By Congressman Glenn Ivey,
Special to the AFRO
By every objective measure, the Maryland sites in the running to host the new and improved Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) headquarters are far superior to sites south of Washington, D.C. If it’s on the merits, Prince George’s County wins out. Hands down. Every time.
For one, picking a Maryland site would save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. The Virginia site has several buildings on it that would have to be vacated, likely demolished, and cleared away before construction could begin, which would cost taxpayers at least an estimated $120 million! The Greenbelt and Landover sites are already clear. Construction could begin immediately and with huge, real savings (believe it or not, $120 million is real money, even at the federal level). In addition, state and county officials in Maryland have secured over $300 million for upgrades to state roads surrounding the sites and to acquire Greenbelt or Landover. These enormous savings to federal taxpayers should be a prime consideration in site selection.
Virginia won’t say how much it will contribute to the project, keeping it confidential “to uphold the integrity” of the process. But Maryland is ready right now – and publicly – to put our money where our mouth is. It’s a deal we can’t afford to pass up. The savings can go toward investing in education and health care, reducing the deficit, combatting climate change, or taking care of our veterans instead.
Maryland is also closer to the action. The Greenbelt and Landover sites are nearer to the facilities where the day-to-day heavy lifting–like prosecuting terrorists, drug traffickers, and fraudsters—gets done: the FBI field offices in Washington and Baltimore; the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in Baltimore, Greenbelt, and Washington or “Main Justice” (essentially, DOJ’s headquarters); and the federal courthouses in Washington, Greenbelt, and Baltimore. By contrast, the FBI field offices in Virginia are either two hours away in Richmond (or in Arlington, which is also near the Maryland sites). Other resources – like the National Security Agency, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and world-class national security programs at the University of Maryland, College Park – give Maryland the definitive edge.
In an apparent effort to boost Virginia’s chances, the General Services Administration (GSA) made proximity to a single training facility in Virginia, Quantico, as the end-all, be-all. But that’s like relocating the Pentagon to West Point, New York, so it can sit close to the United States Military Academy. The tail shouldn’t wag the dog. Yet GSA made proximity to Quantico three times more important than saving the taxpayers millions of dollars. As a former federal prosecutor, I know that FBI agents who do the day-to-day work aren’t going to Quantico more than once or twice a year. If that’s the only thing Virginia has in its favor, Maryland is clearly the better choice.
There’s no better place than Prince George’s County to right historic wrongs and tap into the resources of a diverse community. The African American population in Prince George’s County is about 64 percent, which is more than Fairfax County’s entire minority population combined, and Latinos make up another 20 percent of our county. It is one of the most multicultural and multiracial jurisdictions in the country. But the residual effects of redlining have left it bereft of leased federal office space. Although 75,000 federal workers live here – a whopping 25 percent of the federal workforce – the county houses only 4 percent of the National Capital Region’s federal leased offices. Fairfax County already boasts nearly triple that figure.
Just this past week, President Biden reaffirmed his commitment to equity in an Executive Order that espouses “an ambitious, whole-of-government approach to racial equity and support for underserved communities and to continuously embed equity into all aspects of Federal decision-making.” Selecting a location for the new FBI headquarters is exactly the type of federal decision-making that can be put to use in advancing racial equity. In the choice of three sites now before the GSA, only Prince George’s County offers the chance to truly honor the intent of the President’s Executive Order.
But even if the only color you’re concerned about is green, the choice is clear. Maryland makes the most sense – economically and logistically.
In every metric – except for the virtually irrelevant criterion of proximity to Quantico – Maryland wins. We urge the Biden administration to save taxpayer money and put the FBI headquarters close to where the actual, daily work of protecting our nation occurs. Choose Maryland.
Congressman Glenn Ivey is a Democratic U.S. House Representative for District 4 of Maryland.
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