National Park Service:

Maintenance Backlog Issues

T-RCED-98-61: Published: Feb 4, 1998. Publicly Released: Feb 4, 1998.

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Victor S. Rezendes
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Office of Public Affairs
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed: (1) the Park Service's estimate of the maintenance backlog and its composition; (2) how the agency determined the maintenance backlog estimate and whether it is reliable; and (3) how the agency manages the backlog.

GAO noted that: (1) the Park Service's estimate of its maintenance backlog does not accurately reflect the scope of the maintenance needs of the park system; (2) the Park Service estimated, as of January 1997, that its maintenance backlog was about $6.1 billion; (3) most of this amount--about $5.6 billion, or about 92 percent--was construction projects; (4) of this amount, over 21 percent or $1.2 billion was for the construction of new facilities; (5) while GAO does not question the need for these facilities, including these kinds of new construction projects or projects that expand or upgrade park facilities in an estimate of the maintenance backlog is not appropriate because it goes beyond what could reasonably be viewed as maintenance; (6) as a result, including these projects in the maintenance backlog contributes to confusion about the actual maintenance needs of the national park system; (7) the Park Service's estimate of its maintenance backlog is not reliable; (8) its maintenance backlog estimates are compiled on an ad hoc basis in response to requests from Congress or others; (9) the agency does not have a routine, systematic process for determining its maintenance backlog; (10) the most recent estimate, as of January 1997, was based largely on information that was compiled by the Park Service over 4 years ago and has not been updated to reflect changing conditions in individual park units; (11) this fact, as well as the absence of a common definition of what should be included in the maintenance backlog, contributes to an inaccurate and out-of-date estimate; (12) the Park Service does not use the estimated backlog in managing park maintenance operations; (13) as such, it has not specifically identified its total maintenance backlog; (14) since the backlog far exceeds the funding resources being made available to address it, the Park Service has focused its efforts on identifying the highest-priority maintenance needs; (15) however, given that substantial additional funding resources can be used to address maintenance--over $100 million starting in fiscal year (FY) 1998--the Park Service should more accurately determine its total maintenance needs and track progress in meeting them so that it can determine the extent to which they are being met; (16) the Park Service is beginning to implement the legislatively mandated management changes in FY 1998; and (17) these changes could, if properly implemented, help the Park Service develop more accurate data on its maintenance backlog and track progress in addressing it.

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