Veera Korhonen

discovering rhetoric

Is the FBI Headquarters Fit to Represent our Nation’s Top Law Enforcement Agency?

Many people, such as the majority of American citizens, assume that the nation’s leading law enforcement organization that does incredible work such as fighting terrorism and creating national security would have a top of the line, extremely secure building for their Headquarters. However, the Headquarters for the Federal Bureau of Investigation has never been more unsatisfactory. The fragile exterior of the building is truly falling apart, with reports of chunks of broken concrete falling off the building, a potential safety hazard to the general vicinity. The interior of the building, while supposedly the site of extreme crime-fighting operations, has been proven faulty as well, with alarms failing to work and makeshift work stations placed in storage areas. These findings have important consequences for the broader domain of the country, since even FBI Officials have stated that the structure is so weak, it could be vulnerable to attacks, not to mention hindering the level of work the FBI is able to do. This essay, then, aims to prove that a strong law enforcement is crucial for a country to maintain safe and positive environments, and the FBI Headquarters building is unable to protect our nation from the rapidly evolving threats and crimes of the modern world.

Nicknamed “the Ugliest Building in the World” and ranking first on a list of the “Top 10 “Ugly” Buildings to Visit”,, the Headquarters was built in 1975 to showcase the FBI’s work, inviting the public to view crime labs and agents at work. It wasn’t built to be an attractive building, it was built to be functional and educational, but the features of the building that made it worthwhile diminished with time. The building was immediately closed to the public after 9/11 attacks to ensure security, and therefore the features designed for the public were immediately shut down. This immensely affected the overall aesthetic of the building, the courtyard was supposed to be an open space for workers to eat and socialize, the public was able to watch agents taking shooting practice and working in the labs, and visit the rooms of mini museums, the rooms which now are unoccupied and sit there, useless to most. The building wasn’t built for safety, it’s on the edge of a street, with many pedestrians near the building at all time, which is even more of a fear for security and safety concerns. The Headquarters essentially falls short in both the security and the operational needs of the leading crime-fighting agency of America.

Yelp Reviews from fellow Americans include harsh words on the appearance of the building,”Prepare to be disappointed. Don’t even include this place on your list of places to visit in Washington. Our Cabbie was right, it is the ugliest building downtown. There’s nothing much to say about this place” (Cathy C, Yelp), proof that tourists and D.C. residents both are bothered by the structure, that the impact of the building isn’t just on the FBI itself, but of the people living in this city as well. By occupying an entire block on a pedestrian sidewalk, there is no hiding the ugly clunkiness of the building. A repulsed reporter’s account of the building states, “It creates a void along Pennsylvania Avenue. Given its elephantine size and harshness, it creates a black hole. Its concrete wall, with no windows or life to it, is an urban sin” (Austermuhle, Dcist), a description that seems a little severe for a building, yet portrays a vivid picture of a building that is socially and physically self-destructing. The issue with building a new Headquarters is that the value of the current building will probably outweigh the cost of a new one. A new FBI Headquarters, that could potentially combine all aspects that the agency needs in one campus, could cost up to $2 billion, while the J. Edgar Hoover building will probably only bring in about $500 million. Receiving extra funding for a new building is difficult, yet the longer the current Headquarters is kept, the lower its value will become. At the same time, not having enough funds and still trying to build a new Headquarters could essentially recreate the current problem.

The effectiveness of our government system is taken into question when realizing that FBI officials have been trying for over a decade to get a new Headquarters building. A U.S. Government Accountability report released in 2011 confirmed that the aging Headquarters aren’t capable of supporting the security, space, and building condition requirements of the FBI. Even with this report that came out years ago, the government still has barely made moves to relocate the Headquarters. With the agents themselves claiming that the building can’t sustain the operations that the agency is evolving to, explaining that “the mission of the FBI has evolved, but the building itself has not kept pace” a statement which was brought before the committee for public buildings back in March, it is unsatisfactory that there is still no update on a new building. Therefore, this building doesn’t just reflect poorly on the FBI, or the attractiveness of D.C., but also on the capabilities and priorities of America’s government.

Countries require strong law enforcement for protection against terrorism, criminal and foreign intelligence operations, cyber-based attacks, and general public crimes. By housing the FBI in this atrocious building, there is an increased safety threat on all U.S. citizens, since the organization can’t work to their fullest capability. The FBI Headquarters is not only degrading the reputation and abilities of the FBI, but also dishonoring American citizens and the pride they have in the proficiency of their country. With a lack of proficient resources, the FBI risks creating more problems rather than solving them, and the ability to solve and identify crime diminishes greatly, putting the country at a greater risk of negative repercussions and possible attacks. Overall, the J. Edgar Hoover building is unable to satisfy what the United States expects of the FBI Headquarters, to be a facility capable of protecting our nation from the rapidly evolving threats and crimes of the modern world.


Works Cited:

Austermuhle in News on Nov 9, 2011 4:30 pm, Martine. “Feds Agree: The FBI Building Is Awful.” DCist, 9 Nov. 2011

Martin Austermuhle in News on May 7, 2012 11:00 am. “Brutal: J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building Declared World’s Ugliest Building Worth Visiting.”

“Federal Bureau of Investigation: Actions Needed to Document Security Decisions and Address Issues with Condition of Headquarters Buildings.” U.S. Government Accountability Office (U.S. GAO)

C., Miss Maggie et al. “FBI – Penn Quarter – Washington, DC.” Yelp, 20 July 2016

“The Need for a Consolidated FBI Headquarters Building.” FBI, FBI, 1 Mar. 2016

Cameron, Gary. “Top 10 ‘Ugly’ Buildings to Visit.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 7 May 2012

@Washingtonian. “The Best Bad Reviews of the FBI Building.” Washingtonian, 11 Aug. 2016

O’Connell, Jonathan. “The FBI’s Headquarters Is Falling Apart. Why Is It so Hard for America to Build a New One?” The Washington Post, WP Company, 16 Oct. 2015

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