The FBI's current Washington, D.C., headquarters in the J. Edgar Hoover building.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press The FBI's current Washington, D.C., headquarters in the J. Edgar Hoover building.

Last July, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) halted a several-years-long plan to move out of its current headquarters building in downtown Washington, D.C., into a suburban campus in Maryland or Virginia. Part of the plan for paying for that involved using money from the sale of the coveted Pennsylvania Avenue site to fund a new campus. In July, that plan was canned, and the General Services Administration (GSA) cited a "$882 million funding gap" as the reason for the cancellation.

Today, the FBI and the GSA presented a new plan to the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee: demolish the J. Edgar Hoover Building, a 1970s Brutalist structure designed by Charles F. Murphy and Associates, and rebuild another FBI HQ where it currently stands, while locating some employees in other offices across the country. The plan would mean occupying "swing spaces" while demolition and construction took place on the Pennsylvania Avenue site. (News of this plan broke earlier this month, and a Feb. 12 document outlining the plan is available on The Washington Post's website.)

Committee members questioned Dan Mathews, GSA's Public Buildings Service commissioner, and Richard Haley, II, the assistant director and chief financial officer of the FBI's Finance Division, regarding the flip-flop in proposals and the new plan's overall cost. Additional questioning involved the rental cost of the interim "swing space" and the security of a downtown location versus a suburban location, especially in regard to setbacks.

In a statement to the committee, Haley described the Hoover building as "obsolete," "inefficient," and "an impediment to achieving the operational, organizational, and workforce flexibility required by today’s FBI to perform its national security, criminal investigative, and criminal justice services missions and meet the expectations of the American public."

Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen from Maryland asked Mathews and Haley several times if they were "aware of any conversations" between their agencies and the White House regarding the project's latest developments. Both agency representatives reiterated that it was a decision between the GSA and the FBI, but did not explicitly respond with "yes" or "no" as Van Hollen requested.

Van Hollen later referenced an unnamed Washington Post piece that he asked to be submitted to the record, which Washington Post reporter Jonathan O'Connell identified on Twitter as a Feb. 14 piece by the Post's Steven Pearlstein. Pearlstein points out that selecting not to develop the current headquarters site at 935 Pennsylvania Avenue NW for commercial uses, such as a hotel, removes potential competition with the Trump International Hotel at 1100 Pennsylvania Ave NW. "It's not clear to what degree President Trump was personally involved, but whether intended or not, the GSA’s decision to keep the FBI on the site has now eliminated the possibility of that kind of direct competition to the Trump International Hotel," Pearlstein wrote.

Today Gerry Connolly, a Democratic representative from Virginia and ranking member on the Government Operations subcommittee of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, wrote a letter to Carol Ochoa, the GSA's inspector general, asking her to investigate the decision.

During the hearing, Democratic Sen. Tom Carper from Delaware asked Mathews when the committee could expect more detailed information about the proposal. "I don't have a firm date on when a new prospectus could come, but I believe the earliest we could probably send one up would be later this spring or in the summer," Mathews said, then clarifying that "it would be closer to the August recess."

Watch the full hearing below or on C-SPAN's website.