Since 1974, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been located on Pennsylvania Avenue in downtown Washington, D.C. The low-rise office complex, which is officially known as the J. Edgar Hoover Building, is bounded by four major city streets – and is eight stories on its Pennsylvania Avenue side and 11 stories on its E Street side.

While it has some 2.8 million square feet of internal space, including three floors below-ground, as well as a secure underground parking garage, the FBI has certainly “outgrown” the building, a concrete structure built in the “Brutalism” style. Its “raw concrete” surfaces have been called “Orwellian” by some critics, who also suggested it was “alien” to the spirit of the national capital. Its interiors have also been described as resembling a “drab factory” that was lit with harsh light and made up of endless corridors.

As the agency has grown, many of the FBI’s employees actually rarely set foot in the building.

In fact, the process of relocating thousands of FBI agents and other officials began in 2005, after the bureau’s Asset Management Plan cited the need for a new headquarters. It found that the deteriorating conditions, and cramped working spaces, as well as security concerns in the post-9/11 world, necessitated an upgrade.

Outgrowing the FBI Headquarters

As the FBI has grown, some headquarter functions have also moved to other locations. Currently, the Criminal Justice Information Services Division is located in Clarksburg, WV; while the Laboratory Division, Operational Technology Division, and FBI Academy are located in Quantico, VA. In addition, other specialized facilities, such as high-tech computer forensics centers, are now at various locations across the country.

“This move is way overdue,” explained Kenneth Gray, senior lecturer in the criminal justice department at the University of New Haven.

“This isn’t even just a post-9/11 issue, but a post-Oklahoma City bombing issue,” Gray told ClearanceJobs. “The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) came up with new security protocols for federal buildings.”

Those included a certain offset from the road to protect from a car bomb, a gate to control traffic access and even bollards to stop a truck.

“Some of that was added to the FBI’s headquarters, but not everything,” Gary added. “You can’t really add an offset from the road. There are other concerns besides security. The building was built before computers were a thing, and the building needed a lot of modifications, so it wasn’t up to snuff.”

A Call for a New FBI Headquarter Office

Discussions for a brand new headquarters picked up steam in 2011, following the release of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that concluded, “The FBI has outgrown its main headquarters facility, the J. Edgar Hoover Building.”

The report added, “Headquarters staff who cannot be accommodated in the Hoover Building are dispersed in over 40 leased annexes, the majority of which are located in the National Capital Region. FBI officials report that the dispersion of staff, combined with condition deficiencies at the Hoover Building and site, affects security and creates operational inefficiencies.”

At the time of that report, GAO suggested that there were three paths forward, which included modernizing the existing building; rebuilding in the same location; or moving to a new headquarters in a different location. At the time, the federal government settled on moving the FBI’s HQ to the suburbs and in 2014 the GSA selected the three locations as possible sites.

However, five years ago, in July 2017, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) abruptly canceled the move to the suburbs, citing funding issues. However, the GSA noted that the cancellation didn’t actually lessen the need for a new headquarters for the FBI. Among the suggestions made was to build a new FBI building on the existing site, while deploying some of the staff to other locations throughout the country.

Finally, it was determined that a new headquarters in Washington, D.C. wouldn’t meet the security goals and the decision was made earlier this year to pack up and move to the ‘burbs as originally planned.

“Not everyone is on board,” Gray noted. “The senior management wants to be in downtown D.C., and few are happy to be moving away from the seat of the government.”

Virginia or Maryland?

Currently, there are three locations that GSA will choose from – making its final decision by September. Those locations include Greenbelt, MD; Landover, MD; and Springfield, VA. The shortlist has received praise from Democratic lawmakers from both states.

The de facto “Team Maryland,” which included U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin, and Chris Van Hollen, as well as Reps.  Anthony Brown, and Steny H. Hoyer, said via a statement, “For far too long, the FBI workforce has remained in a building that does not meet their security or operational needs,” and added, “That’s why we will keep pushing for the new headquarters, and we are confident that the Maryland sites in Greenbelt and Landover are the best locations.”

The Northern Virginia delegation, which includes Sens. Tim Kaine, and Mark Warner along with Reps. Don Beyer, Gerry Connolly, and Jennifer Wexton, also announced that it was “pleased” that Springfield remains an option.

“This is an important milestone in the site selection process, and we look forward to continuing to work with the Administration to bring an FBI headquarters that best supports the mission of the FBI, to Northern Virginia,” the Virginia lawmakers said in a statement.

On The Case for Maryland

The Old Line State has an advantage in that it offers two suitable locations for a future FBI headquarters. Maryland is also home to the Office of Naval Intelligence, which is located at the National Maritime Intelligence Center in Suitland, just outside of D.C.

In addition, the National Security Agency (NSA) is located at Fort Meade, Maryland. Much like the FBI, when it was first established, its HQ and cryptographic center were located in Washington, D.C. – originally at the Naval Security Station. As the agency expanded, there were even calls for it to be moved to Fort Knox, Kentucky.

However, Fort Meade was determined to be far enough away from Washington, D.C. in the case of a nuclear strike, yet was considered close enough that employees would not have to relocate. Today, the NSA is the largest employer in the state of Maryland, and two-thirds of its personnel work at Fort Meade.

On the Case for Virginia

While the tourism and travel slogan of the commonwealth may suggest “Virginia is for Lovers,” the Old Dominion State also has the distinction of being a state with a history of espionage. Its slogan could just as easily be “Virginia is for Spies,” as it is home to the Pentagon, the headquarters of the Department of Defense (DoD), and of course the George Bush Center for Intelligence, the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which is located in Langley.

With its multiple buildings, the George Bush Center was the world’s largest intelligence headquarters from 1959 until 2019, when it was only surpassed by Germany’s BND HQ.

The state is also home to Camp Peary, which has been described as Virginia’s own version of “Area 51,” and is believed to be a training academy for the CIA, in addition to CIA University (CIAU), located in Chantilly; while Virginia is also home to the National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC), which analyzes the capabilities of foreign ground and security forces, as well as the Marine Corps Intelligence Activity (MCIA) HQ.

However, the biggest advantage that Virginia may have over Maryland for the FBI is that it is home to the FBI Academy, the law enforcement training and research center that is located in Quantico in Stafford County. That center isn’t too far from the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA’s) Office of Training, another facility located in Quantico.

“The fact that Quantico is south of D.C. makes a good argument,” said Gray. “We’ve seen that a lot of the FBI’s departments have already moved out, and the technical services branch is down in Quantico. But in the end GSA has the say on what sites are feasible, but it will be Congress that ultimately decides. It will be out of the Bureau’s hands entirely.”

Regardless of which state wins out, the FBI HQ will certainly be in good company.

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Peter Suciu is a freelance writer who covers business technology and cyber security. He currently lives in Michigan and can be reached at You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.