Friday, November 10, 2023
Throughout the selection process, the FBI coordinated closely with GSA with a clear focus on what’s best for our workforce, the mission, and the American people. Paramount for us were fairness and transparency in the process. In the course of our work with GSA, however, we identified concerns about a potential conflict of interest involving the site selection authority and whether changes that individual made in the final stage of the process adhered to the site selection criteria. Despite our engagement with GSA over the last two months on these issues, our concerns about the process remain unresolved.
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Congress initiated the site selection process, so, moving forward, it will control the next steps. 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.
Note the reference to "changes that individual made" to the site selection criteria. According to news reports yesterday, the individual is a former Metro employee who is now a political appointee at GSA, and that may implicate a conflict of interest because Metro owns the Greenbelt site that GSA will now purchase.
Or anyway, they'll now purchase it if Congress appropriates the very considerable funds necessary. Wray's veiled reference to Congress tells us where this conflict is headed next.
Putting the new FBI HQ in Greenbelt makes no sense at all - I mean, not unless you own the site, or would collect revenue from land development there. The FBI officials who'll work at that HQ need to be close to the DOJ, relevant U.S. Courts, Congress, and the existing FBI and assorted other USG facilities they need to visit, all of which are in DC and Virginia.
And then there are the political realities, starting with the fact that the House of Representatives is normally where appropriations must begin, and the House right now is, ah, not favorably inclined toward the FBI or its Director. Furthermore, Washington is now entering an election year, and that destabilizes everything on the legislative agenda.
At best, Congress will table the FBI HQ project for another year. Or maybe the Republican majority will start another oversight investigation, this time partnering with Director Wray to tag-team the GSA and Biden Administration. It looks like they could find plenty of red meat there for a good old election year scandal, and one with the strategic advantage of turning the FBI against the White House.
Or even, and it takes an effort to control myself as I imagine this option, that Republican majority could go ahead and appropriate the millions to buy the Greenbelt site just to screw over the FBI for decades to come by saddling them with the worst site option that's on the table.
As Robert E. Lee once said of war, it is well that partisan politics is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it.