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Change in criteria for FBI headquarters upsets Md. leaders

Change in criteria for FBI headquarters upsets Md. leaders

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A late change in criteria for selecting a site for a new FBI headquarters has angered Maryland leaders who want the facility in Prince George’s County.

Of three sites on a short list, Prince George’s County is home to two — Greenbelt and Largo. But after a decade of work to select a new location, federal officials added proximity to Quantico as another criteria and Maryland leaders said that favors a finalist in Virginia.

Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said selection criteria listed equity fourth among the U.S. General Services Administration’s five criteria. The Quantico criteria was added in September and is listed at the top of the criteria list.

“This is an abrupt change that clearly favors Springfield and puts our county at a disadvantage,” Alsobrooks said. “Our sites are clear winners when it comes to transit, sustainability and cost. And as an added benefit, our sites also promote equity across the region. We ask, why then is the GSA suddenly changing the rules of the game in the 11th hour?”

President Joseph Biden issued an executive order soon after taking office that he said would make racial equity a priority in all federal decisions.

“The decisions made to this point I think we can say objectively have been done in a way that is inequitable,” Alsobrooks said. “The results speak for themselves. The fact that we’re home to 48% of the warehouse space, there has been an inequitable decision made somewhere along the way.”

Alsobrooks and others noted the transformational effect a facility such as a new FBI headquarters can have on a county. They pointed to investments that followed federal offices located in Montgomery County and in Northern Virginia.

“We are asking the White House to look at this and to break this generational system of inequities that have seen these agencies go elsewhere,” Alsobrooks said.

Prince George’s County is home to roughly 20% of the federal workforce but only 5% of the office space.

“We are a warehouse community for the federal government,” said Rep. Anthony Brown, a Democrat. “We accept that responsibility and the privilege to be the custodian of information and documents for the federal government but we are more than just a warehouse county.”

Relocating the FBI’s headquarters for a modern facility outside of downtown Washington DC has been in progress for roughly a decade. Prince George’s County was considered a leading location until 2017 when Republican President Donald Trump derailed the selection process.

But with the change in administrations came a renewed effort to find a new home for the law enforcement agency. But in September, there was a late change to the criteria that included proximity to the FBI’s training facility in Quantico.

“So what, there’s not a single service, activity or amenity at Quantico that isn’t already in Prince George’s County or that cannot be replicated in Prince George’s County,” Brown said.

“Proximity to Quantico is irrelevant,” he said.

Maryland Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer, the House Majority leader, blamed the agency for the late change. He accused the FBI of trying to put its thumb on the scale.

“I think the FBI has frankly determined where it wants to go,” Hoyer said.

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