Defense Infrastructure:

Demolition of Unneeded Buildings Can Help Avoid Operating Costs

NSIAD-97-125: Published: May 13, 1997. Publicly Released: Jun 4, 1997.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed selected aspects of the services' management of facilities infrastructure and their use of demolition as an element of facilities management, focusing on: (1) the services' funding obligations for maintenance and repair over the last 10 years, changes in building square footage in the space to be maintained, and the impact of the changes on facility maintenance and repair; (2) the potential for demolition to reduce excess facilities infrastructure and avoid recurring costs; (3) the services' plans for demolition; and (4) their overall infrastructure management strategies.

GAO noted that: (1) over the past 10 years, the reduction in the number of DOD facilities worldwide as measured by square footage of space, was only about 10 percent; (2) however, funding by the services for real property maintenance during the same time period decreased almost 40 percent; (3) as a result, installations have growing backlogs of deferred maintenance and repair projects; (4) DOD and the services do not currently have complete, reliable information on the costs associated with either maintaining their current facilities or with infrastructure reduction options; (5) each of the services is recognizing the importance of demolition as an option for eliminating old, excess buildings that are relatively costly to maintain and a drain on declining operation and maintenance funding; (6) demolition offers a viable option for further infrastructure reductions and millions of dollars in savings, but it requires up-front cost; (7) data related to previous demolition projects suggests that demolition costs can be recouped within a few years, thereafter avoiding millions of dollars in recurring maintenance and repair costs and utility costs; (8) the services differ in the extent to which they have developed formal demolition programs; (9) the Army uses the greatest amount of funding for demolition and is planning the most aggressive demolition program; (10) conversely, the Air Force has the least centralized program and relies on installation commanders to identify and fund demolition efforts; (11) although requiring specific funding for demolition could strengthen program emphasis and management and ensure that demolition occurs, it could also limit the services' flexibility to shift funds within their own operation and maintenance accounts to meet the most pressing operational needs; (12) most service officials do not want to require funding to be used exclusively for demolition but would rather continue to use operation and maintenance funding specifically for demolition as they deem necessary; (13) overall strategic plans for maintenance and repair of facilities infrastructure at the service headquarters and Office of Secretary of Defense levels appeared to be limited; and (14) the plans lacked comprehensive strategies for facilities revitalization, replacement, and maintenance tied to measurable goals, specific time frames, and expected funding.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to congressional concerns about the validity of its infrastructure data (square footage; expenditures per square foot for O&M, etc), OSD has created a database to provide on-going trend data on the infrastructure holdings and costs of the military services for the property they maintain. Thus, although Congress did not formally require DOD to create the database, OSD has taken the initiative to do so, based on the manifest concerns of the Congress about the need for such data. Further, OSD is requiring the services to provide standardized data, so that all the data can be immediately compared across the services, both for management and budget purposes. In effect, OSD is implementing the recommendation with precisely the metrics recommended by GAO.

    Matter: Congress may wish to consider requiring DOD and the services to provide 7 to 10 years of comparable trend data on square footage of space being maintained and other measurements, such as plant replacement value and other facility unit measures, along with their operation and maintenance budget submissions and justification each year.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD has taken action, but has not directed the services to use the same criteria. In April 1999, DOD established facility category codes and cost factors, and it created a real property database for fiscal years 1989-1999, which it says provides it with the ability to establish and monitor trends. In addition, DOD established a Demolition Program that is in its second year. However, DOD has not directed the services to use consistent and common criteria for assessing infrastructure conditions because each service still has its own individual approach that is not necessarily consistent.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the services to use consistent and common criteria, to the extent feasible, for developing: (1) accurate and reliable trend data on infrastructure condition, including square footage, plant replacement value, and other relevant measurements; and (2) costs associated with their current infrastructure and possible reduction options, including information on deferring facility maintenance and demolishing excess facilities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD developed a Defense Facilities Strategic Plan in September 1998, but it is not yet fully implemented or fully incorporated into the GPRA.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should use the trend data as a starting point in formulating an overall strategic plan for facilities infrastructure that links to the departmentwide strategic planning requirements set forth in the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA).

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD said that it had considered but dropped, as too limiting and unenforceable, the idea of adding to its Defense Planning Guidance the requirement that all of the services demolish old facilities whenever possible if they are being replaced by new construction. Instead, to accomplish the same intent, DOD has increased emphasis on demolition through the Defense Reform Initiative. Rather than concentrate on individual construction and demolition projects, DOD has had the services create and fund central demolition programs, and has shown evidence of ensuring that progress continues to be made in this area.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should require the Air Force, the Navy, and the Marine Corps to demolish excess infrastructure to the maximum extent feasible when facilities are being replaced by new construction.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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