More Accurate Data Would Allow DOD to Improve the Tracking, Management, and Security of Its Leased Facilities
GAO-16-101: Published: Mar 15, 2016. Publicly Released: Mar 15, 2016.
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What GAO Found
While the Department of Defense (DOD) is taking some steps to address data issues, it cannot fully determine the number, size, and costs of its leases for real property because its Real Property Assets Database (RPAD), the real property inventory system that DOD uses to report on its leased assets, contains some inaccurate and incomplete data. GAO found that about 15 percent of the RPAD lease records for fiscal year 2011 and 10 percent of the records for fiscal year 2013 were inaccurate. Most of these errors were in the lease records for the Army (the manager of about 80 percent of the leased assets records in RPAD); however, the Army is aware of these issues and is taking steps to correct future data. GAO also found that RPAD did not include about 5 percent of the Army's lease records for fiscal years 2011 and 2013. GAO conducted a random sample of the fiscal year 2013 RPAD data and found that the data element required to calculate costs was unreliable for 11 of the 84 Army sample records. GAO found that the Army was not following DOD's guidance for reporting costs on leases that have multiple assets associated with them. Furthermore, GAO found that RPAD does not contain a data element for the square footage for leases in which there are multiple tenants occupying space in the same building, as is the case for some Washington Headquarters Services (WHS) leases.
DOD is implementing a presidential memorandum and a series of Office of Management and Budget memorandums to maintain or reduce owned and leased space, but has projected minimal change to its leasing activities. There have been opportunities in the past to reduce its leased space; however, DOD reoccupied over 1.1 million square feet in leased space previously vacated when it implemented the 2005 Base Closure and Realignment recommendations. In some cases, DOD tenants occupy leased space close to large installations that may have had unused facilities. Potential force structure reductions may offer an opportunity to further reduce DOD's reliance on leased space in the future, if DOD actively identifies suitable underutilized facilities on its installations.
DOD does not have complete oversight of the security assessments conducted for its leased facilities acquired through the General Services Administration (GSA). Facility security assessments, which are required to be conducted every 3 to 5 years, are conducted by the Pentagon Force Protection Agency and the Federal Protective Service (FPS) using established standards. The Pentagon Force Protection Agency had completed the required assessments for the facilities for which it is responsible between August 8, 2013, and January 31, 2014. However, DOD has not requested information on whether FPS, the primary agency for protecting federal facilities, has completed its facility security assessments as required for all DOD-leased locations. GAO analyzed the FPS assessment data for fiscal years 2011 and 2013 and identified several issues: (1) some assessments were not scheduled within required time frames, (2) data on previously recorded assessment dates were overwritten when updated, and (3) dates for completed and next-scheduled assessments were not always recorded. While FPS is not required to inform DOD about assessment schedules, without periodically requesting information on whether facility security assessments have been conducted, DOD does not have the information it needs to ensure that its leased facilities are secure.
Why GAO Did This Study
Overreliance on costly leasing is one of the major reasons that federal real property management remains on GAO's high-risk list. GAO's prior work has shown that owning buildings often costs less than operating leases, especially where there are long-term needs for space.
House Report 113-102 included a provision that GAO review DOD's management of leased space. For fiscal years 2011 and 2013, this report evaluates the extent to which DOD (1) has accurate and complete data on the number, size, and costs of its leases; (2) has taken actions to reduce its reliance on leased space; and (3) has oversight of the status of security assessments conducted for leased facilities contracted through GSA. GAO analyzed lease data from the real property systems kept by DOD, the military departments, WHS, and GSA, and facility security assessment data from FPS and the Pentagon Force Protection Agency; reviewed guidance; and interviewed cognizant officials.
What GAO Recommends
GAO recommends four actions to improve DOD's management of its leased facilities. DOD concurred with GAO recommendations to (1) enforce its guidance to provide annual rent plus other costs for each asset on the same lease, and (2) request information from FPS on facility security assessments. DOD did not concur with GAO recommendations to capture total square footage, by lease, or to look for opportunities to move DOD organizations in leased space onto installations. As discussed in the report, GAO believes that these recommendations remain valid.
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Recommendations for Executive Action
Comments: In December 2015, DOD concurred with our first recommendation, which was that Secretary of the Army enforce DOD's Real Property Inventory (RPI) Reporting Guidance to break out the annual rent plus other costs for each asset on the same lease to avoid overstating the costs associated with such leases. As of December 2017, DOD had not completed any actions to implement this recommendation. As of March 2018, DOD identified this recommendation's status as "open."
Recommendation: To improve DOD's ability to oversee its inventory of leased real property, aimed at improving the accuracy and completeness of data in RPAD, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to enforce DOD's Real Property Inventory (RPI) Reporting Guidance, which states that for multiple assets associated with a single lease, the military departments and WHS must provide a breakout of the annual rent plus other costs for each asset on the same lease, to avoid overstating costs associated with such leases.
