GSA’s IG to investigate Trump administration’s sudden change in FBI headquarters plans

The General Services Administration’s inspector general will investigate the Trump administration’s sudden reversal on plans for a new FBI headquarters building.

“My office will review GSA’s decision-making process for the revised FBI Headquarters Consolidation project,” GSA Inspector General Carol Ochoa wrote in a letter to Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) on Tuesday. “The scope of our review will include whether the revised plan properly accounts for the full costs and security requirements of the project.”

Last month, Connolly, a leading Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, called on GSA’s IG to look into why the agency and the FBI recently abandoned a decade-long plan to move the FBI to a consolidated campus in suburban Maryland or Virginia.

Instead, both agencies now plan to demolish the crumbling J. Edgar Hoover building in downtown Washington, D.C., and build a new headquarters building in its place.

Advertisement

The new plan diverges from the FBI’s vision of a consolidated campus in the national capital region, and would instead relocate more than 2,000 FBI employees to new agency facilities in West Virginia, Alabama and Idaho.

Connolly requested an IG investigation in February after he said he received insufficient explanations from GSA Administrator Emily Murphy and Public Buildings Service Commissioner Dan Mathews during a subcommittee hearing on the issue.

In his Feb. 28 letter to Ochoa, Connolly asked the inspector general to specifically investigate whether GSA’s latest proposal accounts for the full costs of building a new headquarters, including rental payments and other expenses.

Testifying before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee last month, Mathews told lawmakers that demolishing the J. Edgar Hoover building would free up considerable maintenance spending, which would be “roughly equivalent” to the cost of renting temporary office space for FBI employees.

Connolly also asked the inspector general to look into whether “communications from outside sources” — including the White House, FBI, Justice Department and state and local officials — played a role in reversing course on the FBI headquarters plan.

During last month’s Senate hearing, Mathews and Richard Haley, the assistant director of the FBI’s Finance Division, declined to say directly whether the White House or President Donald Trump played a role in the new direction for the FBI headquarters.

“I am pleased Inspector General Ochoa has launched a review of the GSA’s FBI headquarters decision,” Connolly said in a statement Thursday. “It was deeply troubling that at our Oversight and Government Committee hearing GSA leaders were unable or unwilling to answer very basic questions about the abrupt change in scope, security requirements, and costs of this project. The public deserves answers, and I am hopeful the Inspector General will get to the bottom of this,” Connolly said.

In a statement, GSA spokeswoman Pam Dixon said GSA “welcomes oversight of GSA’s Office of Inspector General and is working with OIG on its review of the joint decision made by GSA and the FBI.”