Maryland and Virginia suburbs competing for new FBI headquarters

Which DC suburb will be home to the new FBI headquarters? The competition is heating up:

Photo by Pierre Miyamoto on

The process of selecting a site for a gleaming, modern, suburban campus–style headquarters—one that could host roughly 8,000 FBI employees—began in President Obama’s first term. There was a four-year interruption during the Trump administration, but then the plan got back on track. With a final decision looming, elbows have gotten a lot sharper and complaints a lot louder.

To many of the aides and politicians involved, the end can’t come soon enough. It’s gotten bitter. The Virginians cite the “raw application of power” by Hoyer and others as the source of the bad feelings. The Marylanders argue that the bad vibes come from the FBI, which they claim has shown favoritism toward Virginia. All Maryland’s delegation is trying to do, they argue, is even the playing field.

The process has also activated deep-seated frustrations from Marylanders about why northern Virginia, which has boomed with corporate relocations and a government-contract explosion in recent decades, gets to have it all, while Prince George’s County—which, they hasten to note, is a majority-Black suburban county in Maryland—seemingly goes overlooked. The Virginians vent that Maryland is desperate and doing whatever it can to work the refs.

What both delegations agree on is that this is a once-in-a-generation contract that could serve as a 50-year anchor for either community, potentially bringing tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars to the winner. There are political legacies at stake here. Plus, there’s the CIA angle, which no one can talk about.

In many ways, this sounds like a typical competition between suburbs for a corporate headquarters or a sizable new development. On the line are jobs, status, new buildings, and potentially new residents and businesses who will want to locate nearby.

But, this is also different. The government makes this decision, not a private company. The buildings, jobs, and status may have more staying power because it is backed by the federal government.

When a decision is made, it will be interesting to hear the explanation from the FBI and the federal government on how they made the choice. Are there roughly equal options and a choice had to be made? Or, does the FBI have specific priorities when choosing a suburban community?

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