Food and Drug Administration Facility:

Requirements for Building on a Floodplain Met

GGD-00-17: Published: Dec 15, 1999. Publicly Released: Dec 15, 1999.

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Bernard L. Ungar
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the construction of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) facility for its Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) in College Park, Maryland, focusing on: (1) the General Services Administration's (GSA) authority to construct a new facility for FDA in College Park; (2) whether the requirements for building on a floodplain had been met; and (3) the planned placement of computers in the basement of the new building, specifically whether; (a) steps had been taken or will be taken to mitigate the risk of damage from water entering the basement of the building, and (b) CFSAN staff were involved in the decision to place the computer operations in the basement.

GAO noted that: (1) GSA's authority to construct the FDA facility in College Park, MD, is derived from the FDA Revitalization Act and subsequent appropriations acts; (2) the design team for the project has satisfactorily met the minimum requirements, set by the state of Maryland, to construct a building with a basement on a floodplain; (3) the basement was necessary because of a local building height restriction due to the proximity of the site to the College Park Airport; (4) although basements are not normally allowed in buildings on a floodplain in Maryland, the state granted a variance, in part because a taller or wider building was prohibited; (5) the new CFSAN facility has been designed with several systems to mitigate the risk of damage from water entering the building; (6) with the steps taken by the design team to protect the building from an external flood, FDA officials believe that the potential for internal water damage is a greater probability than is damage from a flood condition; (7) to protect the data stored on the computers, CFSAN officials plan to develop a mitigation plan for the new facility that they say will be appropriate to the nature of the systems installed, the data stored, and risk factors at the time the building is occupied; (8) the decision to locate the main computer room in the basement of the building was reached by consensus of the project team - the design team consultants and representatives from GSA and FDA; and (9) the FDA representatives included CFSAN telecommunications personnel and staff from FDA's Office of Information Resources Management.

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