Federal Real Property:

DHS Has Made Progress, but Additional Actions Are Needed to Address Real Property Management and Security Challenges

GAO-07-658: Published: Jun 22, 2007. Publicly Released: Jul 23, 2007.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Mark L. Goldstein
(202) 512-3000
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has a large, diverse portfolio of property it uses to carry out its mission. GAO's objectives were to (1) describe DHS's real property portfolio; (2) determine what challenges, if any, DHS faces in managing real property and what actions it has taken in response to the administration's real property initiative; (3) determine what challenges DHS and the General Services Administration (GSA) face in consolidating DHS's Washington, D.C. headquarters; and (4) describe actions DHS has taken to help ensure the security of its facilities. GAO reviewed documents and interviewed officials from DHS, GSA, and other stakeholders, including the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) and the District of Columbia (D.C.).

DHS's 10 major organizational components have a portfolio that includes more than 27,000 owned or leased buildings and structures totaling about 78 million square feet. About 72 percent of DHS real property is federally owned, while about 28 percent of DHS real property is federally leased. The U.S. Coast Guard has the majority of DHS real property, accounting for 69 percent of its buildings and about 41 percent of its square footage. DHS faces challenges but has made progress toward addressing them in response to the administration's real property management initiative. One major challenge relates to DHS being a new federal department that combined 22 existing agencies, which has made the development of a cohesive approach to real property management a significant undertaking. On the administration's scorecard for real property management, DHS has achieved a "yellow" status, which indicates progress in strategically managing real property by, for example, designating a senior real property officer and developing an OMB-approved asset management plan. However, DHS could do more to link its capital decision-making practices to its real property initiatives. Consolidating DHS's Washington, D.C., area locations will be challenging because of the costs involved, estimated to be at least $3.26 billion, and stakeholders' concerns about the redevelopment of the West Campus of St. Elizabeths Hospital-- DHS's preferred location--which is under the control of GSA and is a National Historic Landmark District. DHS believes that by consolidating most of its headquarters operations, greater efficiencies would result, its mission would be better integrated, and security of the facilities could be better managed. DHS has testified that an estimated $1 billion would be saved over 30 years through the consolidation, although a revised analysis estimates cost savings at $743 million. However, this savings analysis does not (1) use actual and projected leasing costs for locations where DHS is currently housed, (2) include DHS costs of $1.32 billion to develop the site, and (3) examine a range of square footage alternatives. A more comprehensive analysis would improve transparency and help key stakeholders, including Congress, make more informed decisions about the consolidation. Also, several key stakeholders are concerned about compliance with historic preservation and environmental laws and the effect the project will have on the local community, although some community leaders support it. In July 2007, GSA plans to issue a draft Master Plan for stakeholder review that, according to GSA, will address these concerns. In recent years, DHS has taken actions intended to improve the security of its facilities, but its efforts fall short in certain key areas. DHS has designated a Chief Security Officer for the department and has established a Chief Security Officer Council to evaluate security issues. However, most DHS components have not fully implemented risk management for facility protection, which DHS has advocated for other agencies, nor has DHS developed a physical security plan, as required by Homeland Security Presidential Directive Number 7 (HSPD-7).

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 2007, we reported that consolidating the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Washington, D.C. area locations will be challenging because of (1) the costs involved, estimated at the time to be at least $3.26 billion, and (2) stakeholders' concerns about the redevelopment of the West Campus of St. Elizabeths Hospital, which is under the control of the General Services Administration (GSA) and is a National Historic Landmark District. DHS believed that by consolidating most of its headquarters operations, greater efficiencies would result, its mission would be better integrated, and security of the facilities could be better managed. DHS had testified that an estimated $1 billion would be saved over 30 years through the consolidation, although a revised analysis estimates cost savings at $743 million. We found, however, that DHS's savings analysis did not (1) use actual and projected leasing costs for locations where DHS is currently housed, (2) include DHS costs of $1.32 billion to develop the site, and (3) examine a range of square footage alternatives. We concluded that a more comprehensive analysis would improve transparency and help key stakeholders, including Congress, make more informed decisions about the consolidation. In order to better support DHS's preferred course of action at St. Elizabeths, we recommended that DHS and GSA jointly perform a comprehensive analysis of the costs, from the perspective of the federal government as a whole, that would result if DHS headquarters operations are consolidated at St. Elizabeths, and compare these costs to the costs of other alternatives at the St. Elizabeths campus. In response to our recommendation, DHS worked with GSA to jointly produce a comprehensive action plan to determine DHS real estate costs in GSA's National Capital Region (NCR), a DHS/NCR Housing Master Plan, an evaluation of alternatives, and a DHS Consolidated Headquarters Collocation Plan. As a result, DHS and other stakeholders including Congress and GSA became better positioned to understand and evaluate the total cost to the government of consolidating DHS at St. Elizabeths.

