U.S. Senator Ben Cardin

Letters From Ben

November 18, 2023

Welcome to Maryland

Dear Fellow Marylanders,

The headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is coming to Maryland. Really. And it’s a big deal.

In welcoming the FBI—the lead federal agency that investigates crime and protects Americans’ civil rights by enforcing our laws, catching criminals, and thwarting terrorists, spies, and hackers —Maryland is now welcoming more than 7,500 new jobs and billions of dollars in economic development to our state. We are opening new doors to public servants, workers, leaders, and innovators—and their families—to pursue their personal and professional aspirations in Maryland. Many of these families already live in Maryland. We also are fostering new collaborations with Maryland universities, research institutions, government agencies (like National Security Agency), and companies. And we are beginning a new chapter for equity and growth in Prince George’s County.

I can understand why you might think this is a dream. Because we have been fighting for this outcome for a long, long time.

It’s been 14 years since top FBI officials came to Congress to talk about the need for something better than the J. Edgar Hoover Building. This building, constructed in 1975, has been crumbling before our eyes and clearly no longer meets the needs of our 21st century workforce.

It’s been 12 years since the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, of which I am a member, responded to the FBI’s request for help by authorizing the consolidation of more than 20 FBI offices scattered around the Greater Washington area into a single, secure, campus location.

It’s been more than 12 years since the General Services Administration, working with the FBI, narrowed the search for the new headquarters location to three final candidates – two in Prince George’s County and one in Fairfax County, Virginia.

It’s been almost eight years since President Barack Obama budgeted $1.4 billion for the FBI’s new home at one of the three sites selected by GSA.

At this point, we thought the hardest part was over. We began to imagine the celebratory groundbreaking for a top-notch, state-of-the-art FBI facility in Maryland.

Then Donald Trump became president. With that turn of events, things that we thought of as widely-shared values, apparent truths and plain facts… all came under attack. Suddenly, the security of the FBI’s work space seemed to be competing with the protection of the president’s hotel down the block. The Trump administration eventually canceled the whole effort to build the FBI a new, consolidated and secure campus headquarters, and our work on this project was set back more than four years.

But Team Maryland didn’t give up. Through the Trump years, we kept the project alive so it could move forward once again when change came to the White House.

When Joe Biden was elected president, hope returned. Maryland and Virginian lawmakers worked together to enact into law specific directions to have the GSA pick up where it left off before Trump and go forward with the consideration of the three candidate headquarters locations. Team Maryland knew that in any fair competition among these three locations, it would not be close–the winner would be in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

There were more obstacles, twists and turns to come, however. Our restored optimism was short-lived in 2022 when GSA and FBI officials emerged from behind closed doors to present a final site-selection review process that appeared to tip the scales decisively to the single Virginia site in contention. And so, after too many years of Prince George’s County being overlooked and denied full consideration for the siting of federal office facilities, the 2022 site selection process appeared once again designed to reward the already-advantaged with further preferential treatment. It did this by establishing site evaluation criteria that over-emphasized distance to Quantico, Virginia, and de-emphasized crucial criteria such as cost, transportation and equity.

With this latest turn of events, the Maryland delegation could not sit passively on the side as a biased and unfair process moved forward. We swung into action. I worked with my colleagues to ensure that the GSA heard our concerns. Together we secured language enacted into law as part of Fiscal Year 2023 appropriations that said to the GSA: “Not so fast. Do not proceed until you’ve heard from all parties.”

The GSA did the right thing and followed the law by holding consultations in March with stakeholders. Led by Governor Wes Moore, Lt. Governor Aruna Miller, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, and almost the entire Maryland congressional delegation, participated at a lengthy meeting at the GSA. During this meeting, we once again reviewed the many, well-documented strengths and advantages that the Maryland sites offer the FBI. But we also called on the GSA to restore integrity to the site selection process, remove any appearance of bias, to follow congressional intent and honor the Biden administration’s multiple executive orders on equity.

The GSA listened to us. But it also listened to the Virginia side. Why? Because that’s fair. Yes, the Virginia side, too, had the same opportunity that we had and its own consultation with the GSA to present their views on the matter and this important decision.

Following these consultations and its consideration of the input it received, the GSA publicly clarified its site selection process in a way that restored integrity and fairness. GSA then proceeded with its review process, and, finally, last week announced that the new FBI headquarters will be in Greenbelt, Maryland.

It’s no surprise that our friends from Virginia are disappointed with this decision. After all, they, too, waited through the Trump years, and they, too, had the same opportunity that we had to present their case. They are now calling for an Inspector General investigation into whether the GSA properly followed its process and whether there were conflicts of interest or inappropriate political interference to determine the outcome.

This too shall pass. I am confident that any serious look at the GSA’s actions this year will show only that the agency followed the process it laid out for us all, Marylanders and Virginians alike, to see and comment on. GSA publicly released a trove of documents with its final site selection decision. Any new report also will show that Greenbelt was selected, not because of any conflict of interest or interference, but because—quite simply—it was identified as the most advantageous site for the new FBI headquarters—for overall cost to the taxpayers, access to transit and commuter rail, for scheduling certainty, and for equity.

As a Marylander, I am not surprised by the outcome.

I’m proud to say that, after so many years and so many obstacles thrown on our path, the FBI headquarters is coming to Greenbelt. We look forward to welcoming and working with the FBI in its new home in Maryland.

Thank you for your time. Please feel free to reply to this email with your thoughts on this topic or any other. I always appreciate hearing from Marylanders.


Ben Cardin