By SYDNEY TONIC and KIMBERLY ESCOBAR
Capital News Service
WASHINGTON – Maryland officials expressed frustration Tuesday over the federal government’s decision to delay picking a site for the FBI’s consolidated headquarters until March.
The General Services Administration had been expected to make a decision in December, but the agency said Monday it was putting off action for an additional three months.
Sen. Ben Cardin, a Democrat, released a statement on Tuesday expressing frustration with the delay, calling it “extremely disappointing and…counter to our national security.”
Plans to relocate the FBI headquarters from downtown Washington have been underway since 2012, when the GSA announced it was seeking developer interest. Two years later, the agency selected Greenbelt and Landover in Maryland and Springfield, Virginia, as the final three candidate sites.
Renee Kelly, a spokeswoman for the GSA, told Capital News Service the delay in a final decision has to do with “a strong and overwhelmingly positive response from developers.”
“GSA and FBI are encouraged by the proposals received and are confident that, if Congress provides the resources requested in the president’s fiscal year 2017 budget, we will be able to deliver on our commitment to provide a world class facility for the FBI and a good deal for the taxpayer,” Kelly said.
But the decision does not sit well with Maryland lawmakers like Cardin and fellow Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski.
“To best carry out its mission on behalf of the safety and security of the American people,” Cardin said, “the FBI urgently needs a new home to fully consolidate its employees scattered throughout the National Capital Region.”
“I will demand full accountability for any further delays,” he added. “The decision making process must be transparent and fair for all parties at all stages.”
Mikulski said that she would do everything she could to propel the FBI consolidation forward.
“I’m deeply disappointed in more delay,” she said. “The men and women of the FBI need a 21st century headquarters today to take on 21st century threats tomorrow.”
Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, said he was against any further postponement.
“The hardworking employees of the FBI deserve a new, consolidated headquarters as soon as possible,” Hoyer said. “Additional delays undermine the FBI’s mission and our national security, as well as employee morale and safety.”
Greenbelt City Council Mayor Emmett Jordan said the delay fits a pattern.
The GSA has “set a number of time tables…they have had to push it back on several occasions,” he said.
The decision to wait until March to pick a site also has an impact on business owners, Jordan said, explaining that they are waiting for a decision to be made so they can plan for what’s ahead.
Despite the delay, optimism lingers among Maryland officials pressing to bring the FBI to the state.
The administration of Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, remains confident that Maryland will prevail, according to spokeswoman Shareese DeLeaver-Churchill.
“From day one, we have worked closely with our partners in the federal delegation and will continue doing everything possible to bring home this win,” she said in a statement.
David Iannucci, senior economic development advisor for Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, said that delay does not change that fact that the county has the two best sites for the FBI headquarters.
“We will continue to work with the GSA, FBI, state and congressional officials, and the three bid teams to refine the proposals and build on our already strong program for the Greenbelt and Landover sites,” Iannucci said.