FBI Headquarters Amendment Vote

By: Micah Meadowcroft

Claims and Responses

The December 2022 Omnibus bill (P.L. 117-328) appropriated to the General Services Administration (GSA) for Real Property Activities Federal Buildings Fund, $375,000,000 for “Federal Bureau of Investigation Headquarters Consolidation.” The accompanying report explains, “Section 527 addresses the selection of a site for a new Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters from one of the three identified sites in GSA fiscal year 2017 prospectus PNCR–FBI–NCR 17.”

On November 8, 2023, Rep. Matt Gaetz offered an amendment (No. 54) to the House bill making appropriations for financial services and general government (FSGG, H.R. 4664) to prohibit funds from being used for the acquisition of property for a new Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters: None of the funds made available by this Act may be used for the acquisition of property for a new fully consolidated headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The Gaetz amendment failed, 273-145, with 70 Republicans joining the Democrats in voting “NO.”

Some Republicans have justified their vote to fund the FBI headquarters by obfuscating, saying they did not actually vote to fund anything because such funding was provided in previous bills, not this one. Others have said they agree that the FBI is in need of a new headquarters and believe that Republicans should not stand in the way. In any case, the debate about FBI funding should be refocused on the central animating issue: the FBI is weaponized against the American people; any lawmaker who has not internalized this reality and decided to exercise his or her power to stop this abuse needs a wake-up call.  

In order to equip you for conversations with your representatives, below are various claims offered in support of a “NO” vote on the Gaetz amendment and suggested responses to them. 

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CLAIM: I did not vote to fund a new FBI HQ; the base text of the bill provided no funding for a new FBI headquarters.  

RESPONSE: The amendment, if passed, would have prevented funds from being used to further the project.

It is true that the FSGG appropriations bill, as drafted, did not provide new funding for an FBI headquarters, because funding was previously provided in the 2022 Omnibus bill when Democrats held the majority in the House. The vote at issue was to prohibit the use of those funds to acquire property for FBI headquarters consolidation. 

A vote against the amendment is a vote to allow the FBI to use those previously appropriated funds to acquire land to build a new HQ.   

CLAIM: The FBI’s current existing headquarters is in dire need of repair, and it is bad policy for Congress to deny a federal agency in such serious need of improvement the funds to make necessary changes.

RESPONSE: The FBI can wait to repair its headquarters until it has repaired its relationship with the citizens the bureau is supposed to serve. 

A 2011 report from the Government Accountability Office did note that the Hoover building was “nearing its life-cycle age and exhibiting signs of deterioration” and “do[es] not fully support the FBI’s long-term security, space, and building condition requirements.”

A myopic focus on administration and real estate, while the FBI is presently a weaponized arm of the political left, is a dereliction of duty. Without vital reform, America will witness the agency continue to target conservative Americans and trample constitutional rights and judicial norms. Congress must immediately use its power to end these abuses and fundamentally transform the FBI in a way that ensures it prioritizes working for the American people as opposed to against them. Chief among reforms would be dealing with the systemic issues within the FBI that have incentivized it to work against the American people. 

FBI staff can be spread to their existing facilities throughout the country or lease other federal space in the immediate area. 

CLAIM: Existing plans require the site of the new FBI headquarters to be outside of Washington, DC. Republicans have generally favored moving the federal bureaucracy out of DC.

RESPONSE: Congress can override any existing headquarter plan, and while FBI staff can and should be moved to existing offices throughout the country, the focus must remain on reform. 

The General Services Administration provides real estate, acquisition, and technology services to the government and was directed to choose the new headquarters site from three options: Greenbelt, Maryland; Landover, Maryland; and Springfield, Virginia. Republicans have argued for moving more of the federal government functions outside of the Washington, DC area; indeed, the Trump Administration moved the Bureau of Land Management Headquarters out of DC to Colorado and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Economic Research Service out of Washington to Kansas City.

Moving the FBI’s headquarters to the outskirts of the Washington DC Capitol Beltway is not this. 

Reforms should include moving staff outside DC to existing large headquarters-like facilities in Quantico, Virginia, Clarksburg, West Virginia, Huntsville, Alabama, or Pocatello, Idaho. A new headquarters can wait.