Agency Affected: Department of Defense
Comments: In December 2015, DOD did not concur with our third recommendation, which was to look for opportunities to relocate DOD organizations in leased space to installations with available space. In its comments, DOD stated that its existing policy requires the effective and efficient use of DOD real property and current initiatives undertaken by each of the military departments and WHS reflect adherence to this policy. DOD further stated that-given that each of the military departments and WHS have implemented initiatives to reduce their dependence on leased space, especially where existing DOD assets may exist-an additional directive from the Secretary of Defense was not required. However, as of December 2017, a DOD official told us that DOD was pursuing an effort to consolidate and standardize leases. The initial focus was on 176 leased facilities within 35 miles of DOD-owned facilities that had underutilized or excess space, and are up for renewal over the next 5 years. According to the DOD official, this effort would develop criteria for reviewing these leases, including a cost-benefit analysis of whether it is feasible to relocate the function from leased space to existing space on an installation. Alternatively, if it is determined that the function cannot be moved, the DOD official stated that DOD would review whether to consolidate the lease to appropriately size the space to the function's requirement. Once this effort is completed, DOD may have opportunities to reduce its leased space at a DOD-wide level. As of March 2018, DOD identified this recommendation's status as "Closed Unresolved," i.e., DOD considers this recommendation to be "closed," but is aware that GAO considers this recommendation "open." GAO also considers this to be a priority recommendation. As of September 2018, the DOD official stated that the effort to consolidate leases was still underway.
Recommendation: To help reduce facility costs and reliance on leased space, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretaries of the military departments to require that their departments look for opportunities to relocate DOD organizations in leased space to installations that may have underutilized space due to force structure reductions or other indicators of potentially available space, where such relocation is cost-effective and does not interfere with the installation's ongoing military mission.
Agency Affected: Department of Defense
Comments: DOD concurred with our fourth recommendation, which was that DOD improve its ability to ensure that its leased facilities are secure and stated that it would collaborate with the Federal Protective Service to obtain the listing of the leased facilities the agency supports, monitor and provide oversight of the scheduling of the assessments, and review the results of the assessments. As of December 2017, DOD has not completed any actions to implement this recommendation. As of March 2018, DOD identified this recommendation's status as "open."
Recommendation: To improve DOD's ability to ensure that its leased facilities are secure, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense (Intelligence) to request reports from the Federal Protective Service for all leased facilities on a periodic basis as determined necessary for oversight. At a minimum, the Under Secretary should request (1) the results of the assessments, (2) the date on which the last assessment was completed for each facility and the date for which the next scheduled assessment is planned, and (3) information on whether these dates meet the time frames established by Interagency Security Committee standards.
Agency Affected: Department of Defense
Comments: In December 2015, DOD did not concur with our second recommendation, which was that the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Energy, Installations and Environment) modify the office's Real Property Information Model to include a new data element to capture the total square footage assigned to each individual lease when multiple leases exist for a single building and make a corresponding change to its guidance to avoid overstating the total square footage assigned to each lease in RPAD. In its comments, DOD stated that it agreed that the issue we identified does exist regarding multiple leases that are assigned the same building (leases managed by WHS in the National Capital Region) and that the inclusion of an additional data element may well serve as an indicator to help resolve this issue. However, DOD stated that it believed that the underlying cause for overstating the total square footage for these records in RPAD was a data aggregation issue, and DOD stated that it had chosen an alternative approach to address the issue we raised. Specifically, DOD stated that the department was in the final stages of developing a platform that would transmit data into RPAD, and that would include the capability to capture square footage for multiple leases in a single building. DOD stated that its new Data Analytics and Integration Support platform for transmitting RPAD data would serve as the near real time data warehouse of the DOD real property inventory and would perform the data collection, verification, and validation of the real property inventory data submitted by each military department and WHS. DOD expected this platform to be fully deployed by fiscal year 2017. As of December 2017, DOD had not completed any actions to implement this recommendation. As of March 2018, DOD identified this recommendation's status as "Closed Unresolved," i.e., DOD considers this recommendation to be "closed," but is aware that GAO considers this recommendation "open."
Recommendation: To improve DOD's ability to oversee its inventory of leased real property, aimed at improving the accuracy and completeness of data in RPAD, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Energy, Installations and Environment) to modify the office's Real Property Information Model to include a data element to capture the square footage for each lease of space in a single building and also make a corresponding change to its Real Property Inventory (RPI) Reporting Guidance to require that the square footage for each individual lease be reported when multiple leases exist for a single building, to avoid overstating the total square footage assigned to each lease in RPAD.
Agency Affected: Department of Defense