Saving Taxpayer Dollars by Reducing Federal Office Space Costs
2167 Rayburn House Office Building
Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management
Hearing on “Saving Taxpayer Dollars by Reducing Federal Office Space Costs”
(Remarks as Prepared)
The purpose of today’s hearing is to review major construction projects planned or proposed by the General Services Administration and examine GSA’s use of its authorities to carry out real estate transactions for the Federal Government.
There are two significant construction programs we will examine today: the construction of a new consolidated headquarters for the FBI, and the Judiciary’s courthouse construction program. These two programs alone total more than $3 billion.
For Fiscal Year 2016, nearly $1 billion was appropriated for new courthouses. This Committee has worked closely with the Judiciary on improving its courthouse program. And, I want to thank the Judiciary and the work of Judge Smith to reduce the costs to the taxpayer in courthouse projects. Steps the Judiciary has taken, include improving the evaluation process for new courthouses, adopting courtroom sharing policies, recommending less costly alternatives to new construction when appropriate, and reducing the Judiciary’s overall space footprint.
Now we must continue to work together to ensure new courthouse projects stay on schedule and within budget. I look forward to hearing today from GSA and the Judiciary on the strategies they will put into place to ensure we stay on track with these projects.
The FBI Headquarters Consolidation is another significant construction project. The new headquarters is proposed to include 2.1 million square feet of space. The project is intended to consolidate scattered FBI headquarters functions into one location, reduce the FBI’s footprint by 30%, and reduce the costs to the taxpayer.
I have three major criteria with respect to the FBI project. First, the project needs to be a good deal for the taxpayer. Two, it needs to meet the FBI’s security and financial requirements. And three, the process has to be fair for the three jurisdictions involved.
In the Fiscal Year 2017 Budget, the Administration has requested a total of $1.4 billion, split between GSA and the FBI. This Committee has also received a GSA prospectus to authorize a portion of the funding. As we review this proposal, there are many unanswered questions.
For example, the prospectus does not include a total estimated project cost for the FBI headquarters – something that is required by law to be included in GSA prospectuses. Understanding what the total cost is to the taxpayer will be important for Congress to effectively evaluate the proposal before us. GSA previously proposed constructing a new FBI headquarters using its exchange authority. Members of this Committee expressed concerns regarding the use of this authority to construct a $2 billion headquarters without any congressional authorization. Now GSA is proposing the project be funded with a combination of direct appropriations and the exchange of the Hoover building.
While we now have a prospectus for the FBI project because of the appropriations request, GSA has planned other major projects using its exchange authority for which no authorization has been sought. The Committee has encouraged GSA to better utilize all of its authorities, particularly related to Public Private Partnerships. However, we also expect there to be proper congressional oversight, particularly of projects with billion dollar price tags. That is why we included in H.R. 4487, the Public Buildings Reform and Savings Act, a bill I introduced along with Ranking Member Carson, a number of provisions that would clarify and strengthen congressional oversight over these projects.
Finally, there are a number of other topics I hope we can discuss today. Last November, for example, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims voided the lease award for the TSA headquarters. What is the current plan to get this project back on track? And, how does GSA interpret the ruling as it relates to its authority to acquire properties?
I hope we can get answers to these and other questions today.
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