Fast Facts

The Army uses standard designs for 70 types of facilities it regularly builds, e.g., barracks and fitness centers. Doing so can improve quality, reduce costs, and streamline contracting.

The Army Corps of Engineers’ “Centers for Standardization” should:

Develop and refine standard designs

Ensure application of the Centers’ standards

Monitor the effects of designs

The Army tracks the Centers’ progress in developing and refining designs, but doesn’t ensure that standards are consistently applied or assess the effects of designs on reducing costs or contract changes. We recommended establishing performance measures to do these things.

Newly Constructed Dining Facility at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin

Dining facility

Dining facility

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Highlights

What GAO Found

The nine Centers of Standardization (Centers) within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers undertake a number of activities designed to support each of their program objectives. Their charter includes three objectives: (1) developing and refining Centers' policies and processes; (2) assuring consistent application of the Centers' standards; and (3) monitoring execution to meet the overarching objectives and priorities of the Army Facilities Standardization Program (AFSP) and standardization process. We found that the Centers' various activitiessuch as conducting value engineering and life-cycle cost studies to identify possible cost savings and analyze long-term costs of new facilitiesare consistent with key principles and concepts in Office of Management and Budget guidance for a disciplined capital planning process. Additionally, the post-occupancy evaluations led by the Centers are designed to evaluate whether the Army functional requirements have been met, Army standard design has been implemented, and there are any areas where the design could be improved. These evaluations support all three of the Centers' objectives by evaluating whether a design needs improvement, a facility was constructed in accordance with the approved project design, and customer needs were met.

Centers of Standardization Activities Performed during Army Military Construction Projects

Centers of Standardization Activities Performed during Army Military Construction Projects

The Army has limited performance measures to track the Centers' progress in achieving program objectives. Semi-annual meetings of the Army's Centers of Standardization Management Board (Board) enable the Army to track the Centers' progress toward their goal of developing and updating Center policies and processes (first objective of the Centers). However, GAO found that the Army lacks performance measures to assess the Centers' progress in ensuring the consistent application of Army standard designs (second objective of the Centers) and in monitoring how well the Centers meet the objectives and priorities of the AFSP and standardization process (third objective of the Centers). Specifically, the Board does not maintain, consolidate, or analyze information about how frequently the Centers participate in construction projects, or how this activity affects the program and supports AFSP objectives, such as reducing project costs, times, and change orders. Taking steps to develop and implement appropriate performance measures would enhance the Army's efforts to ensure that the Centers are meeting their program objectives.

Why GAO Did This Study

In 2006, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began its Centers of Standardization program to develop design standards for facility types that the Army constructs on a regular basis. The Centers support broader Army efforts under the AFSP to standardize facility types with objectives such as improving design quality, reducing design and construction costs and time, and reducing change orders.

Senate Report 115-262 accompanying the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 included a provision for GAO to evaluate the Centers' effectiveness. This report assesses, among other things, the extent to which (1) the Centers have identified activities that support their objectives, and (2) the Army tracks the Centers' progress toward their objectives. GAO reviewed and analyzed applicable regulations and program and project documentation; compared Center activities to program objectives; and interviewed cognizant agency officials to gain an understanding of the Centers' operations and potential financial liabilities.

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Recommendations

GAO is recommending that the Army establish performance measures to assess the Centers' progress to (1) ensure the consistent use of standard designs and (2) reduce construction costs and time and reduce the occurrence of change orders. The Army concurred with our recommendations.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of the Army 1. The Secretary of the Army should ensure that the Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management, in conjunction with the Centers of Standardization and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, establish and implement performance measures to assess the progress the Centers are making in ensuring that standard designs are used consistently. (Recommendation 1)
Open
DOD concurred with this April 2020 recommendation. In June 2020, DOD provided information that it had developed a corrective action plan and identified an action officer to lead implementation of this recommendation. DOD stated that it is developing a sampling plan with criteria to consider for assessing the consistent use of standard designs. DOD stated that it would identify projects that were completed during the year that used standard designs and that it would then assess the progress that the Centers are making in ensuring that standard designs are used consistently by sampling from the completed projects. DOD stated that, based on the results of this analysis, it would adjust the metrics and frequency of future analyses, as appropriate. DOD stated that it expects this effort to be completed in Spring 2021.
Department of the Army 2. The Secretary of the Army should ensure that the Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management, in conjunction with the Centers of Standardization and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, establish and implement performance measures to assess the effects of the use of standard designs, specifically the progress the Centers are making in reducing design costs and time, construction costs and time, and change orders. (Recommendation 2)
Open
DOD concurred with this April 2020 recommendation. In June 2020, DOD provided information that it had developed a corrective action plan and stated that it planned to establish relevant performance measures to analyze efforts to reduce design costs and time, construction costs and time, and the number of change orders. DOD stated that it expects to develop standards containing the metrics, frequency of analysis, and means of reporting. DOD stated that it expects to present the results of its analysis at the FY2020 Military Programs After Action Review in January 2021.

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