Federal Real Property Management:

Answers to Hearing Questions

GGD-99-130R: Published: Jul 1, 1999. Publicly Released: Jul 1, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO responded to congressional questions concerning federal real property management, focusing on: (1) whether GAO would advocate a more uniform management of government-owned real property; (2) whether the dispersion of ownership is a weakness in the effective management of real property; (3) what caused the weaknesses found in the management and maintenance of federal facilities; (4) whether a successful partnership between the government and the private sector can take place without the five factors identified in GAO's previous testimony; (5) what constitutes a successful partnership; (6) how underutilized property is defined; (7) to what extent did community pressure hinder or help the government's management of federal property; (8) identifying the elements of a successful joint partnership business plan; (9) how important a statutory basis is for joint partnerships; and (10) how partnerships affect historic preservation projects.

GAO noted that: (1) GAO would advocate a more uniform management of government-owned real property; (2) GAO sees no reason why agencies cannot effectively manage their own properties when it is done under a strategic framework based on best practices and accompanied by good financial management, effective accountability mechanisms, and appropriate congressional oversight; (3) GAO believes that weaknesses regarding deferred maintenance, accumulation of underutilized and unneeded properties, and lack of planning and adequate data are caused by: (a) insufficient integration of capital asset planning and strategic planning; (b) lack of incentives to encourage federal managers to become better stewards of their assets; and (c) unmet human capital needs; (4) the five key factors in implementing partnerships may not be generalizable to partnerships in other federal agencies because they were derived from GAO's review of a selected and limited number of cases; (5) for a partnership to be successful, both parties benefit from combining and learning from each other's core competencies; (6) any assessment of the success of a partnership would need to be based on several dimensions, including effectiveness, cost and efficiency, customer satisfaction, and project process; (7) the Federal Property Management Regulations define underutilized property as an entire property or portion thereof, with or without improvements, which is used only at irregular periods or intermittently by the accountable landholding agency for program purposes of that agency, or which is used for program purposes that can be satisfied with only a portion of the property; (8) GAO's recent study of six public-private partnerships demonstrates how community pressure can play either a facilitating or an inhibiting role in the implementation of a partnership, depending on the particular case; (9) the business plans GAO reviewed generally addressed topics such as the responsibilities and risks that are to be undertaken by both the federal agency and the private partners; (10) these plans typically included information on existing and projected marketplace conditions likely to affect the project and provided details on the project's financing; (11) a statutory basis played a central role in the creation of each of the partnerships that GAO reviewed for its report; and (12) according to public and private asset managers GAO spoke with, partnerships involving the restoration of historic properties can present special challenges.

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