Natural Resources Research Center, Fort Collins, CO

GGD-98-143R: Published: Jul 10, 1998. Publicly Released: Jul 10, 1998.

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Bernard L. Ungar
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the General Services Administration's (GSA) Public Buildings Service (PBS) acquisition of leased office space in Fort Collins, Colorado, for the federal agencies comprising the Natural Resources Research Center (NRRC), focusing on: (1) the justification for the consolidation of agencies in Fort Collins; (2) whether the requirements in the PBS solicitation for offers (SFO) were consistent with the stated needs of the planned tenant agencies; and (3) what the basis was for the claim in a NRRC press release that the project will save $100 million over the next 30 years.

GAO noted that: (1) efforts to consolidate federal agencies in the Fort Collins area began during the late 1980s; (2) the primary objectives were to: (a) consolidate natural resources research by several federal agencies in Fort Collins, where they would be near Colorado State University (CSU), which was also involved in natural resources research as well as education; and (b) improve research program operations and reduce operational costs; (3) in 1994, the Federal Crop Insurance Reform and Department of Agriculture Reorganization Act directed the Secretary of Agriculture to combine field offices, where practicable, to reduce personnel and duplicative overhead expenses; (4) this provided momentum for the consolidation of Department of Agriculture (USDA) activities in Fort Collins; (5) the PBS contracting officer told GAO that the requirements in the SFO were based on known needs and conditions; (6) the SFO requirement for a new building was based on a PBS market survey of the Fort Collins area, which showed there were no available existing buildings with sufficient square footage or available expansion land to meet NRRC's needs; (7) the requirement that the new building be constructed on a 29- to 35-acre parcel of land was based on a plan to, over time, build a five-building campus for the agencies that would be consolidated in Fort Collins; (8) this parcel needed to be near CSU to achieve one of the NRRC strategic goals of improving collaboration between federal researchers and CSU researchers and educators; (9) the maximum floor size stipulated in the SFO conformed with the goals of minimizing the amount of land needed for the planned five-building campus and accommodating each of the planned occupant agencies on a separate floor of the building; (10) the requirement for the 5-year option on the land was based on plans for the possible construction of four additional buildings on the site; (11) however, if the additional buildings are not needed, the government will not be required to exercise the option on the unused land on the parcel; (12) the building proposed by the lessor and the tenant finishes was based on normal GSA specifications; (13) in 1993, an economic analysis prepared by USDA officials showed that consolidating four agencies at the NRRC would result in a 30-year savings of about $109 million; (14) four cost components were identified as areas of potential savings--space, staff/operations support, procurement support, and computer and telecommunications functions; and (15) this economic analysis has not been updated.

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