Chairman Quigley Statement at GSA Oversight Hearing
Congressman Mike Quigley (D-IL), Chair of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's oversight hearing on the General Services Administration (GSA):
Good morning and thank you all for joining us.
I would like to welcome the GSA Administrator Emily Murphy.
Today we plan to engage with Administrator Murphy on a variety of matters, including Ms. Murphy’s past testimony before this subcommittee as well as her management of major projects under GSA’s purview.
First and foremost, is whether the interests of the American taxpayer are being put first – where they belong – or whether the personal financial interests of President Trump are taking precedence when GSA is making real estate and procurement decisions.
To get to the bottom of this, we will need Administrator Murphy to answer our questions truthfully and forthrightly about the construction and consolidation of a new FBI headquarters.
The plan to acquire a new headquarters for the FBI has a long history.
In the 2009 Omnibus Appropriations bill, Congress directed GAO to review the security concerns of the J. Edgar Hoover building (Hoover Building) and other FBI locations in the National Capital Region.
In a report issued in November 2011, GAO found that actions were needed to address issues with the condition of the FBI headquarters because the building had become dilapidated and the FBI staff had outgrown the building.
In assessing the concerns raised about the Hoover building, GSA and the FBI jointly recognized that consolidating all the FBI personnel in the Hoover building and other locations throughout the region into one modern facility was the best answer.
GSA expected the new headquarters facility would eliminate close to a million square feet in rentable space, significantly reduce the need for FBI leased space in the National Capital Region and address the serious security concerns raised by the FBI headquarters being located in downtown D.C.
In 2014, GSA issued a solicitation to interested developers asking for bids to develop a new FBI campus headquarters one of three suburban locations in either Maryland or Virginia that would house 10,000 FBI employees.
In 2015, GSA identified a short list of offers and asked for bids for a new FBI campus and in exchange the winning bidder would receive the current Hoover building site.
On July 11, 2017, GSA cancelled a procurement to replace the FBI headquarters and in February of 2018, GSA and FBI presented Congress with a new revised “raze and rebuild” plan for a new FBI building at the existing Hoover location.
This new “raze and rebuild” plan represented abandoning nearly 10 years’ worth of work of moving the FBI to a suburban Washington, D.C. campus.
In addition, the long-term plan to relocate the FBI headquarters to a suburban location would cost an estimated $3.57 billion according to the Inspector General and would be offset by $334 million of proceeds from selling the existing Pennsylvania Avenue site.
In contrast, the plan to keep the Pennsylvania Avenue property, demolish the existing facility, and construct a new building would cost an estimated $3.84 billion, or $279 million more than the relocation plan.
And it would accommodate 2,300 fewer employees.
Further, the new revised “raze and rebuild” plan would make the FBI the only member of the Intelligence Community to have a new headquarters in an urban site.
In testimony to Congress back in 2013, the then Associate Deputy Director of the FBI stated that although the FBI had implemented some countermeasures at the Hoover building to improve security, those efforts are not a substitution for relocating FBI Headquarters employees to a location that affords the ability to provide true security in accordance with Interagency Security Committee standards.
So what changed?
Why would a nearly 10 year project agreed upon by both GSA and the FBI be abandoned for a significantly more expensive proposal that compromises the safety and security of FBI personnel?
Interestingly enough, many years before becoming President, Donald Trump expressed interest in the FBI headquarters moving out of Washington, D.C. so he could acquire the land on Pennsylvania Avenue and redevelop the property, which is directly across the street from the Trump International Hotel.
However, after he was sworn in as President – and became ineligible as a federal employee to obtain the property – he reportedly became "dead opposed" to the government selling the property.
This reversal caused many to question, and rightfully so, whether the President wanted to protect his financial interest in the Trump Hotel, particularly if another private developer could obtain the property and compete directly with the Trump Hotel.
With this in mind, I asked Administrator Murphy last year in a hearing on April 17, 2018, directly and repeatedly, if President Trump or other White House officials had any communications with GSA or the FBI about this abrupt and expensive new decision to keep the FBI at the Hoover location.
Unfortunately, in Ms. Murphy’s response she withheld the fact that she met twice with White House officials about the FBI project, both on December 20, 2017 with General Kelly and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney and on January 24, 2018 with President Trump himself.
The GSA Inspector General later described these omissions as having left a misleading impression with our subcommittee that those meetings didn’t occur.
Ms. Murphy misled us in spite of the fact that according to the GSA Inspector General, she had practiced answering my questions several times while preparing for the hearing.
When the GSA Inspector General asked why Administrator Murphy had misled the Committee, she replied that she did not want to “derail” the hearing.
Well, let me be clear. We are off the tracks.
This Committee demands truthful and forthright answers going forward.
Today, I take it at face value that Administrator Murphy wants to answer our questions and put last year’s hearing behind her.
We want to know why the relocation plan for the FBI changed dramatically, how it impacts the security of the FBI headquarters and what level of White House involvement there was in this decision.
We want to know why the new plan is more costly than the previous plan that had been vetted and approved by Congress.
I also want the questions answered in my follow up letter from October 18, 2018 where I and other Members of Congress requested a complete timeline of the FBI project and all the documents and communications associated with the FBI relocation.
So with that said, I look forward to what will hopefully be an open and truthful discussion today.