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FBI director didn’t accept new Md. headquarters decision, sought do-over

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FBI Director Christopher A. Wray said last month he could not accept a federal official’s decision to relocate the agency’s headquarters from downtown Washington to the Maryland suburbs, criticizing the politically fraught and drawn out site selection process as fatally flawed, according to a letter obtained by The Washington Post.

The Oct. 12 letter sent from the FBI director to the top official at the General Services Administration — the agency that oversees federal real estate — called on the agency to scrap its Maryland selection and restart the entire process. Wray said a former GSA official in charge of the process until their departure last month, made questionable decisions that ignored the recommendations of a panel convened to choose the most suitable location.

The GSA rejected Wray’s appeals. The Post reported Wednesday that federal officials chose a 61-acre site adjacent to the Greenbelt Metro station in Prince George’s County, Md., to house the new FBI headquarters — a plot of land owned by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, also known as Metro.

The letter from Wray to Robin Carnahan, the head of GSA, was a remarkable rejection of the results of a hard-fought selection process that has taken years, pitting officials in Maryland and Virginia against each other as they vied for a massive new federal complex, which has promised to generate billions of dollars in taxpayer revenue. After receiving the letter, the GSA decided it was proceeding anyway with the Greenbelt site decision.

On Thursday morning, Wray spoke to senior FBI leaders about the decision and sent an email to the workforce, telling them a three-person panel working on the decision had unanimously recommended a different site, one in Springfield, Va.

“The site selection panel wrote a detailed consensus report articulating the basis for its recommendation of Springfield,” Wray wrote, but that recommendation was overruled by a GSA official.

“Unfortunately, we have concerns about fairness and transparency in the process and GSA’s failure to adhere to its own site selection plan,” Wray wrote. “Despite our engagement with GSA over the last two months on these issues, our concerns about the process remain unresolved.”

Wray’s letter to the workforce emphasized “our concerns are not with the decision itself but with the process … For our part, we will continue to be clear about our process concerns, even as we work with GSA toward the design and construction of a facility.”

He also said the FBI hopes to secure funding to build office space in D.C. that would house up to 1,000 employees. It’s unclear if that building would be at its current location on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The GSA picked Greenbelt as the new headquarters site over two other finalists in the competition: Landover, which is also in Prince George’s County, and Springfield, in Fairfax County, Va.

In his Oct. 12 letter to GSA, Wray said the agency “cannot accept a site selection decision with these unresolved issues,” and asked that a new official be appointed “to re-run the site selection process.”

Those issues, according to the letter, include whether the official overseeing the site selection process disagreed on what Wray called “key areas,” and the official “disagreed with the panel’s unanimous rating of the Greenbelt site” in order to increase the rating of Greenbelt.

That official had worked previously for Metro, which owns the Greenbelt parcel, which the FBI said was a concern given how the decision-making was done. That official, Wray said, “was later granted overarching power to select the site without adhering to the recommendation of the unanimous panel and with limitless ability to decide when outside information should and should not be considered in making the site selection decision.”

The letter did not suggest “a lack of integrity” by the official, but said “for a project of this magnitude and significance,” the official making the decision “simply should not have previous, direct affiliation with one of the parties of this procurement.”

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