Incomplete data on federal property hurts budget decisions, report says

The General Services Administration is doing a poor job of tracking federal property and is making it hard for Congress to make well-informed budget decisions about the government's real estate holdings, according to a new report by the General Accounting Office.

GSA maintains a governmentwide database of hundreds of thousands of federal real property assets located around the world, including embassies, office buildings, laboratories, courthouses and post offices. But the information contained in the database is "unreliable and limited in usefulness" GAO said in its report, "Federal Real Property: Better Governmentwide Data Needed for Strategic Decisionmaking" (GAO-02-342).

Every year, GSA polls 31 federal agencies that own property to get updated information about the agencies' holdings, including the address, square footage and property type. GAO found that information on only five of the 31 agencies was consistently updated during fiscal years 1997 to 2000. At least nine of the 31 agencies had not updated this information since before fiscal 1997.

"GSA's annual reports on the worldwide inventory were of minimal value when issued and do not reflect the diverse and constantly changing nature of the huge federal real property inventory," the report said.

According to GAO, Congress and officials at the Office of Management and Budget don't have the information they need to make informed budgeting and property management decisions. To make better decisions, budgeters need to know what property is owned, where the property is located, how much the property is worth, what the overall costs of maintaining the property are, and what is being done to protect and preserve it.

Part of the problem rests with the agencies. A 1983 executive order required agencies to maintain inventories of their property, but, for various reasons, many agencies have done it poorly, according to GAO. For example, an August in-house GAO report found that the Defense Department, which holds the most federal property, reported inaccurate and incomplete data to GSA.

GSA has suspended reporting requirements for 2001 while agency officials pursue remedies. For starters, the agency is setting up a real-time database so that needed information can be accessed at any time.

GSA should also set up performance goals and give stakeholders and decision-makers an action plan detailing time frames, estimated costs and needed resources for getting better real property data, the report said.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.