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National Park Service: Process Exists for Prioritizing Asset Maintenance Decisions, but Evaluation Could Improve Efforts

GAO-17-136 Published: Dec 13, 2016. Publicly Released: Jan 12, 2017.
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Fast Facts

At the end of fiscal year 2015, the National Park Service reported $11.9 billion in deferred maintenance—that is, the estimated costs of asset maintenance or repairs that the agency has postponed for more than a year and has not yet resolved.

To address its maintenance needs, the agency has determined that its highest priority assets—assets that are critical to the operation of parks—should be considered first for funding to keep them in good condition.

The agency has not yet evaluated this approach and does not have plans underway to do so. We recommend that the Park Service evaluate whether this approach is working or if changes are needed.

Dollar Amount of National Park Service’s $11.9 Billion in Deferred Maintenance and Number of Assets by Asset Category, Fiscal Year 2015


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GAO recommends that the Park Service evaluate the Capital Investment Strategy and results to assess whether it has achieved its intended outcomes. The Department of the Interior agreed with GAO's recommendation.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of the Interior To ensure that the elements of the agency's process for making asset maintenance decisions are achieving desired outcomes, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Director of the Park Service to evaluate the Capital Investment Strategy and its results to determine if it is achieving its intended outcomes or if changes need to be made.
Closed – Implemented
The National Park Service (NPS) has evaluated the Capital Investment Strategy and continues to make modifications to it to ensure it is achieving its intended outcomes. In 2019, the agency established a Capital Investment Strategy working group, and it was tasked with reviewing and overseeing the algorithm that forms the basis for the strategy. Based on these results, the agency determined that the Capital Investment Strategy is partially achieving its intended outcomes. Specifically, since the implementation of the strategy in FY2015, NPS has made progress towards financial sustainability by, for example, increasing investments in mission critical assets. In addition, NPS has focused on disposing of non-essential facilities to avert their associated deferred maintenance and avoid the future growth of deferred maintenance of these facilities. NPS has also improved the visitor experience through increased funding in public use facilities, per the intent of the strategy. For example, investment in assets that primarily support visitor use have increased 11 percent from 2013 to 2018, according to officials. NPS has also increased investments in health and life safety related work to ensure visitor and employee safety, also consistent with the strategy, according to agency officials. However, the agency also found that it continued to invest in protecting historic and cultural resources at a consistent rate, rather than a declining rate, thereby only partially meeting the intent of the Capital Investment Strategy. According to agency officials, NPS is proactively taking steps to continuously improve its asset management program and investment strategies, including assessing prioritization methods at the park, region, and national levels. For example, it is standing up a new Investment Review Board that will provide a Park Service-wide perspective for and oversight of construction programs. The board will also be responsible for setting direction and priorities for facility investment. According to agency officials, NPS also is developing a new and simplified method for prioritizing assets for funding. Finally, NPS will be implementing periodic evaluations of the facility investment strategy and the Capital Investment Strategy to ensure that investments are aligned with departmental goals and priorities.

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AssetsFacility maintenanceFederal facilitiesFederal fundsMaintenance costsNational historic sitesNational parksNational recreation areasReal propertyAsset managementDeferred maintenance