Federal Manager's Daily Report

Actual cost per square foot was higher for 18 out of 23 civilian agencies subject to the Chief Financial Officers Act.

Most federal agencies are under-reporting the cost of the space they occupy under the 2015 OMB “reduce the footprint” initiative, GAO has said.

“Specifically, GAO found that from fiscal years 2015 through 2018 the actual average cost per square foot for this space was, on average, $1.31 per square foot higher than the costs GSA and OMB reported for the 23 civilian agencies subject to the Chief Financial Officers Act,” a report said.

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The actual cost per square foot was higher for 18 out of 23 of these agencies, ranging from 41 percent understated by NASA to 21 percent overstated by Agriculture, for an average understatement among those departments and agencies of 4.7 percent.

“Because GSA and OMB did not use readily available actual cost data, their method, which is based on 1 month’s data, excluded an average of $271 million per year in costs over this period. Consequently, stakeholders and agencies do not have accurate information to assess agencies’ performance or help manage their space decisions,” the report said.

GAO noted, though, that cost is not the only driver of office space decisions. “For example, GSA prioritized filling unoccupied federally-managed space even if it was more costly to an agency than another option. The selected agencies also reported that factors such as mission, workforce needs, and external factors are important to consider and balance as well,” such as the effects on employees’ commutes.