Feasibility of Moving the Forest Service From the Sidney Yates Building

GGD-00-208R: Published: Sep 28, 2000. Publicly Released: Sep 28, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the feasibility of moving the Forest Service's Washington, D.C., employees from the Sidney Yates Building into the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) South Building, focusing on: (1) the estimated occupancy level of the modernized South Building; (2) the feasibility of moving Forest Service employees and other operations housed in the Sidney Yates Building into the South Building or other space; and (3) the feasibility of the Sydney Yates Building being used for other purposes, such as a museum.

GAO noted that: (1) USDA estimates that upon completion of its modernization, the South Building will house 6,800 employees; (2) this would be an increase of about 300 employees over the number of employees that were housed in the South Building before the modernization; (3) however, this would be a decrease of almost 1,700 persons from its initial estimate of 8,488 persons made in 1991, when USDA began exploring the possibility of modernizing its South Building; (4) according to USDA officials, the initial figure of 8,488 was based on preliminary assumptions that the building could be reconfigured to increase the occupiable office space by almost 21 percent; (5) these assumptions were later found to be impractical; (6) in addition, USDA's space consultant concluded that the need for additional restrooms, shafts, and telecommunication rooms would actually decrease the amount of office space in each wing of the South Building; (7) while relocating the Forest Service from the Sidney Yates Building could be accomplished if necessary, it would be costly and it could not be done quickly; (8) General Services Administration (GSA) estimates that it could take 4 to 5 years to relocate the Forest Service and relocating the employees and reestablishing the telecommunication capabilities could cost millions of dollars; (9) finding a new location near the South Building for the child care center, which can be used by all USDA staff, could be difficult because it would have to meet GSA's criteria for establishing a child care center; and (10) if another potential use for the Sidney Yates Building were identified and proposed, such as a museum, an engineering feasibility study would need to be conducted to determine if the physical structure of the building, such as its floor loads, elevators, and the number of entrances and exits, could accommodate the planned functions.

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