Mikulski wants FBI to get a move on (to Maryland)
Combining her position as the FBI's budget overseer with a seemingly relentless drive to steer jobs to Maryland, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski is trying to help the nation's G-men and women build a brand new main office, possibly in Prince George's County.
Word of a possible relocation has started dribbling out. However, an actual move could be years, if not decades, away.
The backstory: Last year, the Maryland Democrat slipped a provision into a spending measure, directing the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, to study the question of moving the Federal Bureau of Investigation from its main office on Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington.
In a statement by her spokeswoman, Mikulski described the headquarters building as "literally crumbling" and, in effect, a target for criminals or terrorists.
"Senator Mikulski is aware that the FBI's current headquarters does not meet employee safety and security needs," spokeswoman Rachel MacKnight said in an e-mail.
The GAO study could provide justification for Congress to approve construction of a new, consolidated main office for the FBI.
Built in the late '60s and early '70s and named in honor of the bureau's longest serving and most controversial director, the current HQ, a concrete monstrosity, is regarded as the ugliest structure on "America's Main Street."
"The J. Edgar Hoover Building is inadequate for the current FBI Headquarters workforce," Congress declared in the spending measure signed into law by President Obama in March, 2009. It said the lack of space has forced the bureau to house employees at more than 16 other sites.
The GAO was told to analyze the bureau's ability to do its job under current conditions and study the benefits of a consolidated headquarters facility. A report has yet to be made public.
Mikulski and other members of the state's congressional delegation are familiar with finding new homes for fast-growing federal agencies. For example, the Food and Drug Administration is currently moving to a large (and expensive) new consolidated campus at White Oak in Montgomery County.
News of a possible FBI relocation to Greenbelt first surfaced in the April 29 edition of the Greenbelt News Review, a community weekly whose reporter discovered the information in a lawsuit related to development around the Greenbelt Metro station.
The FBI has eyeballed other Maryland sites, including National Harbor in Prince George's County, for a consolidated home, a spokesman told the Washington Post late last week. The spokesman, Bill Carter, indicated that the discussions predated the current economic slump, which may have delayed further talks.
A GAO report would be the first step in setting a relocation in motion. Prince George's would be a favorite to get the new site, because it is under-served by the federal bureaucracy, compared with other DC suburbs, and because of Mikulski's clout on the Commerce, Justice, Science committee.
But there's no guarantee that Virginia, or DC, won't wind up as the FBI's new home. Or that nothing will happen for years, if not longer.
The last time the FBI asked for a new headquarters building was in 1939. It took 35 years for the first employees to move in.
Even under the best of circumstances, these things take time. The FDA move to White Oak will have consumed roughly a quarter of a century, from beginning to end, when it is finished sometime later this decade.