Much More Can Be Done by the State Department To Improve Overseas Real Estate Management

ID-81-15: Published: Feb 9, 1981. Publicly Released: Feb 17, 1981.

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The Department of State's Office of Foreign Buildings Operations (FBO) is responsible for acquiring, constructing, selling, and maintaining properties located around the world. FBO has had numerous problems in managing its overseas real estate for many years. GAO reviewed these problems in a previous report, and some improvements have been made including: general criteria and guidelines have been issued concerning employee housing; a preventive maintenance and repair handbook has been prepared and issued to the posts; a pilot preventive maintenance program has been started; and staffing levels at the Office of Foreign Buildings Operations headquarters have increased. However, other problems remain.

GAO found that post-level property managers lack the experience and technical expertise to fulfill their responsibilities effectively. At present the Office has no control over the careers, assignment, or training of either the General Services officers or the area officers. The full costs of operating and maintaining individual buildings are still not known; as a result, it is nearly impossible to determine whether and when a building should be replaced. Real property inventory records continue to be inaccurate and incomplete, and construction projects continue to experience unnecessary delays and consequent cost overruns. Further, excess overseas property is not promptly identified and, therefore, is unnecessarily retained. Finally, State's current housing policies and standards overseas are inconsistent with those agreed to at the Washington level.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should consider exercising greater control over the operations of the Office of Foreign Buildings Operations by limiting the availability of sales income and the expenditure of carryover funds in any fiscal year to the amounts budgeted and approved by the committees during annual budget reviews.

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should consider increasing Office of Foreign Buildings Operations accountability by requesting detailed explanations of the financial impact of project deferrals during budget justifications.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should limit the expansion of the computerized preventive maintenance test program until it is proven effective.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should require that the Office of Foreign Buildings Operations and the posts develop an accurate, complete, and timely inventory records system.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  3. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should reduce fragmentation by having all real estate matters at the posts assigned to the General Services Officer.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  4. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should direct that the Office of Foreign Buildings Operations identify the current and projected budget impact of project delays and cost increases when requesting funding authority from Congress.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  5. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should direct the Office of Foreign Buildings Operations to establish consistent, world-wide criteria for timely identification and disposal of excess or uneconomical properties. Current inventory listings of such properties should be made available to the Congress during budget hearings.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  6. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should reaffirm the Department's commitment to the housing standards and instruct the Inspector General to periodically review post compliance with the housing policy.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  7. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should change the Department's budget so that all real estate costs will be consolidated within the FBO appropriation. FBO, as the single property manager, should be given complete budgeting and control authority for these funds.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  8. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should increase the effectiveness of real property managers through more formalized training, rotation in and out of area officer positions, and increased input from the Director of the Office of Foreign Buildings Operations on reassignments and performance ratings.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  9. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should accelerate the development of an integrated property management information system that will provide accurate data on costs as well as compare and contrast various data. Such comparisons would enable the Office of Foreign Buildings Operations to determine cost trends and identify uneconomical buildings.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  10. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should ask Congress for full funding to cover the project site, design, and construction. Full funding would compress the time frames needed to complete the project and allow for a more realistic estimate.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  11. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should instruct Office of Foreign Buildings Operations management officials to document, as part of the project file, how and why any particular architect is selected to design State Department Buildings.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  12. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should direct the Office of Foreign Buildings Operations and the posts to maintain specific cost records that will identify all costs related to the operation and maintenance of individual properties abroad.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

 

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