Capitol Visitor Center:

Update on Status of Project's Schedule and Costs

GAO-05-910T: Published: Jul 14, 2005. Publicly Released: Jul 14, 2005.

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Terrell G. Dorn
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This testimony discusses the Architect of the Capitol's (AOC) progress in achieving selected project milestones and in managing the Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) project's schedule since Congress's June 14 hearing on the project. We will also discuss the project's costs and funding, including the potential cost impact of schedule-related issues. Our observations today are based on our review of schedules and financial reports for the CVC project and related records maintained by AOC and its construction management contractor, Gilbane Building Company; our observations on the progress of work at the CVC construction site; and our discussions with AOC's Chief Fire Marshal and CVC project staff, including AOC, its major CVC contractors, and representatives of an AOC schedule consultant, McDonough Bolyard Peck (MBP). We did not perform an audit; rather, we performed our work to assist Congress in conducting its oversight activities.

AOC and its major construction contractors have made progress on the project since Congress's June 14 hearing, but work on some of the selected milestones scheduled for completion by today's hearing is incomplete; some work has been postponed; and some new issues have arisen that could affect the project's progress. Largely because of past problems, remaining risks and uncertainties, and the number of activities that are not being completed on time, we continue to believe that the project is more likely to be completed in the December 2006 to March 2007 time frame than in September 2006. AOC and its construction management contractor have continued their efforts to respond to two recommendations we made to improve the project's management--having a realistic, acceptable schedule and aggressively monitoring and managing adherence to that schedule. However, we still have some concerns about the amount of time scheduled for some activities, the extent to which resources can be applied to meet dates in the schedule, the linkage of related activities in the schedule, and the integration of planning for completing construction and starting operations. Since Congress's last CVC hearing, AOC has engaged contractors to help it respond to two other recommendations we made--developing risk mitigation plans and preparing a master schedule that integrates the major steps needed to complete construction with the steps needed to prepare for operations. AOC has also been taking a number of actions to improve coordination between the CVC project team and AOC's Fire Marshal Division. Insufficient coordination in this area has already affected the project's schedule and cost, and could do so again if further improvements are not made. We continue to believe that the project's estimated cost at completion will be between $522 million and $559 million, and that, as we have previously indicated, AOC will likely need as much as $37 million more than it has requested to cover risks and uncertainties to complete the project. At this time, we believe that roughly $5 million to $15 million of this $37 million is likely to be needed in fiscal year 2006, and the remainder in fiscal year 2007. In the next 2 to 3 months, AOC plans to update its estimate of the project's remaining costs. We will review this estimate and provide Congress with our estimate together with information on when any additional funding is likely to be needed. During the next several months, AOC is likely to face competing demands for funds that can be used for either CVC construction or operations, and it will be important for AOC to ensure that the available funds are optimally used. Finally, we are concerned that AOC may incur costs to open the facility to the public in September 2006 that it would not incur if it postponed the opening until after the remaining construction work is more or fully complete--that is, in March 2007, according to AOC's estimates.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The construction completion date has now slipped to November 2008. The Architect of the Capitol provided an updated cost to complete for the Capitol Visitor Center ($621 million) to Congress in September 2007.

    Recommendation: To ensure that (1) Congress has sufficient information for deciding when to open CVC to the public and (2) planning and budgeting for CVC construction and operations are appropriately integrated, the Architect of the Capitol should, in consultation with other appropriate congressional organizations, provide Congress with an estimate of the additional costs that it expects will be incurred to open CVC to the public by September 15, 2006, rather than later, such as after the completion of the House and Senate expansion spaces.

    Agency Affected: Architect of the Capitol

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: AOC has hired an executive director for the CVC who will start immediately (before construction is complete) to guide planning and budgeting for CVC operations. Mr. Bob Hixon is in charge of CVC construction planning and budgeting.

    Recommendation: To ensure that (1) Congress has sufficient information for deciding when to open CVC to the public and (2) planning and budgeting for CVC construction and operations are appropriately integrated, the Architect of the Capitol should promptly designate who is responsible for integrating planning and budgeting for CVC construction and operations and give this activity priority attention.

    Agency Affected: Architect of the Capitol


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