GSA has told a House hearing that much of the federally owned property under its control is “suffering from the consequences of significant deferred maintenance, driven by inadequate investment” that puts federal employees and visitors to those buildings at risk.
“For example, many federally owned GSA facilities have had persistent water penetration from leaking roofs and windows, which if GSA could have repaired when the problems were manageable, would have avoided what have now become major liabilities. Other facilities, including many U.S. courthouses, have outdated fire, life-safety and elevator systems, which prevents or impedes the safe and reliable movement of judges, jurors, families, and visitors,” Public Buildings Service commissioner Nina Albert said.
She cited both lack of available funding and a balky process as contributors. The Capital Investment Program, which supports repairs and renovations, acquisitions, and new construction projects “has been consistently underfunded, with most of those reductions occurring in the repair and alterations programs” and the 10-year reinvestment needs doubling to $9.4 billion over the last decade.
She said that eight projects in the fiscal 2023 budget proposal had been requested previously, some going as far back as 2015. In that time, the combined costs have increased by $122 million “and are likely to further compound if they are unfunded this year and further delayed,” she said.
Even when funding is approved, the prospectus process “adds significant time to routine repair projects and increases risk in several ways,” she added, noting that a GAO report this year found an average 23-month approval process even for routine work such as roof repairs and window replacements.
She recommended changes to make Federal Buildings Fund money more readily available to use and streamlining the prospectus process including by raising the dollar thresholds where certain requirements kick in.
She added that since 2017, 59 facilities in the GSA portfolio have been damaged by floods, hurricanes, and other weather events and that the agency expects that rate to increase. “While Congress has generally provided emergency appropriations to repair many of these facilities, preventing damage in the first place is almost always the more cost-effective alternative. There are proactive measures that can be taken now to reduce facilities’ vulnerability to these events, thereby reducing the risk of damage,” she said.