Government Printing Office:

Issues Faced in Obtaining a New Facility

GAO-09-392R: Published: Feb 20, 2009. Publicly Released: Feb 20, 2009.

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The Government Printing Office (GPO), within the legislative branch, is the federal government's primary resource for gathering, producing, and preserving published federal information. GPO's main facility --located 5 blocks from the U.S. Capitol--encompasses about 1.5 million square feet and consists of four buildings that range in age from 68 to 105 years. According to GPO officials, the facility is inefficiently configured, aging, and much larger than needed. As a result, GPO has examined several options for obtaining a new facility. In 1982, GAO recommended that GPO conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the various options available to address the inefficiencies in its facilities. GAO was asked to examine GPO's efforts to obtain a new facility. Accordingly, this briefing provides preliminary information on (1) GPO's analysis of options to obtain a new facility and the extent to which GPO has followed leading practices for capital decision-making and (2) issues, if any, that impede GPO's efforts to obtain a new facility. To conduct this work, GAO analyzed GPO studies and interviewed GPO and District government officials, among others. GPO officials reviewed a draft of this briefing and generally agreed with the findings, including the need to conduct a cost-benefit analysis. However, they maintained that the analysis should be done after legislative authority is granted. They also provided technical corrections, which we incorporated as appropriate.

GPO partially followed leading practices for capital decision making during analyses of options that it conducted in 2005 and 2008, but it did not conduct cost-benefit analyses that explored a full range of options for obtaining a new facility. While both of GPO's analyses considered innovative approaches for obtaining a new facility, several options were overlooked, such as reconfiguring the current facility. Comparing a wider range of options would help decision makers determine the most cost-beneficial way to obtain a new facility. In addition, although GPO identified some benefits of leasing a new facility to be built on its current site, GPO did not conduct cost-benefit analyses--systematic, quantitative assessments that take a broad, long-term view of future effects. Furthermore, in estimating operations costs, neither of GPO's analyses fully considers the effect of current labor and electricity costs. Instead, the analyses rely on industry benchmarks to estimate operations expenses. As a result, we believe that these analyses overestimate the savings to be gained from leasing a new facility. According to GPO officials, several issues impede GPO's efforts to obtain a new facility. One key issue is GPO's lack of legislative authority to outlease property and retain and use the proceeds from an outlease. GPO would like to receive this legislative authority before it proceeds with additional analyses on obtaining a new facility. If GPO is granted legislative authority to retain and use the proceeds from an outlease but that authority is not linked to a specific proposal for GPO to acquire a new facility, decision makers may not have an opportunity to evaluate the potential effects of GPO's long-term plans. Alternatively, Congress could grant GPO outleasing authority only if it is needed to implement the best option--identified through a cost-benefit analysis--for obtaining a new facility. Another issue GPO would face if it were to outlease a facility is its lack of expertise in managing leases as a landlord. To its credit, GPO has already solicited the real property management expertise of the General Services Administration (GSA). GSA provides guidance to other agencies--such as the Armed Forces Retirement Home (AFRH)--in managing property and could guide GPO in complying with historic preservation, environmental, and federal and local planning requirements.

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