Watchdog to Probe FBI Headquarters Selection Process Amid Claims of Political Bias

The General Services Administration has been accused of allowing politics to influence its decision on where the new FBI headquarters will be located.
Watchdog to Probe FBI Headquarters Selection Process Amid Claims of Political Bias
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) headquarters in Washington on Nov. 6, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)
Samantha Flom
11/30/2023
Updated:
11/30/2023
0:00

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the General Services Administration (GSA) will investigate whether politics influenced the agency’s selection process for the location of the FBI’s new headquarters.

The GSA announced on Nov. 9 that it had chosen Greenbelt, Maryland, over two other potential locations.

The move sparked concern about a “political conflict of interest” from FBI Director Christopher Wray, who wrote in an internal email obtained by The Associated Press that the choice was made after a GSA executive overruled a board to pick land owned by a former employer.

As one of the other sites in contention was in Springfield, Virginia, that news angered Virginia’s congressional delegation and Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who claimed the process had been “tainted” by politics.

“We are deeply disturbed to learn that a political appointee at the General Services Administration overruled the unanimous recommendation of a three-person panel comprised of career experts from the GSA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, concluding that Springfield, Virginia, is the site best suited for the new FBI headquarters,” the officials said in a joint statement.

“We have repeatedly condemned political interference in the independent, agency-run site selection process for a new FBI headquarters. Any fair weighing of the criteria points to a selection of Virginia. It is clear that this process has been irrevocably undermined and tainted, and this decision must now be reversed.”

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) raised those concerns in a Nov. 15 letter to the GSA’s Acting Inspector General Robert Erickson. On Nov. 30, he received a reply confirming that an investigation would be launched.

“My office is initiating an evaluation of GSA’s selection of the site,” Mr. Erickson wrote. “Our objective will be to assess the agency’s process and procedures for the site selection to relocate the FBI Headquarters. We intend to begin this work immediately and will share with you and the relevant committees a copy of any report which may result from this evaluation.”

Technically independent, the GSA OIG is a watchdog dedicated to investigating internal matters at the GSA.

Under Pressure

According to the GSA, the Greenbelt location was selected because it presented “the lowest cost to taxpayers, provided the greatest transportation access to FBI employees and visitors, and gave the government the most certainty on project delivery schedule.”

The agency added that the chosen location would also provide “the highest potential to advance sustainability and equity.”

“GSA looks forward to building the FBI a state-of-the-art headquarters campus in Greenbelt to advance their critical mission for years to come,” GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan said in a statement.

The decision followed a sudden change to the selection criteria in July, when the agency announced that it was increasing the weight of cost and social equity in its decision-making process and reducing the importance of transportation and the location’s proximity to other FBI facilities, like its Quantico facility in Virginia.

The changes were made after officials in Maryland argued that convenience had been weighted too heavily as a factor—a fact Virginia officials pointed to as evidence that the decision was “fouled by politics.”

Praising Mr. Erickson’s decision to open an investigation, Virginia’s congressional delegation agreed it was the “appropriate next step.”

“We applaud the inspector general for moving quickly and encourage him to move forward to complete a careful and thorough review,” they said in a joint statement. “In the meantime, the GSA must pause all activities related to the relocation until the IG’s investigation is complete.”