This week, after greater than a decade of debate, authorities officers selected a website for a brand new FBI headquarters, changing the J. Edgar Hoover Constructing that has stood in downtown Washington, DC, because the Seventies. The brand new constructing, which shall be situated in Maryland, will home 1000’s of officers and is anticipated to value billions.
The federal government has lengthy advocated for a brand new constructing, with the Authorities Accountability Workplace (GAO) noting in 2011 that the Hoover Constructing was “approaching life cycle age and exhibiting indicators of decay” and “[es] don’t absolutely help the FBI’s long-term necessities for safety, area, and constructing circumstances.”
A way more budget-conscious answer, which lawmakers do not appear to have thought of, could be to easily scale back the dimensions of the FBI.
FBI officers wished to maintain the constructing in Washington, citing its proximity to each the White Home and the Division of Justice (DOJ). The company even proposed constructing a secondary facility in Maryland or Virginia, which might function a “command heart for cyber operations.” However lawmakers from these states had been unswayed, including language to a 2022 spending invoice directing the Common Companies Administration (GSA) to decide on a brand new headquarters from three choices: Greenbelt, Maryland; Landover, Maryland; and Springfield, Va.
On Thursday, the GSA introduced it had chosen Greenbelt, the place it could construct a brand new facility subsequent to a smaller facility in downtown Washington that would home as much as 1,000 brokers. The GSA famous that the Greenbelt location could be very near a Metro cease and would entail the most affordable and quickest timeline for acquisition and building.
Every of the proposed websites had issues: In accordance with an October DOJ inspector basic report, the FBI was “involved” that the Greenbelt website was “half wetlands and that the quantity of buildable area was far lower than anticipated when the situation was chosen.” The Springfield location, whereas the simplest to entry the FBI coaching facility in Quantico, Virginia, “had a number of authorities companies … that needed to be relocated, which the FBI stated was expensive, time-consuming and logistically could be difficult.” FBI officers discovered all three choices missing, however most well-liked the Landover location despite the fact that it had “the worst entry to public transportation,” the DOJ report stated.
No matter location, the brand new headquarters will not come low cost: In its fiscal yr 2024 finances proposal, the DOJ requested Congress for $3.5 billion for the brand new constructing, which it stated would home “at the very least 7,500 workers.”
However as lawmakers and authorities companies have argued over the place to deal with these many staff, they’ve largely ignored the truth that they might merely shrink the FBI’s footprint.
Supporters of a brand new facility say the Hoover Constructing is just too small to deal with the dimensions of the present FBI. In a 2011 response to a GAO report, FBI Deputy Director Thomas Harrington famous that the constructing “homes solely 52% of the headquarters workforce, with the rest situated in 21 offsite leased areas.” Plans for the brand new headquarters name it a “consolidation” effort meant to carry almost all brokers below one roof.
It isn’t clear that the FBI even wants that many brokers. From its founding in 1908 till the opening of the Hoover Constructing in 1975, the FBI operated within the DOJ constructing. Throughout that point, it primarily enforced interstate crimes resembling financial institution fraud or pressured labor.
Over time, the company’s mandate has elevated dramatically – and excessively. “When the FBI first occupied the Hoover Constructing, it was primarily a regulation enforcement group,” the 2011 GAO report stated. “Since then, its mission has grown in response to evolving threats and now contains counterterrorism, counterintelligence, deterrence of weapons of mass destruction and cyber safety.” Because the scope of federal regulation enforcement has expanded, particularly since September 11, so have federal companies.
Lawmakers have fought for greater than a decade over whether or not to consolidate the FBI’s huge workforce right into a multibillion-dollar facility in Maryland or Virginia. They need to have been occupied with a totally completely different subject: how you can downsize the costly and hulking company.