DALLAS – Democrats in Maryland's congressional delegation want President Trump to take personal charge over a stalled $2 billion public-private partnership proposal to swap the FBI headquarters site in downtown Washington for a new facility outside the capital.
"Your leadership is needed to shepherd this project to a site selection and groundbreaking," said the letter, which was sent on March 22 by Rep. Steny Hoyer, the Democratic whip in the House, Rep. Anthony Brown, and Sens. Ben Cardin, and Chris Van Hollen.
The General Service Administration said earlier this month that it would not proceed 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 would not move forward until 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.
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 – in the suburbs outside D.C.
President Trump should take over the project's reins, the Maryland lawmakers said.
"Moving forward without your direct involvement risks further delay, escalating costs, and waning interest from the current bidders," the delegation said in a letter to President Trump.
"We ask that you designate a member of your team to move the project forward," they said.
Brown hand-delivered the letter to Trump during a meeting at the White House between the president and the Congressional Black Caucus. A White House spokesman declined to comment on the proposal.
The new facility would be large enough to accommodate the FBI's Washington employees who are now scattered among some two dozen annex buildings in the region, GSA said. Renovating the existing headquarters would require at least $80.5 million in repairs but that would not provide extra office space, it said.
The proposed sites selected in 2014 include Greenbelt and Landover in Maryland 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.
The FBI HQ swap project received an allocation of $390 million of federal funds in the fiscal 2016 budget.
President Obama included $1.4 billion for the project, from FBI and GSA funds, in his fiscal 2017 budget request that was not enacted. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in December authorized $834 million for the move but it has yet to be appropriated.
It's a lot of money to be asking for as Congress struggles with extending a continuing budget resolution for fiscal 2017 that will expire at the end of April, conceded Hoyer.
"It's difficult to come up with that much capital expenditure in one appropriations process," he said. "It's going to be difficult. But we're working very hard at it."
Money for the FBI project could be included in an infrastructure funding bill that Trump is considering sending to Congress following the demise of the Republican healthcare repeal and replacement legislation last week.