Federal Buildings:

Actions Needed to Prevent Further Deterioration and Obsolescence

GGD-91-57: Published: May 13, 1991. Publicly Released: May 13, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO assessed the General Services Administration's (GSA) efforts to complete needed repairs and alterations in federally owned buildings.

GAO found that: (1) over half of the 1,600 federally owned buildings were at least 40 years old and needed major improvements; (2) deferred repairs and alterations at federal buildings resulted in further damage that could have been avoided; (3) older buildings require greater capital investment, such as a major overhaul every 20 years; (4) older buildings generally lack the electrical and telecommunication capabilities to accommodate personal computers and other modern data and word processing technologies; (5) persistent problems with building heating and cooling systems adversely affected employee morale and productivity; (6) funding limitations and ineffective GSA management were the primary reasons why needed repairs and alterations were not made; (7) the Federal Buildings Fund financed office space costs, including repairs and alterations, but rent restrictions reduced its revenue by about $4 billion; (8) emphasis on budget deficit reduction, combined with the present federal budget structure, often limited the amount of funding available for capital projects; and (9) GSA operated on a project-by-project basis, and lacked a comprehensive, long-term strategy for effectively meeting building repair and alteration needs.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Although GSA considers this recommendation closed and fully implemented, its action plan and corrective actions did not go far enough. GSA has prepared several iterations of a 5-year building capital plan, but it has not yet been approved by OMB or used by GSA to support its annual building capital investment proposals to Congress. Thus, GSA's plan has not yet prompted or guided more informed congressional decisionmaking.

    Recommendation: To promote more informed congressional decisionmaking and help prevent other federal buildings from becoming as deteriorated and functionally obsolete as the Pentagon, the Administrator of General Services should annually develop and communicate to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Congress a comprehensive plan that: (1) identifies total repair and alteration requirements in federally owned buildings and their estimated costs; (2) assesses the short- and long-term economic and operational implications of the requirements for each building; and (3) proposes a strategy, action plan, and funding levels to repair or modernize the most seriously deteriorated, functionally obsolete, or unsafe buildings.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA has changed its procedures for identifying needed building repair and modernization requirements and entering them into its automated database. GSA revised its guiding handbook in April 1993 to incorporate more specific criteria for evaluating the functionality and safety of the federal buildings it controls.

    Recommendation: GSA should identify, in consultation with tenant agencies, those federal buildings that: (1) have structural or mechanical deficiencies which, if not corrected, will likely result in further costly damage to building equipment or contents and higher eventual repair or replacement costs to the government; (2) do not meet applicable fire or other health and safety standards; and (3) have other deficiencies that compromise tenant agencies' operations or employees' health and safety.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA has changed its procedures for identifying building requirements and entering them in its automated database. GSA issued new guiding policies and procedures in April 1993.

    Recommendation: GSA should establish appropriate management controls to ensure that: (1) all identified building repair and alteration needs are included in its computerized inventory, assigned priorities, and properly costed; and (2) needs that have already been deferred for 2 or more years are identified, tracked, and coordinated with the affected tenant agencies.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA did not address this recommendation in its official response to the report or in its original action plan. GSA considers this recommendation closed on the basis of its submission of a 5-year capital plan to OMB and its proposed budget for fiscal year 1993. OMB has not yet approved GSA's capital plan, however, and the plan has not been used to facilitate or guide congressional decisionmaking. Until GSA has a capital plan that is acceptable to OMB and that is used to make spending decisions, Congress will continue to require individual prospectuses.

    Recommendation: Once it has developed and submitted a long-range strategic capital plan, GSA should explore with Congress and OMB how to finance needed building repairs and alterations and whether the existing prospectus process for repair and alteration projects is still needed.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration


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