Trump administration revives support for new FBI headquarters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump’s administration on Monday revived its support for construction of a new FBI headquarters, saying it planned to ask Congress in 2018 for the remaining $2.175 billion needed to help pay for it.

FILE PHOTO: The J. Edgar Hoover Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Building is seen in Washington, U.S., February 1, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

The funding request, tucked inside the president’s larger $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan, would help cover the cost to tear down and rebuild the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s aging 1970s-era headquarters building in downtown Washington, which has nets rigged to catch falling stones.

The move marks a reversal from July, when the administration canceled a years-long search to find a new home for the crime-fighting agency.

The FBI had previously searched for possible new spots in either Maryland or Virginia.

The total estimated cost for a new FBI headquarters is $3.3 billion, Assistant Attorney General Lee Lofthus told reporters in a briefing on Monday at the Justice Department.

The FBI has already set aside $1.125 billion toward the construction project.

“The idea is to build a modern and secure headquarters building across the street on the site of the (J. Edgar) Hoover building,” Lofthus said.

“This is an important part of the president’s infrastructure program.”

Lofthus added that the projected $3.3 billion would also cover the cost of “swing space,” or space that FBI employees will use on a temporary basis during construction.

The agency endorsed the plan, saying in a statement: “The FBI believes this proposed consolidation strategy enhances mission resiliency, continuity of operations, and will provide the Bureau with the agility necessary to meet future needs.”

Also on Monday, the Trump administration unveiled its proposal for the fiscal 2019 budget.

That plan asks for a Justice Department budget of $28 billion, a slight decrease of 1.2 percent from the 2017 enacted level.

Most of the Justice Department’s components would see a funding boost under the plan, with increases proposed for the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration, as well as for U.S. attorneys and the office that oversees immigration courts.

The decrease would be achieved by consolidating the COPS grants program into the Office of Justice Programs, and closing two regional Bureau of Prisons offices.

The plan also calls for stripping the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) of its powers to police cigarette and alcohol smuggling and transferring them to a tax and trade unit inside the Treasury Department.

After that, the ATF would focus solely on efforts to combat violent crimes such as arson, illegal firearms trafficking and bombings.

(This story has been refiled to fix the spelling error in “site” in paragraph 7)

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch, Doina Chiacu and Eric Walsh; Editing by David Gregorio and Phil Berlowitz