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Government watchdog to investigate selection of new FBI headquarters site

Virginia lawmakers alleged that the selection process was “fouled by political considerations" after Maryland was chosen for the bureau's new headquarters.
People walk in front of the FBI's headquarters.
FBI headquarters in Washington.Beata Zawrzel / NurPhoto via Getty Images

The internal watchdog for the government agency that chose Maryland as the home of the FBI’s new headquarters said it will launch an investigation into the site selection process, which has come under scrutiny by Virginia lawmakers and even the bureau’s director.

“Our objective will be to assess the agency’s process and procedures for the site selection to relocate the FBI Headquarters,” Robert Erickson, the acting inspector general at the General Services Administration, wrote in a letter Thursday to Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.

Warner and a group of 10 lawmakers from the state's congressional delegation had pressed Erickson to probe the site selection process after FBI Director Christopher Wray raised concerns this month about “a potential conflict of interest.”

In a letter Nov. 15, the lawmakers said "overwhelming evidence" suggested that the process was “fouled by political considerations and alleged impropriety."

Erickson's response Thursday did not provide details about a timeline for the inquiry but noted plans to begin work "immediately" and to share any report that may follow the evaluation.

The GSA this month confirmed Maryland as the FBI's new headquarters location over neighboring Virginia after the two states competed for years to host the site.

Shortly after that announcement, Wray told bureau staff members in an email that he was concerned about the "impartiality" of a senior executive at the GSA who overruled an agency board decision and picked land in Maryland that is owned by the executive’s previous employer.

A GSA spokesperson said Thursday that the agency stood by its decision.

“GSA continues to welcome a review of our decision-making process for the FBI headquarters site selection. As a part of our longstanding commitment to transparency, we proactively and publicly released our site selection plan, decision-making materials, and results of our legal review evaluating the FBI’s concerns," the spokesperson said in a statement. "We carefully followed the requirements and process, and stand behind GSA’s final site selection decision.”

The FBI declined to comment on the watchdog's probe.

During the selection process, Warner, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, touted the Springfield site for its proximity to the bureau’s academy in Quantico, as well as other national security agencies.

In a joint statement Thursday, Warner and the group of Virginia lawmakers said the investigation was "the appropriate next step” and called on the GSA to pause the relocation process until it is complete.