has provided even greater resources toward the cost of this project and a commitment to fiscal 2018, the General Services Administration should proceed with final site selection without delay,” they said in a statement.
The GSA in March said that it wouldn't go ahead with the scheduled selection of a preferred partner from a short list of applicants until Congress appropriates the remaining $1.4 billion needed to accomplish the project.
The partnership announcement had been set for March 10, but GSA said it wouldn't proceed until all the money is available.
"Appropriations are necessary in order for us to make an announcement and move forward with the next critical steps under the process and ultimately make an award," GSA said at that time.
Though the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved a fiscal 2017 allocation of $834 million for the move in December, the appropriation wasn't enacted.
The new facility would be large enough to accommodate the FBI’s Washington employees who are now scattered among more than 20 annex buildings in the region, GSA said. Renovating the existing headquarters would require at least $80.5 million in repairs and still wouldn't provide the additional floor space needed for the consolidation of offices, it said.
The proposed sites selected in 2014 include Greenbelt and Landover, Md., and Springfield, Va.
Maryland’s Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has offered $317 million of infrastructure and traffic improvements to accommodate moving the FBI headquarters to Greenbelt, as well as $255 million of work at the Landover site, which would require fewer upgrades.