CLAIM: While some Republicans don’t like some of the activities of the FBI, we generally support federal law enforcement. We’re not for defunding law enforcement.

RESPONSE: This is a false equivalence. Delaying the acquisition and development of a new FBI headquarters has no impact on the broader concept of supporting proper law enforcement. 

There is a difference between local police, who keep our streets safe, and federal agencies, who are weaponizing their powers against political opponents. 

We should be devolving law enforcement to local and state levels and maintaining federal focus where we actually need federal involvement, cross-border child pornography rings, as one example. Demanding a refocus of mission and the de-weaponization of the FBI is not anti-law enforcement and is not the same as Black Lives Matter and other movements wanting to defund police specifically to prevent the enforcement of law and order in communities. 

Lawmakers must immediately defund this federal bureaucracy that is weaponized against the American people. 

Addressing weaponization through reforms, and defunding various aspects of the FBI while encouraging focused and legitimate law enforcement activities, isn’t defunding law enforcement, it is prioritizing funding toward legitimate law enforcement activities.

CLAIM: The FBI has a few bad apples, but 99% of what the FBI does is good and necessary. They are keeping us safe, and they need this resource to do their job.

RESPONSE: A rotten apple spoils the whole barrel: Until the bad apples in leadership are dealt with, the rest of the agency can wait for a new headquarters. 

Whether or not 99% of the FBI are good agents is irrelevant when the bureaucratic and political leadership of the agency is weaponized against Americans. Ground-level agents either follow their orders (generally) or know too little to understand the full impact and ramifications of what they are being asked to do by superiors. Either way, far more than 1% of the FBI are being used to advance the weaponization of the FBI, including an open embrace of radical woke ideologies.

Furthermore, FBI’s weaponization is not just a series of bad political actors at the top; it is a system-wide problem. For example, the FBI is incentivized by an arbitrary system of performance metrics—the Integrated Program Management system—to target and ensnare Americans in the counterterrorism dragnet.

The  FBI’s counterterrorism mission has shifted to targeting “domestic violent extremists.” The FBI characterizes these individuals as seeking to further political or social goals through unlawful acts of force or violence. The FBI spied on private Facebook messages without court-authorized subpoenas and search warrants via Operation Bronze Griffon. The FBI National Security Branch also departed from investigative rules for January 6th-related cases and created a false statistical narrative to support the argument that domestic terrorism is a rising, nationwide threat. 

Additionally, President Biden’s remarks about “extreme MAGA Republicans” in September 2022 characterized GOP voters and elected officials as anti-government, racial extremists. Unsurprisingly, the FBI National Security Branch lists “anti-government” and “racially motivated extremism” as two of its top four threat priorities. The FBI provided training, equipment, and transportation resources to members of a militia called the Wolverine Watchmen in order to encourage them to conspire to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer. When the group was poised to dissolve prior to committing any criminal activity, FBI agents encouraged the group to keep going. An objective analysis of the facts of the case clearly demonstrates that none of the Wolverine Watchmen were predisposed to engage in violence against Governor Whitmer without FBI encouragement and facilitation. 

There are clearly systemic problems with how the FBI operates and affects day-to-day operations. We need excellent agents who will speak up and speak out against a system that is weaponized against political opponents. 

CLAIM: Republicans will not always hate the FBI; this is a few loud voices making a big stink over a momentary blip in an agency with an otherwise sterling record, and they shouldn’t be punished now for the actions of a few.

RESPONSE: The FBI has demonstrated a pattern that must be addressed with serious reforms; a new headquarters must wait. 

New whistleblower disclosures to Congress reveal the FBI purged employees who are military veterans. The list of abuses within the FBI is long and growing: targeting concerned parents at school board meetings as “domestic terrorists,” raiding the homes of pro-life activists at gunpoint, misleading federal judges to confiscate millions of dollars in private property from safe deposit boxes, leaking private health and personal information of agency whistleblowers to intimidate and discredit patriotic agents, refusing to investigate the more than 100 firebombings and acts of vandalism against pro-life pregnancy centers, and of course, the unprecedented political raid at Mar-a-Lago of a former president utilizing a suspiciously broad search warrant under dubious legal reasoning.  