    Recommendation: In order to better support DHS's preferred course of action at St. Elizabeths, the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Administrator of GSA should jointly perform a comprehensive analysis of the costs, from the perspective of the federal government as a whole, that would result if DHS headquarters operations are consolidated at St. Elizabeths, and compare these costs to the costs of other alternatives at the St. Elizabeths campus.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 2007, we reported that DHS had taken actions intended to improve the security of its facilities, but its efforts fell short in certain key areas. DHS had designated a Chief Security Officer for the department and had established a Chief Security Officer Council to evaluate security issues. However, most DHS components have not fully implemented risk management for facility protection, which DHS had advocated for other agencies, nor had DHS developed a physical security plan, as required by Homeland Security Presidential Directive 7 (HSPD-7). In order to lead by example by formulating how the department itself is approaching the range of difficult challenges that agencies across government face in the facility protection arena, we recommended that DHS develop a physical security plan, as required by HSPD-7, which would address DHS's plans to fully implement risk management and develop performance measures for facility protection. In April 2010, DHS issued a physical security plan in response to our recommendation. The plan provides an operational concept for facility protection and addresses responsibilities, objectives, and incorporation of Interagency Security Committee (ISC) standards to meet physical security requirements and identifies roles and responsibilities of key personnel and organizations within DHS. It also requires DHS components to conduct risk assessments and to establish performance measurement programs for facility protection. Having a physical security plan will enable DHS to not only coordinate its own facility protection activities among its components, but also lead by example.

    Recommendation: In order to lead by example by formulating how the department itself is approaching the range of difficult challenges that agencies across government face in the facility protection arena, the Secretary of Homeland Security should develop a physical security plan for DHS, as required by HSPD-7, that addresses DHS's plans to fully implement risk management and develop performance measures for facility protection.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 2007, we reported that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) faced challenges in the real property area, but had made progress toward addressing them in response to the administration's real property management initiatives. One major challenge related to DHS's creation as a new federal department that combined 22 existing agencies, which had made the development of a cohesive approach to real property management a significant undertaking. In order to make the most of limited resources and to make timely and effective capital acquisitions that will result in a decrease of long-term real property costs, we recommended that DHS link its long-term capital needs with the asset management planning activities required under the President's real property initiative. In July 2010, DHS issued an asset management plan (AMP) which provides a real property portfolio summary, a strategic outlook for DHS's long-term real property needs and activities, a description of its efforts to manage the lifecycle costs of real property assets, and an overview of how performance will be measured. The AMP also discusses how its real property management activities link to the initiatives of the prior administration and the more recent priorities set forth by the current one. The AMP will better position decision makers, including Congress, OMB, and DHS, to strategically manage DHS's large and diverse real property portfolio.

    Recommendation: In order to make the most of limited resources and to make timely and effective capital acquisitions that will result in a decrease of long-term real property costs, the Secretary of Homeland Security should use the Office of Management and Budget's capital planning principles to link DHS's long-term capital needs with the asset management planning activities required under the President's real property initiative.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 2007, we reported that consolidating the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Washington, D.C. area locations will be challenging because of (1) the costs involved, estimated at the time to be at least $3.26 billion, and (2) stakeholders' concerns about the redevelopment of the West Campus of St. Elizabeths Hospital, which is under the control of the General Services Administration (GSA) and is a National Historic Landmark District. DHS believed that by consolidating most of its headquarters operations, greater efficiencies would result, its mission would be better integrated, and security of the facilities could be better managed. DHS had testified that an estimated $1 billion would be saved over 30 years through the consolidation, although a revised analysis estimates cost savings at $743 million. We found, however, that DHS's savings analysis did not (1) use actual and projected leasing costs for locations where DHS is currently housed, (2) include DHS costs of $1.32 billion to develop the site, and (3) examine a range of square footage alternatives. We concluded that a more comprehensive analysis would improve transparency and help key stakeholders, including Congress, make more informed decisions about the consolidation. In order to better support DHS's preferred course of action at St. Elizabeths, we recommended that DHS and GSA jointly perform a comprehensive analysis of the costs, from the perspective of the federal government as a whole, that would result if DHS headquarters operations are consolidated at St. Elizabeths, and compare these costs to the costs of other alternatives at the St. Elizabeths campus. In response to our recommendation, GSA worked with DHS to jointly produce a comprehensive action plan to determine DHS real estate costs in GSA's National Capital Region (NCR), a DHS/NCR Housing Master Plan, an evaluation of alternatives, and a DHS Consolidated Headquarters Collocation Plan. As a result, DHS and other stakeholders including Congress and GSA became better positioned to understand and evaluate the total cost to the government of consolidating DHS at St. Elizabeths.

    Recommendation: In order to better support DHS's preferred course of action at St. Elizabeths, the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Administrator of GSA should jointly perform a comprehensive analysis of the costs, from the perspective of the federal government as a whole, that would result if DHS headquarters operations are consolidated at St. Elizabeths, and compare these costs to the costs of other alternatives at the St. Elizabeths campus.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Sep 30, 2014

Sep 26, 2014

Sep 25, 2014

Sep 19, 2014

Sep 18, 2014

Sep 12, 2014

Sep 10, 2014

Aug 25, 2014

Looking for more? Browse all our products here