WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal watchdog will investigate how the Biden administration chose a site for a new FBI headquarters following a contentious competition marked by allegations of conflict of interest.
The Inspector General for the General Services Administration is probing the decision to locate the facility in Greenbelt, Maryland, over a site in Virginia., according to a letter released Thursday by Virginia lawmakers. The new building would replace the FBI's headquarters in nearby Washington, D.C.
Virginia's senators and representatives said in a joint statement that there was “overwhelming evidence” suggesting the process was influenced by politics and called on the GSA to pause anything related to the relocation until the review is complete.
The acting inspector general said that his office would immediately begin evaluating the GSA’s process and procedures for selecting the site and share a copy of any report that results, according to a letter sent to Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia.
“We applaud the inspector general for moving quickly and encourage him to move forward to complete a careful and thorough review,” Virginia's delegation said in a joint statement.
The agency said it welcomes the review and pointed out that it had already released decision-making materials and a legal review of concerns raised by the director of the FBI.
“We carefully followed the requirements and process, and stand behind GSA’s final site selection decision,” an agency spokesperson said in a statement.
The review comes after FBI Director Christopher Wray told staff in an internal message earlier this month that he was concerned about a “potential conflict of interest” in a GSA executive choosing a site owned by a previous employer.
Wray said his objections were about the process rather than the site itself.
GSA, which manages the government’s real estate portfolio, denied any conflict. The agency said the site about 13 miles northeast of Washington was the cheapest one with the best access to public transit.
Maryland and Virginia have long been vying to land the FBI.
Maryland’s leaders applauded the Greenbelt choice, saying it was “never about politics” and the new facility would meet a “dire, longstanding need.”