Underutilized and Obsolete Facilities Are $1.6 Billion Drain on Federal Budget
Government Should Shed Unneeded Buildings and Improve Maintenance
The federal government should embark on a coordinated, funded, and sustained effort to dispose of approximately 45,000 excess and underutilized facilities, says a new report from the National Research Council. Approximately $1.6 billion is spent annually to operate and maintain federal facilities that are no longer needed to support federal agencies' missions.
The government should also redevelop its approaches for the maintenance and repair of facilities. Despite the magnitude of annual funds allocated to operating costs -- estimated at $47 billion -- investments in maintenance and repair have been inadequate for many years, resulting in tens of billions of dollars in deferred projects. The report recommends several strategies for more effective investment in order to reduce risks, long-term operating costs, energy and water use, and other environmental impacts.
The federal government owns and leases about 429,000 buildings and an additional 482,000 structures such as bridges, utility systems, and other infrastructure. More than half are at least 50 years old. The report cautions that continued underinvestment will lead to greater deterioration in building systems and components and increased risk to the government. Possible adverse events include system failures that will disrupt agencies' operations; higher operating and life-cycle costs; wasted water, energy, and other resources; and hazards that lead to injuries and illnesses or loss of life and property.
As federal agencies manage the largest portfolio of facilities in the U.S., they have a responsibility to lead by example in operating and maintaining their buildings and structures more sustainably, the report stresses. To do this, these agencies should proactively reduce their total physical space requirements through telework and other work strategies. They should also establish risk-based processes for prioritizing annual and longer-term investments in maintenance and repair activities. By doing so, federal agencies can link their maintenance and repair activities to their missions and provide for greater transparency and credibility in budget development, decision making, and budget execution.
The study was supported by a series of contracts between the National Academy of Sciences and the sponsor agencies of the Federal Facilities Council. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies. They are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter. The Research Council is the principal operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. For more information, visit http://national-academies.org. A committee roster follows.
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