December 12, 2023

Ranking Members Larsen and Titus Statements from Hearing on GSA’s Site Selection for New FBI Headquarters

Washington, D.C. — The following are opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, from Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Rick Larsen (D-WA) and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Dina Titus (D-NV) during today’s hearing titled, “Ensuring Transparency in the Federal Government: An Examination of GSA’s Site Selection for the FBI Headquarters.”

Video of Larsen’s and Titus’s opening statements are here and here.

More information on the hearing can be found here.

Ranking Member Larsen:
Thank you, Chairman Perry, for calling today’s hearing to examine the site selection process for the new Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) headquarters and thank you to our witnesses for participating.

Commissioner Doomes, let me officially welcome you back to the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management. I am sure you would be more comfortable on this side of the dais than at the witness table, but it is always a pleasure to have former T&I staff testify before the committee.

GSA, the FBI and Congress worked together from 2011 through 2018 to put the FBI in a new headquarters building that would meet the FBI’s current and future security, space, and operational requirements. Those efforts failed.

In 2022, Congress directed the GSA to start the process again by picking one of the three sites identified in the first procurement.

Last month, GSA selected the site in Greenbelt, Maryland, but multiple parties have expressed concern about GSA’s decision.

While those concerns are being examined by GSA’s Inspector General, it is useful for this committee to understand how and why the first procurement failed so we can help GSA and the FBI avoid repeating the same mistakes.

I want to hear from GSA what the agency learned from the previous failure and what steps are being taken to ensure success this time around.

For instance, is GSA prepared to carry out a project of this magnitude?

I also want to hear from GSA and the FBI about their plans to secure the funding needed to complete the project.

Finally, I want to know the effect on the FBI’s staff and operational capabilities if a new headquarters building is not built in the near future.

The FBI has an important mission, and its employees deserve safe, secure and functional workspace.

I look forward to discussing how this committee can help ensure the FBI has the headquarters it needs today and in the future.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Ranking Member Titus:
Thank you, Chairman Perry, for holding this hearing.

In 2011 both the GSA and the FBI developed plans for a new, consolidated, suburban headquarters for the FBI. The FBI’s plan cited the need for a new building, defined its requirements, and recommended the use of a public-private partnership via a ground-lease lease-back with a private developer. GSA’s plan, also called an 11b report, recommended Federal construction which would require full up-front appropriations.

By 2017, however, after years of work by GSA and FBI staff; authorization by this committee and the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works; an extensive environmental impact study process; a complex Request for Information and Request for Proposal process with the private sector; a shifting Program of Requirements; funding strategy revisions; changes in the leadership of the FBI, GSA, and the White House; and multiple requests for funding, GSA cancelled the procurement citing insufficient funding.

In 2018, the Senate required GSA to submit a revised plan for the project and that plan was also frustrating. Attempting to justify FBI Director Wray’s new-found desire to remain on Pennsylvania Avenue, the plan claimed that tearing down the Hoover Building and rebuilding a new facility on the site could be accomplished for the same cost as building a new suburban campus, whether it be in Virginia or Maryland.

What the 2018 plan did not own up to was that GSA determined they could build a new building for the same price because they were going to shrink the workforce; they planned on moving more than 2,000 FBI staff to other FBI facilities around the country. At the time, GSA also avoided mentioning the fact that a building on Pennsylvania Avenue could not possibly meet the highest level of security required for Federal construction, otherwise known as Interagency Security Committee Level 5. 

The FY22 Consolidated Appropriations Act directed GSA to select a site from one of the three that had been included in GSA’s 2017 prospectus: two in Maryland and one in Virgina. That process, and the actions of GSA’s site selection officials, will be discussed today in detail. I have confidence that questions about the process will be resolved.

I don’t want to wait, however, to examine the structural weaknesses in the previous FBI HQ procurement process, so we can ensure that mistakes are not repeated. 

The last time around, GSA obfuscated and evaded. Questions about funding differences and strategies were never answered. Details about the market value of the Hoover Building were never produced. Shortcomings in the 2018 plan were never acknowledged, and I do believe GSA staff, at the time, was untruthful to Congress.

At this hearing. I will be looking for information about GSA’s procurement strategy and funding needs. I want to know how GSA is going to provide the FBI with the secure, modern facility it needs, one where hunks of concrete will not be falling on the desks of employees.

The current Hoover Building is the only level 5 Federal facility in the middle of an urban area. It is a counter-intelligence disaster waiting to happen and a threat to our national security.

Have we forgotten our commitment to providing our law enforcement with the tools they need to protect all Americans?

I want to thank our witnesses again for being here and I look forward to today’s discussion.