- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Trump administration announced Tuesday that it canceled the long-planned relocation of FBI headquarters to the Washington suburbs, angering officials in Maryland and Virginia.

The General Services Administration said the decision was a financial matter, saying it made no sense to attempt a move from the District given the uncertainty of winning funding from Congress for a new headquarters.

“The fiscal year 2017 budget request included $1.4 billion for this project; however, the $523 million appropriated in 2017 leaves an $882 million funding gap,” a GSA spokeswoman said in a statement. “Moving forward without full funding puts the government at risk for cost escalations and the potential reduction in value of the J. Edgar Hoover property that developers were to receive as part of this procurement.”

A group of Democratic lawmakers from Maryland blasted the decision to scrap the move, saying it put America’s national security at risk.

“The Hoover Building is crumbling around the FBI. It is unfathomable that the Trump Administration would fail to move forward on a secure headquarters for the FBI workforce that serves on the front lines of our nation’s law enforcement and counter terrorism efforts,” said a joint statement by Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, Sen. Chris Van Hollen, House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer and Rep. Anthony G. Grown of Prince George’s County.

The plan to relocate the bureau had been in the works for a decade, with locations in Greenbelt and Landover, Maryland, and Springfield, Virginia, under consideration for the move.

The lawmakers said canceling the project was a waste of millions of dollars invested by the federal, state and county governments to plan the move.

“Congress has spoken very clearly on multiple occasions that it intends to fully fund the consolidated FBI project,” they said.

Conservative activists, who warned against moving the country’s top law enforcement agency to a sanctuary jurisdiction, praised the decision, even though it remains in a city that proudly proclaims its sanctuary status.

The two finalists for the $2.5 billion project were Prince George’s County in Maryland, where local officials resist helping deport illegal immigrants, and Fairfax County in Virginia, where police say they make a point to cooperate with federal immigration agents.

In denying Prince George’s the project, activists said the Trump administration made the right move.

“When you promote lawlessness, you don’t get rewarded,” said activist Sue Payne. “The Obama administration had no problem with lawlessness, no problem rewarding lawlessness. The Trump administration is not going to do that.”

The announcement comes a day before the Senate Judiciary Committee is set to hold a confirmation hearing for Chris Wray, President Trump’s nominee to lead the FBI. Mr. Trump fired former FBI Director James B. Comey amid the FBI’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

The FBI planned the move because the Hoover building no longer meets its needs. The imposing edifice on Pennsylvania Avenue houses less than half the bureau’s 11,000 employees, with the rest scattered in offices around Washington.

The proposed 2.1 million-square-foot complex in the suburbs would have consolidated the FBI workforce in one place.

The GSA spokeswoman said the cancellation of the project “does not lessen the need for a new FBI headquarters” and that it will continue to work with the FBI to address the bureau’s space requirements.

Under the GSA’s original plan, the bidder that won the contract would have built the new FBI headquarters in the suburban location, and would have then taken control of the J. Edgar Hoover site in downtown Washington to convert for other uses.

One of the companies who’d planned to bid was Vornado Realty Trust, which co-owns buildings with Mr. Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Lawmakers had voiced concerns over potential conflicts of interest, with Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, a Virginia Democrat who represents parts of Fairfax County, saying it may have sunk the relocation project.

“Reports that the federal government is pulling the plug on a new FBI headquarters reveal insurmountable Trump conflicts with GSA, FBI and Vornado,” he said. “This is devastating news. Conflicts have consequences.”

• S.A. Miller can be reached at smiller@washingtontimes.com.

• Andrea Noble can be reached at anoble@washingtontimes.com.

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