Kennedy Center:

More Information on Project Status and Budgets Needed to Understand the Impact of Future Funding Decisions

GAO-04-933: Published: Sep 15, 2004. Publicly Released: Sep 20, 2004.

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Since fiscal year 1995, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (Center) has been responsible and received federal funding for implementing capital improvement projects and operations and maintenance activities. The Kennedy Center's Comprehensive Building Plan identifies capital projects needed to renovate the Center and bring it into compliance with current life safety and accessibility codes. The Kennedy Center currently is planning to construct, with private funds, two new buildings to open in 2013 on a new plaza to be built adjacent to the existing facility. The Kennedy Center expects federal funding to operate and maintain these buildings. GAO was asked to examine (1) how much the Center has received in federal appropriations for capital projects, (2) the status of the Comprehensive Building Plan and updates, and (3) the potential impact of the Center's plaza project on the need for future operations and maintenance funding.

For fiscal years 1995 through 2004, the Kennedy Center received approximately $152 million in federal appropriations for capital projects identified in its Comprehensive Building Plan. According to its fiscal year 2002 Comprehensive Building Plan, the Kennedy Center will need an additional $57 million in federal appropriations from fiscal year 2005 through fiscal year 2008 to complete its planned capital projects. The Kennedy Center has completed many of the capital projects identified in the Comprehensive Building Plan and has many more ongoing. However, we do not expect the Center to be able to complete all of the capital projects identified in the plan by fiscal year 2008. This is in part because the Kennedy Center reprioritized the sequence of its planned projects to minimize disruptions to its patrons. Several of the projects that will likely not be completed include components, such as the installation of sprinklers, that are important in meeting the Kennedy Center's goal of bringing the facility into compliance with current life safety codes. However, the Comprehensive Building Plan does not discuss changes to its prioritization of projects or the impact of those changes on completing its planned renovations. In addition, the updates to the plan do not include information on the status of projects identified in earlier plans or provide budget information for individual projects. As a result, the Comprehensive Building Plan is of limited use for understanding the Kennedy Center's progress in completing its planned renovations. Operations and maintenance costs for the plaza project, including two new buildings, could range from $6 million to $11 million annually, in current dollars, based on data from a survey of museum facility management practices and Kennedy Center data. The Kennedy Center expects to request additional annual federal appropriations for these costs. However, because the project is currently in the early planning phase, the operations and maintenance estimate could change as designs are finalized. In fiscal year 2004, the Center received about $16 million for the operations and maintenance costs of the existing facility.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In November 2004, the Kennedy Center issued an updated Comprehensive Building Plan. The updated plan is responsive to these areas of GAO's recommendation. The plan includes a list of projects completed since the 2002 CBP and their completion dates. The plan also contains descriptions of the current projects and indicates how the project relates to the project identified in the 2002 plan. This provides Congressional decisionmakers with information on the status and scope of projects that have been previously identified. A section of the updated plan also notes major changes to projects previously identified in the 2002 CBP. This provides information on projects that had been previously identified, but have changed substantially in scope or timing and additional projects that have been identified as necessary. The updated plan also includes a year-by-year project-specific budget accounting for all planned projects. This will help decisionmakers understand the timing and cost of projects and hold the Kennedy Center accountable for the timing and cost of specific projects.

    Recommendation: To help congressional decision makers oversee the capital projects at the Kennedy Center and make funding decisions, the President of the Kennedy Center, in conjunction with the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, should annually update the comprehensive building plan, as required, and include (1) the prioritization of projects, (2) project status, and (3) updated budget information for planned and ongoing projects.

    Agency Affected: Smithsonian Institution: John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts


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