A House subcommittee studying the relocation of FBI headquarters to the Washington suburbs was told in a staff memo that despite the enthusiasm of local officials, having the FBI in their backyard could "unnecessarily increase costs to the taxpayer."
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, whose members will hold a hearing on the relocation Wednesday, is reviewing whether it should only consider suburban sites that are within 2 miles of a Metro station, as the Senate stipulated.
Requiring the headquarters be near Metro to accommodate the FBI's 12,000 commuting employees is restricting the number of communities eligible to bid on the project, the staff memo said. Eliminating the Metro access requirement would expand the search well beyond the Capital Beltway. Outlying communities like Stafford County would then be able to join the competition and a host of sites in nearby communities would come into play, including the Fairfax County campus of ExxonMobil Corp., which is moving its headquarters to Houston.
While the House debates its requirements for a new FBI headquarters, the Senate has already set its standards. Under Senate specifications, the perfect site would be within 2 miles of a Metro station, no more than 2.5 miles from the Beltway and have at least 40 to 55 acres of developable land. The Senate requirements are seen to favor sites in Fairfax and Prince George's counties.
Aubrey Thagard, a top aide to Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker, said it doesn't make sense to loosen the Metro requirement in a region with "some of the worst congested roadways and longest commute times."
Local officials in Virginia and Maryland are eager to lure the new headquarters and the thousands of jobs it brings with it. But they're also wary of the federal government building another massive facility in the suburbs without providing necessary commuter improvements. Officials are still angry about the Pentagon's decision to build the Mark Center office building in Alexandria far from Metro and to expand the Bethesda Naval Hospital without making necessary Metro or highway improvements. Officials are still scrambling to correct traffic problems in those areas.
"I don't see any savings associated with loosening the Metro guidelines," said Fairfax County Supervisor Jeff McKay, who fears costs could rise if new roadways are needed to meet the demand of the FBI's 12,000 workers.