A top Senate Republican is expected to scold federal agencies Wednesday for scrapping plans last month to relocate the Federal Bureau of Investigation's headquarters without informing Congress, while simultaneously looking for ways to reopen the relocation review process.
"The security and efficiency arguments for this are clear. What is not clear is why this project was suddenly halted, why Congress was not notified in advance, and what happens now," Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., will say at a morning hearing, according to an excerpt of his prepared remarks obtained by the Washington Examiner. "Senators should not have to find out about a decision of this magnitude" through the news media, he said.
Wednesday's hearing will be the first oversight hearing since the General Service Administration announced it was canceling the FBI relocation review on July 11 because of lack of funding and uncertainty in the procurement process. Barrasso's committee has direct oversight over large federal public works projects.
"I have no doubt that there is a need to replace the FBI's existing headquarters. The men and women of the FBI, who keep us all safe, deserve an office building that meets their needs," Barrasso said in his remarks.
Senior officials from the FBI, GSA, and the Government Accountability Office will be at the hearing.
"At this time, GSA and the FBI are working together to meet the FBI's short- and long-term housing needs and mission requirements, that necessarily includes deciding what investments to make in the Hoover Building now that we know the FBI will be housed there for longer than expected," said Michael Gelber, the GSA's acting public building commissioner, in prepared remarks.
"Additionally, the FBI's portfolio of leased space is being evaluated as well as options to procure a new headquarters for the FBI," he said. "In closing, GSA is committed to carrying out our mission of delivering the best value in real estate. The need for the FBI to have a modern headquarters remains. GSA will continue to work with members of this committee, the FBI, and others in the administration and Congress to meet this need."
The FBI official in his testimony, however, said the FBI's J. Edgar Hoover building in downtown Washington would be too costly to retrofit and is wholly inadequate to protect the agency from a physical or cyber attack.
"Fighting the current threat, and preparing for the future wave of threats, requires cutting edge technology, and the foundation for intelligence to flow in and out of the FBI seamlessly," said Richard L. Haley II, the FBI's assistant director of facilities. "Simply put, the J. Edgar Hoover building is obsolete, inefficient, and faces a number of security vulnerabilities."
Maryland and Virginia officials spent years working on their bids to win the highly prized relocation of the FBI. The three locations that were being considered were Greenbelt and Landover in Maryland and Springfield, Virginia. The GSA said the decision to cancel the relocation was made because of an $882 million "funding gap" in the fiscal 2017 spending bill.
"Moving forward without full funding puts the government at risk for cost escalations and the potential reduction in value of the J. Edgar Hoover property that developers were to receive as part of this procurement," according to a July 11 statement. "The cancellation of the project does not lessen the need for a new FBI headquarters. GSA and FBI will continue to work together to address the space requirements of the FBI."