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Maryland: It's our turn to get a federal agency

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Local,Maryland,Virginia,Taylor Holland,Prince Georges County

For Maryland officials, the fight over the new FBI headquarters is about more than just a big building and thousands of jobs -- it's about equality.

All 10 of the state's congressional leaders have told the federal government that one reason to move the FBI to Maryland rather than Virginia is to promote "regional equity in federal facility distribution." In other words, it's Maryland's turn to get a federal agency.

Maryland lawmakers are all pushing to make Prince George's County the FBI's new suburban home, but the county hasn't had much luck landing federal agencies in recent years. The General Services Administration rejected three Prince George's sites for the $450 million Health and Human Services headquarters last year, and the Treasury Department threatened to move 450 jobs from the county to West Virginia, though that move has been delayed five years.

Virginia, on the other hand, already boasts several federal agencies and has an enormous Defense Department presence that creates tens of thousands of jobs statewide. Besides, many FBI employees already live and work in the Old Dominion, officials said.

The FBI Academy and FBI Laboratory, which employ more than 500 scientific experts and special agents, are located in Quantico. The agency also has a field office in Prince William County, and the FBI'S Central Records Complex will soon open in Winchester. Virginia also houses the CIA headquarters in Langley.

Virginia's success in landing federal agencies has lawmakers there feeling confident that they'll land the FBI headquarters -- as long as the federal government doesn't feel like it's Maryland's turn.

"The decision where to relocate FBI headquarters should be based on the needs of the FBI to fulfill its vital law enforcement and national security missions," said Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va. "Through an open and fair process focused on what is best for the FBI, I am fully confident that sites in Virginia will stand out among all the options."

Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the No. 3 Democrat in the House, counters that there are many reasons beyond "equity" that the FBI should move to Prince George's County, including "ample, underdeveloped land near the Metro, the MARC commuter rail, the Capital Beltway, a variety of Metro and county transit bus lines and regional bike trail networks." The state already hosts the U.S. Cyber Command at Fort Meade, the National Security Agency and the Defense Information Systems Agency, he noted.

But if the decision to move the FBI is made for reasons other than the need for "equity" in the regions, Virginia officials say they are certain to win.

"I believe Northern Virginia, with its nexus of national security activities, is the best location for the FBI headquarters," said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va. "Ultimately, a fair and open competition between jurisdictions will help GSA and the FBI determine the best location to meet the bureau's operational and security needs and provide the best value for taxpayers,"

tholland@washingtonexaminer.com

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