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FBI's growing headquarters needs work, GAO says

With the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s headquarters straining at the seams, the General Services Administration may need to revisit plans to limit investments in the facility.

With the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s headquarters straining at the seams, the General Services Administration may need to revisit plans to limit investments in the facility, said a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

In light of the expansion of the bureau’s mission and workforce since Sept. 11, 2001, GAO was directed to see how that growth has affected FBI headquarters. Since 2001, for example, operations at the J. Edgar Hoover Building—which has served as FBI headquarters since 1974—have overflowed into more than 40 annexes in the national capital region.

Among other things, GAO found that according to FBI and GSA assessments, the bureau’s headquarters facilities—the Hoover Building and the headquarters annexes—do not fully satisfy the FBI’s long-term security, space, and building condition requirements.

At the same time, GAO found that the FBI has implemented protective measures to address many current security needs—and has updated its security assessment for the Hoover Building in accordance with security standards issued last year.

But there are other more pervasive problems, such as the security and collaboration challenges posed by the dispersion of staff in the bureau’s many annexes. Moreover, the original design of the Hoover Building itself is not efficient, and does not lend itself to being reconfigured to promote staff collaboration.

The building’s physical condition is another issue. GAO said that although the building is deteriorating, GSA has decided to limit its investments in the building to the minimum necessary while it continues to assess the FBI’s facility options. The main options under consideration, GAO noted, include remodeling the Hoover building, demolishing it and replacing it on the same site, or building a new headquarters on a different site.

In the meantime, GAO recommended that the FBI continue to track its implementation of security recommendations, and that GSA consider raising the limits on investments in the Hoover Building, where GAO said the FBI is likely to stay headquartered for several more years while the bureau’s long-term facility needs are being examined.

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