The government still lacks an accurate accounting of its real estate holdings nearly 20 years after GAO designated real property management as a high risk area, the CRS has said, adding that a central database does not include “some potentially useful data that GSA or landholding agencies have chosen to withhold.”
“Key potential weaknesses in real property management include agencies holding empty or only partially occupied buildings; relying on leases for new space even when ownership would be cheaper; and making decisions using real property data of questionable quality,” a report said.
GSA’s federal real property profile management system database lists some 127,000 federally owned or leased facilities totaling more than 1.1 billion square feet and an annual operating cost of $15 billion. However, “many data elements are inaccurate or incomplete,” the CRS said, noting that the database “has been criticized repeatedly by GAO for its inability to provide accurate, complete information.”
It said for example that just 23 percent of properties listed had complete addresses; that agencies use different definitions when reporting the level of utilization, meaning that data cannot be used for comparisons among them; and that the system lacks data such as annual operating costs and building repair needs.
Those shortcomings hamper usefulness of the database for purposes such as deciding whether under-used facilities could be closed, it said.
A report earlier this year from GSA’s inspector general also raised that issue, saying for example that agencies have cited security grounds in withholding from disclosure even some publicly accessible facilities listed on their own websites and elsewhere, including military recruiting offices and even the existence of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, a large facility in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. with numerous buildings including a public visitor’s center.
CRS noted the same issue, adding that “it is unclear many why potentially valuable, unclassified information is being withheld” from a central database.
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