DALLAS – The proposed swap of the FBI headquarters in downtown Washington for a larger, more secure facility outside the city was canceled Tuesday over the lack of funding for the $2.1 billion project.
The Obama administration’s fiscal year 2017 budget request included $1.4 billion for the project but only $523 million was appropriated in the omnibus budget bill, leaving an $882 million funding gap, GSA said.
The Trump administration’s budget proposal for fiscal 2018 did not include any funding for the new FBI facility.
“Moving forward without full funding puts the government at risk for cost escalations and the potential reduction in value of the … property that developers were to receive as part of this procurement,” the General Services Administration and the FBI said in a joint statement.
The federal government had hoped to trade the valuable property near the White House and other official buildings for a new consolidated headquarters that would be built by private partners who would redevelop the site.
The GSA had put the planned exchange of the J. Edgar Hoover Building on hold in March due to what it said was uncertainty over Congress’s willingness to fund the project, shortly before the scheduled announcement of the preferred private partner.
“The cancellation of the project does not lessen the need for a new FBI headquarters,” the statement said. “GSA and FBI will continue to work together to address the space requirements of the FBI.”
The GSA had identified three potential sites for the new FBI building, two in Maryland and one in Virginia.
The cancellation was criticized by Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin, both Democrats from Maryland, as well as Reps. Steny Hoyer and Anthony G. Brown, the two Democratic congressmen from Maryland whose districts included the proposed sites.
“Canceling the current request for proposals for a fully consolidated FBI headquarters puts America’s national security at risk,” they said in a joint statement. “It is unfathomable that the Trump administration would fail to move forward on a secure headquarters for the FBI workforce that serves on the front lines of our nation’s law enforcement and counter-terrorism efforts.”
Congress has spoken “very clearly on multiple occasions” that it intended to fully fund the consolidated FBI project, the lawmakers said.
“For the administration, after failing to include any funding in the president’s fiscal 2018 budget request, to pull the plug on this procurement precipitously before the appropriations process is even halfway complete, is a waste of hundreds of millions of federal, state and local taxpayer dollars,” they said.
Maryland’s Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and Prince George's County had committed to spending up to $317 million in state and local funds to help develop roads and other infrastructure to attract the project to one of the two sites in the state, while Virginia had offered $120 million for work at its proposed site.
Congress appropriated $390 million for the FBI move in the fiscal 2016 omnibus budget.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved $523 million for the project in December and redirected $315 million to it that had originally been designed for other uses.
The House committee put a cap of $2.11 billion of federal funding for the project and required that the new facility be large enough to accommodate all of the FBI’s 9,500 employees currently based in the Washington area.
A House Appropriations subcommittee voted in June to cut the funding for the project by $200 million. Panel chairman Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., said the reduction was part of a “focus on taking care of what we have today and anticipating, hopefully, additional resources in the future.”