The FBI clearly needs major institutional reforms. It must: 

End Integrated Program Management, which incentivizes the use of inappropriate investigatory processes and tools to achieve arbitrary statistical accomplishments. Wedding arbitrary metrics to compensation for leaders creates a perverse incentive structure in which FBI senior executives financially profit by pressuring rank-in-file personnel to prioritize case quantity ahead of quality and integrity.

Remove Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide (DIOG) Appendix G, which authorizes the FBI to open full counterintelligence investigations if the bureau can articulate that the subject of the investigation was or could be targeted for recruitment by a foreign power. This is overly broad and ends in unjustifiable counterintelligence investigations that artificially boost the FBI’s counterintelligence statistics.

Disallow Type 5 Assessments, which allow FBI special agents to investigate people in the United States who are not suspected of having committed crimes but who, in special agents’ opinions, could be recruited as confidential human sources (CHS). Before approaching the potential CHS, special agents build a case file including derogatory information and material that may prove useful in coercing cooperation.

This is not a minor blip on the radar, these are major systemic reforms needed to stop a weaponized agency from continuing to use its immense law enforcement powers to target and intimidate political opposition and whistleblowers.

CLAIM: We need a hearing.

RESPONSE: That time has passed. 

Several hearings have been held on the weaponization of the FBI against the American people: here and here, for example.

While it is fine for Congress to conduct additional hearings to map out abuses as a method to charter a course to hold EVERYONE involved accountable, we have enough well documented data points currently to insist on funding restrictions and major reforms, and at the very least, we should not be building the FBI a new headquarters until these concerns have been addressed by Congress thoroughly. It is past time for lawmakers to act to end the abuses which have been so clearly documented.

CLAIM: My vote did not expand the budget. The money was already appropriated.

RESPONSE: You voted against effectively shrinking the budget. 

While it is true that the money was already appropriated, this vote was specifically to prevent those funds from being used to acquire land for a new HQ.  

It is a clever spin to point backward and claim an inability to do anything about it now, but it does not hide the reality that the amendment they voted against would have restricted the use of the previously appropriated funds to build a weaponized FBI a new headquarters. 

CLAIM: Clawing back previously allocated funding is more challenging because others have looked at the problem, have more information and knowledge of the process, and made the decision a long time ago to relocate the FBI. Congress shouldn’t second-guess those decisions.

RESPONSE: It is Congress’s job to exercise oversight and the power of the purse. 

Congress has the responsibility to bring a woke and weaponized Federal Bureau of Investigation to heel and protect the American people from its abuses. The FBI should be refocused, reformed, and downsized, and its budget should reflect that moving forward. Until those actions take place, the FBI could take up residence in other FBI facilities, and until we know what that reformed FBI looks like, it’s premature to contemplate a brand new HQ and what is suitable for its mission and agency personnel size.

Hiding behind decisions by previous sessions of Congress, and other members of Congress, as a means of not providing current oversight towards a weaponized FBI, is nonsensical. 

CLAIM: Divided government prevents clawing back previously appropriated funding.

RESPONSE: The only thing that prevents a claw back of this kind is a lack of will. 

The House has the power to deny funding to agencies until these reforms are adopted. While reasonable ideological differences of opinion can often be a foundation for bipartisan compromise, where both sides are able to achieve some of their priority reforms and both agree that it’s a win-win overall to advance such an agreement, that strategic mindset fails to meet the moment. The FBI is acting in a weaponized fashion, using the immense powers and tools at its disposal against the American people, reflective of a partisan agenda seeking to target political opposition.

In this environment, bipartisan solutions are unacceptable. In these instances, the House must use its long-standing power of the purse to use government funding leverage as a means of forcing reforms. Denying agencies their funding forces the left to come to the table and accept these reforms. 

It does involve political risk, but Americans want their representatives to go to DC to use the leverage points at their disposal and to take the risks necessary to solve the problem, not to perpetually kick the can down the road.

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