FBI Headquarters Consolidation Project: What Happened and What’s Next
Good morning Chairman Barrasso, Ranking Member Carper, and members of the committee. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the need for a new Federal Bureau of Investigation Headquarters building in the Washington, D.C. area. I am pleased to appear before the committee with my colleague from the General Services Administration.
As the committee is aware, the FBI has occupied the J. Edgar Hoover (JEH) building since 1974. Since that time, the mission of the FBI has evolved, but the building itself has not kept pace. Aside from the core Headquarters staff located at JEH, the FBI also has staff in dispersed leased locations across the National Capital Region. Additionally, the building itself is literally falling apart as evidenced by crumbling facades and deteriorating infrastructure. This makes it difficult to address rapidly developing threats and collaborate across divisions and programs. Our nation continues to face a multitude of serious and evolving threats ranging from homegrown violent extremists to hostile foreign intelligence services and operatives; from sophisticated cyber-based attacks to Internet-facilitated sexual exploitation of children; from violent gangs and criminal organizations to public corruption and corporate fraud. As an organization, we must be able to stay current with constantly changing and new technologies that make our jobs both easier and harder. Our adversaries—terrorists, foreign intelligence services, and criminals—take advantage of modern technology, including the Internet and social media, to facilitate illegal activities, recruit followers, encourage terrorist attacks and other illicit actions, and to disperse information on building improvised explosive devices and other means to attack the U.S. Keeping pace with these threats is a significant challenge for the FBI. The breadth of these threats and challenges are as complex now as at any time in our history, and the consequences of not responding to and countering threats and challenges have never been greater. Fighting the current threat, and preparing for the future wave of threats, requires cutting-edge technology and the foundation for intelligence to flow in and out of the FBI seamlessly. Simply put, the J. Edgar Hoover building is obsolete, inefficient, and faces a number of security vulnerabilities.
Aside from the operational shortfalls in the current facility, we also face infrastructure limitations. Because of the manner in which the building was constructed, retrofit efforts are costly, time-consuming, and extremely disruptive. In addition, key components of the building’s infrastructure have reached the end of their useful life. Providing for those building infrastructure needs to ensure the safety of employees, as well as the integrity of their work—even in the short term—will have a cost. Security also remains a key challenge. The J. Edgar Hoover building does not meet Interagency Security Committee standards for an Intelligence Community-grade building. The building also lacks the resiliency necessary should a minor or catastrophic event occur.
That said, the FBI has worked closely with our colleagues at GSA over the past decade to design a solution that meets the needs of the Bureau while recognizing the considerable challenges of funding such a large and complex project. GSA’s Federal Building Fund is specifically authorized to provide for such unique—and clearly—governmental use-type building projects. However, the appropriations in recent years have not provided GSA full access to the rent resources collected to support capital projects such as ours.
We were very encouraged that the procurement process resulted in considerable interest—and investment—by the private sector to help secure a new Headquarters facility. This private sector interest, however, has a shelf life, and without the full funding that was requested through appropriations, FBI and GSA determined that continuing to move forward with this procurement without full funding at this time would have put the government at risk for project cost escalations and likely result in a devaluation of the Hoover property. For these reasons, FBI and GSA jointly made the decision to cancel the procurement.
At this time, GSA and the FBI are working together to meet the FBI’s short- and long-term housing needs and mission requirements. We will seek to determine what investments should be made to the Hoover Building and whether other government owned facilities and locations could be leveraged to provide for FBI support operations. We will also jointly evaluate the FBI’s current portfolio of leased space and think creatively and expansively.
The FBI understands the increasing costs of federal office space, as it leases more than 350 locations nationwide for its field and satellite offices (through GSA). However, the FBI has made concerted efforts to reduce space requirements by consolidating case files and evidence storage in centralized locations in lower cost areas and minimizing personal workspace and common areas. Also, the FBI is in the process of moving and consolidating its data centers from costly leased locations in downtown areas to owned facilities in locations that have significantly lower costs of power and infrastructure. Moving forward, we anticipate that a new Headquarters would dramatically reduce the total square footage and consolidate or eliminate the need for multiple lease locations in the National Capital Region and save tens of millions in annual lease payments.
In summary, the J. Edgar Hoover building is incompatible with what the United States expects of the FBI. To protect this nation from the rapidly developing, evolving threats we face today, the FBI needs an environment in which its highly trained, skilled workforce can collaborate across divisions and programs to fashion solutions that mitigate today’s threats. Our goal is to have built a consolidated, secure, resilient Intelligence Community-worthy facility. However, even more than that, what we need is a facility capable of meeting the increased demands of the nation’s premier intelligence and law enforcement organization for the future of the FBI. This building will address the way we will work for the next 50 or more years. In doing so, we are building the security and safety of this nation by creating an environment where the men and women of the FBI can use their significant skills and abilities to live up to the sacred trust placed in us by the American people: to protect them from harm and uphold the Constitution of the United States.
While discontinuing the procurement is disappointing, the need for a facility that meets the mission requirements of the FBI has not abated. Chairman Barrasso, Ranking Member Carper, and committee members, I thank you for this opportunity to testify on the new FBI Headquarters project. We appreciate your interest and support. I am happy to answer any questions you might have.