Federal Manager's Daily Report

GAO: Agencies took different approaches to withholding information from the public database.

GSA and individual agencies were overly secretive in releasing a database of government-owned properties to the public, leaving out some facilities that are well-known and in plain sight, GAO has said.

The publicly available version of a GSA database of federal assets, the Federal Real Property Profile, was released in late 2017 to help members of the public such as researchers and real estate developers. However, both the individual agencies and the GSA itself excluded certain facilities on grounds of security.

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GAO sampled six—DHS, Energy, Interior, FCC, NASA and GSA itself—and in the most striking example found that GSA on its own initiative withheld from the database the existence of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, a large facility in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. with more than 200 buildings including a public visitor’s center. Many of its buildings were included but were not identified with that center, it added, and their addresses were given—but without numbers and only as being on a road more than six miles long.

Left out because of agencies’ own decisions, GAO said, were all FCC facilities, the Coast Guard’s public recruiting offices and lighthouses, and some publicly accessible ICE facilities—all of which are listed on those agencies’ own websites.

Agencies “took different approaches to withholding information from the public database,” GAO said, and in some cases did not have specific policies for making those decisions. Some agencies considered what information is already publicly available while others didn’t, and some treated similar assets differently, it said.

GAO also found that two-thirds of street addresses were incomplete or incorrectly formatted. Between the errors and the “unnecessarily” withheld information, the database is not meeting its intent, it said.

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