Washington, D.C. – Opening remarks, as prepared, of Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Subcommittee Chairman Scott Perry (R-PA) from today’s hearing, entitled, “Ensuring Transparency in the Federal Government: An Examination of GSA’s Site Selection for the FBI Headquarters”:
I want to thank our witnesses for being here today to discuss the site selection process for a new Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters building.
At some point, this committee is expected to receive an official General Services Administration (GSA) prospectus requesting our authorization for a new FBI headquarters building.
I will say upfront I am not convinced the FBI needs a brand new building. While the world has become more dangerous, the FBI finds time to investigate parents at school board meetings and uses its resources to try and silence dissent. So I am not on board with the idea the FBI needs a shiny new building at the taxpayers’ expense.
But what I may agree with the FBI on are the questions surrounding the current GSA site selection process – a process that this committee specifically oversees. The process to build a new FBI headquarters is probably a textbook example of why big government and bureaucracy is so bad. This whole process started more than 15 years ago, but there hasn’t even been a shovel in the ground and the cost has ballooned.
Ironically, if it wasn’t for the bureaucratic maze and politics, right now there would already be a new FBI headquarters in Maryland or Virginia.
Going as far back as 2011, neither the FBI nor Congress thought it was realistic to rely on appropriated funding for the project. No one thought Congress would appropriate what grew to billions of dollars for new construction.
The FBI, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and members of this committee all expressed that if this was going to get done, it would need to be done as a public-private partnership (P3) – leveraging private financing. But they were all overruled by whom? Unelected bureaucrats in the executive branch who just don’t like P3s.
So it came as no great surprise when GSA canceled the procurement in 2017 for lack of funds – more precisely, a shortfall of over $800 million.
But when the Trump Administration attempted to propose a more realistic solution, including a P3, the Democrats cried foul and began investigations into allegations, which again halted the project. Ironically, the current Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General found no evidence of any improper considerations or motives as the Democrats claimed at the time.
So instead of going back to evaluate the FBI’s current needs, language was slipped into an appropriations bill directing GSA to select from among three sites evaluated a decade ago. The language went further to require GSA to consider not just mission requirements but also “sustainability, and equity.”
So here we are today.
To the witnesses, I get that you are doing what the appropriations language has directed you to do. But now there are questions about the recent site selection process. During the process, GSA adjusted the weighting of the factors considered, including increasing the value given to equity and decreasing the value for mission. GSA increased the value for cost, but it is not clear what costs were considered. Ultimately, the Site Selection Authority selected the Greenbelt, Maryland, site, overruling the panel that was convened, and there appears to be little explanation as to why.
I hope today we can get some answers as the Committee prepares to review any proposal for a new FBI headquarters.
Finally, I want to note we wanted to hear from Ms. Nina Albert about her role in this process, and despite being invited well in advance, we learned on Friday she would not appear before the Subcommittee today. So, we will no longer have a second panel, but we will be sending her a letter to continue to seek the answers we need and will have to consider other options available to the Subcommittee so that we can hear her perspective in the future.
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