Montgomery County is entering the competition to become the new home of the FBI, a potential blow to neighboring Prince George's County, which has been courting the FBI with the claim that all of Maryland stood behind it.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is being moved out of its longtime headquarters in the J. Edgar Hoover Building along Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest in the District. With the promise of 12,000 jobs and a share of an $8 billion annual budget, officials in both Virginia and Maryland are preparing offers and intend to fiercely compete for the agency.

Fairfax County is proposing that the FBI move to a warehouse there that's already owned by the federal government. Prince George's County says it has several possible sites, all of them next to Metro stations. Montgomery County Councilman Craig Rice said Montgomery is now looking for land that meets the FBI's requirements -- that the site be at least 55 acres, within 2 miles of Metro and within 2.5 miles of the Beltway.

Still, Montgomery's decision to enter the competition could undercut Prince George's efforts. As recently as last week, Prince George's officials were wooing the FBI with claims that they had "the unified support of the state," suggesting they could be more accommodating of the agency's needs.

State lawmakers, who were quick to back Prince George's in its bid, said they will continue support Prince George's over Montgomery.

U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., told Montgomery officials that he will continue to promote "what I think have been unfairly underutilized locations within Prince George's County."

Steven Silverman, director of the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development, said Montgomery is "absolutely interested" in landing the agency and is currently "talking with developers and land owners who might have suitable land to meet the criteria."

Silverman said the county will also explore whether the FBI can be more flexible with its requirements about proximity to the Beltway and Metro.

Despite Montgomery's interest, Aubrey D. Thagard, a top aide to Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker, said Prince George's is still the ideal location for the FBI.

"We don't expect it to be handed to us," Thagard said, "and we plan on being very competitive [until the end]."