EPW Hearing Statement: Oversight: FBI Headquarters Consolidation Project

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure held the hearing, “Oversight: FBI Headquarters Consolidation Project” Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery:

Thank you Mr. Chairman for holding this hearing. Our witnesses both have long careers in federal service. I appreciate their many years of hard work, along with the testimony they are providing today. I would also like to commend our Chairman and our Committee members, especially Senators Cardin and Van Hollen, as well as the members of their staffs, for their work on this issue.

“The hearing today is a follow up to our hearing in August of last year on the cancellation of the procurement for a consolidated FBI Headquarters. At the conclusion of that hearing, the witness from the General Services Administration (GSA) committed to providing this Committee with a workable solution to meet the FBI’s need for a new headquarters. After an extension, the Committee received the promised report on February 12th. The report is a complete reversal of a plan for the FBI that was more than a decade in the making. It abandons previous efforts to consolidate FBI’s operations away from the Bureau’s current location at the J. Edgar Hoover Building. Frankly, this about-face is troubling. All members of this Committee should be concerned about this new plan for the FBI. It raises serious questions from the impacts on national security to the excess cost that this decision may likely impose on the federal government. I hope that today’s hearing can answer some of these questions and alleviate Members’ concerns, including my own.

“What is not in question today is the fact that the FBI needs a new headquarters. The current facility is in dangerous disrepair, which not only affects the day-to-day operations of the FBI, but also has significant national security implications. One of the main motivations to consolidate the FBI into one location was to ensure that FBI Headquarters maintains necessary security standards. There are also efficiencies to be gained by reducing departmental fragmentation. This new plan, however, appears to do the opposite. Instead of moving people with common tasks closer together, this report recommends moving approximately twenty percent of the current Headquarters staff to locations around the country. Congress has already appropriated hundreds of millions of dollars for this project, including the millions of dollars that have already been spent on the previous procurement. As stewards of the federal purse, we should be working to save taxpayer dollars and make government more efficient, including with respect to property management.

“We have seen examples where consolidation is working or has the potential of working. One is the development of a consolidated Department of Homeland Security campus on the grounds of the former Saint Elizabeths Hospital in Southeast Washington, D.C. I was initially skeptical of this project. However, after working with the previous Administration and through oversight conducted as Chairman and Ranking Member of Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, I am now convinced that it is in our best interest to have a consolidated campus in the National Capitol Region. At the end of the day, we need to do what is right for the hardworking women and men of the FBI in a manner that makes the most sense for our national security, while also being good stewards of taxpayer dollars. How we achieve that goal is by ensuring that we have all the information we need to make an informed decision.

“As you know, Mr. Chairman, we have had some previous challenges in obtaining information from the GSA that is necessary to carry out our oversight function. For over a year, I have been requesting documents from the GSA about the Trump Hotel. Specifically, I have been asking about GSA’s questionable determination that the Trump Hotel lease somehow does not violate the ethics requirements that prohibit an elected official from being a party to a federal lease or financially benefiting from that lease. Sadly, the administration’s responses to my questions to date have been unsatisfactory. 

“Of the almost twelve-thousand pages worth of documents that GSA provided last fall, only 22 pages, or about a tenth of one percent, were written within the relevant timeframe and directly pertain to my questions about the lease. Not a single one of those 22 pages contains the analysis I was seeking. In contrast, there are hundreds of pages about the location of a clock and a Starbucks in the hotel, and maintenance of the smoke detectors. Moreover, GSA told me it was withholding information related to some of my specific requests. For example, GSA would not tell me whether Trump Hotel buys Trump wine or other Trump products, the sales of which would clearly benefit President Trump financially. This is unacceptable, and I ask unanimous consent to submit portions of the GSA response to my letters into the record.

“I would also like to express my dismay about the information we received with respect to the FBI project that we are discussing today. The Committee learned of both the cancellation of the procurement and the release of this new plan from the press. I am very disappointed that we continue to find out about developments on this project in this manner. As we move forward, it is my hope that the GSA and FBI will be more forthcoming with this Committee and our members so that we can conduct our oversight in an effective and productive manner.

“I look forward to hearing the testimony of our witnesses today, and to working with you, Mr. Chairman, as well as with Senator Cardin and Senator Van Hollen, the FBI and the GSA so that we can ensure that this project strengthens our national security while also efficiently utilizing taxpayer dollars. Thank you.”