Advertisement

Maryland won a tentative victory in the race for a new FBI headquarters, a potential economic boon for a majority Black county near DC

Wes Moore
Gov. Wes Moore of Maryland, center, and Rep. Steny Hoyer share the stage in Baltimore.Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
  • In November, the GSA announced that Maryland had been picked to land the new FBI headquarters.

  • Maryland lawmakers, including Gov. Wes Moore and Rep. Steny Hoyer, emphasized equity in their pitch.

  • Some Virginia officials who have decried the selection process now want it reversed.

For over a decade, a bipartisan contingent of political leaders in Maryland and Virginia sought to land the new FBI headquarters.

The J. Edgar Hoover Building, a Brutalist complex near the White House that has housed the agency's headquarters since 1975, became functionally obsolete years ago, with employees dispersed among different locations in the region. The current location, while centrally located, also has security vulnerabilities that a newer and more secure facility would rectify.

For years, the race to land the facility was intense. But federal officials last November selected a site in Greenbelt, Maryland, located in suburban Prince George's County and adjacent to an existing Metro station — making it easily accessible to public transit.

The decision is a major win for Maryland Gov. Wes Moore and Maryland Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, but especially for Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer, the dean of the Maryland congressional delegation and a longtime champion of the project. Hoyer in a recent interview told me that he first discussed the move in 2009 with then-FBI director Robert Mueller.

"I went down to the building, I looked at it, took a tour through it, and he showed me how decrepit it was," Hoyer said, noting that Mueller said the state of the building was undermining the agency's effectiveness.

Hoyer, a former House majority leader who endorsed Moore's campaign months before the 2022 Democratic gubernatorial primary, told Business Insider that the now-governor "immediately seized" on the FBI issue even before his eventual win in the primary.

"He digested and understood the importance of our competitive advantage and focused on achieving that objective," Hoyer said. "And he recognized the importance of the FBI for Maryland and in particular for Prince George's County."

Prince George's County, the majority-Black county directly to the east of Washington, DC, has for years had one of the most affluent Black populations of any jurisdiction in the country. But compared to Northern Virginia localities like Fairfax County, which has been an economic powerhouse for decades, Prince George's County hasn't enjoyed a similar level of economic development.

FBI
The J. Edgar Hoover Building in downtown Washington is an outdated facility that doesn't serve the FBI's long-term needs.ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images

In that sense, the new building — which will consolidate and hold roughly 11,000 employees under one roof — is a game changer for Maryland.

"We have 4% of leased federal office space in Prince George's County," Hoyer told me, while also pointing out that the county is home to roughly 20% of the Washington region's federal workers. "Fairfax County has 11% of the office space, almost three times as much as we have."

Hoyer, like Moore, argued during the selection process that a Maryland site would be tied to equity, not only in terms of race but also regarding the level of federal investment.

"This project will be worth over $4 billion in economic activity and it's going to solidify Maryland as the cyber capital of this country," the governor told me in a recent interview. "The reason that we made it such a high priority is because this is going to be one of the most important federal buildings that has ever been built."

Virginia leaders, who for years argued that a suburban site near the Marine Corps Base Quantico was a better fit for the headquarters, have criticized the selection — and now the General Service Administration will conduct an evaluation of the process.

In a November letter, a majority of Virginia's congressional delegation asked that the decision to move the headquarters to the 61-acre Greenbelt site be reversed. And current FBI director Christopher Wray has expressed concerns about the selection process.

But a White House spokesperson in November defended the selection process as "fair and transparent." And Maryland's leaders remain confident.

"We're absolutely convinced that everything was done properly," Hoyer told me. "And I've been convinced from the very beginning that Greenbelt was by far the best site for all the reasons that the GSA ultimately found."

Read the original article on Business Insider