The VA doesn’t have measurable goals for how conditions should improve over time at its facilities, making it “unclear whether its facility management efforts are meeting the VA’s needs,” the GAO has said.
The state of VA’s facilities—more than 5,600 owned buildings and another 1,700 leased facilities—has long been a concern, with an estimated maintenance backlog of more than $22 billion. Many of the buildings are old and/or have to be adapted to meet the current care needs of veterans.
GAO said that VA officials continue to point to long-standing staffing challenges it that have led to delayed projects and “difficulties in planning and executing projects and limits on the number of projects that facilities can undertake.” The VA has taken steps including developing new staffing models and establishing special salary rates for engineers but “it is too early to determine the extent to which these efforts will improve staffing,” it said.
The VA also has taken some actions to address the need to better communicate across agency boundaries, but the GAO said that problems remain with communication early in project development between local offices and headquarters, and with communication between construction offices and the central IT office to ensure information technology needs are met when bringing facilities online.
It said the department also lacks goals needed to assess the performance of its asset management systems and carry out needed improvements. “Although VA officials acknowledged the importance of such measures, they noted that they had found developing performance measures to be challenging, for reasons such as difficulty in attributing results to agency actions,” it said.
It said the VA agreed with its recommendations in those areas.