Capitol Visitor Center:

Update on Status of Project's Schedule and Cost as of September 21, 2006

GAO-06-1058T: Published: Sep 21, 2006. Publicly Released: Sep 21, 2006.

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Terrell G. Dorn
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This testimony's aim is to assist the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch in monitoring progress on the Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) project. Our remarks will focus on (1) the Architect of the Capitol's (AOC) progress in achieving selected project milestones and in managing the project's schedule since the Subcommittee's August 2, 2006, hearing on the project; (2) our assessment of the project's currently scheduled completion date; and (3) an update on the project's expected cost at completion and funding situation. As part of this discussion, we will address a number of key challenges and risks that continue to face the project, as well as actions we believe that AOC will need to take to meet its currently scheduled completion date. This testimony is based on our review of schedules and financial reports for the CVC project and related records maintained by the 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 the CVC team (AOC and its major CVC contractors), AOC's Chief Fire Marshal, and representatives from the U.S. Capitol Police. We also reviewed AOC's construction management contractor's periodic schedule assessments, potential change order log, and daily reports on the progress of interior wall and floor stonework. We retained a mechanical consulting engineering firm (Kincaid/Bryant) to help us assess the CVC team's progress in completing the project's heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system. In addition, we reviewed the contract modifications made to date and the estimates of cost increases provided by AOC and its construction management contractor, including their estimates of the costs related to delays, and their preliminary cost estimates for recent changes to the CVC's fire protection and security systems. Our assessment was somewhat constrained because the CVC team is still analyzing the impact on the project's schedule and cost of the recently identified changes required for certain components of the fire protection and security systems. The team expects to have firmer schedule and cost information around mid-October, at which time we may have to revise our estimates if this later information differs significantly from the current information.

Since the Subcommittee's August 2 CVC hearing, the CVC team has continued to move the project's construction forward, but the project's overall targeted completion date has slipped significantly. The schedule for the project's most critical activity--the fire protection system--has slipped about 4 months, bringing the new targeted overall completion date to mid-September 2007, and other important activities have also been significantly delayed. Unlike the previous CVC schedule, the new schedule (1) does not allow any time to address problems that may arise or to prepare for operations after a certificate of occupancy has been issued; (2) assumes that AOC will be able to bring exhibits into the CVC before a certificate of occupancy has been issued; and (3) provides for opening the CVC and the House and Senate expansion spaces at the same time. It is not yet clear to us whether the need for time to prepare for operations or for a certificate of occupancy to receive the exhibits will affect the facility's opening date, but these factors should not delay the completion of construction. During the past month, work on the project has progressed in a number of areas. For example, the sequence 2 contractor expects to have dehumidified air in the exhibit gallery by around mid-October. In addition, critical interior floor stone installation has continued, together with other interior and exterior construction work. Almost all of the interior wall stone for the CVC itself (excluding the East Front and the tunnels) is now installed. A number of problems have developed in connection with the CVC's fire protection system, which is the principal cause of the completion date's slippage and continues to be the single greatest source of risk to meeting the project's new scheduled completion dates. Although the CVC team has worked closely with AOC's Chief Fire Marshal and has made substantial progress in resolving issues, the resolution, along with necessary changes to certain security system-related components, has resulted in a need for significant additional work. The CVC team based its mid-September 2007 project completion date on its preliminary estimate of the time needed to do this additional work. Although the team believes that the time it added to the schedule should be sufficient, it will not make a definitive determination until it completes its analysis of the required changes, which it expects to do by mid-October. Several other activities important to the CVC's completion, such as the HVAC system's installation and East Front work, have been delayed since the Subcommittee's last CVC hearing--an outcome anticipated by our assessment of the CVC team's performance against the indicators of progress that we and the Subcommittee have been tracking. For example, during the last 7 weeks, the sequence 2 contractor did not meet its overall target for interior floor stone installation and continued to experience delays in installing wall stone in the East Front. In addition, the sequence 2 contractor met only 2 of the 17 milestones that we have been tracking for this hearing. The project continues to face risks and uncertainties, such as getting its complex building systems to function together as well as separately and trade stacking.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: AOC developed an action plan as recommended by GAO. AOC had taken the following actions in response to GAO recommendations: (1) AOC weekly schedule meetings and monthly schedule reports focus on key critical and near critical activities. (2) AOC has accelerated critical activities by working overtime or adding workers. (3)AOC has used the request for information (RFI) process to identify critical problems, issues, questions, and concerns. Critical RFIs are reviewed in weekly meetings. Risks are reviewed in monthly risk management meetings. (4) AOC has weekly meetings with the Fire Marshal and US Capitol Police to discuss and resolve critical issues. AOC Capitol Power plant personnel routinely attend the weekly mechanical, electrical, and plumbing meetings. (5) AOC reviews critical discretionary changes and the project schedule with the Capitol Preservation Commission at their weekly meetings.

    Recommendation: Given the magnitude of the recent schedule slippages and the consequences of the risks that have materialized, the time it has taken the team to identify and resolve problems, the team's performance relative to the indicators of progress that we and the Subcommittee have been tracking, and the risks and uncertainties that continue to face the project, we are convinced that the team will not be able to meet the new schedule or any schedule with completion dates close to mid-September 2007 unless it quickly and substantively changes its execution of the project and schedule. The Architect of the Capitol should promptly develop an action plan setting forth specific steps that AOC and the CVC team will take to enhance AOC's execution of the schedule and project. Types of actions the team should consider are as follows: (1) make more visible, aggressive, and focused efforts to manage activities in the project's critical and key near-critical paths according to the schedule, making sure that priority activities receive priority attention; (2) see that sufficient effort is applied to meet important dates, and taking into account that any consideration of acceleration should balance its impact on the schedule against its prospective cost, the CVC team may wish to consider including the use of targeted acceleration when it is justified and will save time without adversely affecting worker safety, work quality, or facility functionality or causing trade stacking; (3) ensure that mechanisms are in place to identify and quickly resolve problems, issues, risks, questions, and concerns raised by construction contractors or others; provide needed design guidance and instructions; and respond to submittals effectively and quickly, including closely monitoring the turnaround time for architectural support from this point forward; (4) continuously ensure the effective operation of mechanisms put in place to coordinate work among the many contractors and subcontractors constructing the building and to coordinate with AOC's Chief Fire Marshal, U.S. Capitol Police, and the Capitol Power Plant; and (5) continue to see that requests for discretionary changes to the project's scope or design are promptly brought to the attention of the Capitol Preservation Commission, along with the impact of such requested changes on the project's schedule. AOC agreed that additional actions are needed to improve the extent to which the CVC team meets its scheduled dates and said that it would identify and take such actions. To help put the CVC team in a better position to meet the project's scheduled completion date, after considering the actions we have identified, the Architect of the Capitol should promptly provide the Capitol Preservation Commission, the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations, and the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration and the Committee on House Administration with a plan setting forth the actions it and the CVC team will take to enhance their execution of the project and its schedule--particularly to accomplish all of the critical work that needs to get done in the next 3 to 4 months. AOC should submit the plan as soon as possible, but no later than mid-October 2006. Congress can then use this plan to hold AOC accountable for managing the project and to work closely with AOC to ensure that the schedule implications of all proposed scope or design changes are quickly determined and considered by all appropriate stakeholders before final decisions on the proposed changes are made.

    Agency Affected: Architect of the Capitol


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