Upgrading federal facilities would create thousands of jobs, economist says

As House and Senate negotiators hammer out the final economic stimulus package this week, one of the issues they will debate is how much to spend upgrading federal facilities nationwide to make them more energy efficient.

Bills in both chambers would allocate several billion dollars for facilities improvements, although the Senate version stripped $3.5 billion from such programs. The House bill provides $6 billion to the General Services Administration alone to make federal facilities more energy efficient, and millions more to the Defense Department and other agencies for similar improvements.

Republicans have criticized spending on federal facilities as wasteful, but in a prime time press conference on Monday, President Obama asked, "Why would that be a waste of money? We're creating jobs immediately by retrofitting these buildings or weatherizing 2 million Americans' homes, as was called for in the package, so that right there creates economic stimulus."

"And we are saving taxpayers, when it comes to federal buildings, potentially $2 billion," Obama said. "And we're reducing our dependence on foreign oil in the Middle East. Why wouldn't we want to make that kind of investment?"

Professor Stephen Fuller, an economist and the Dwight Schar faculty chairman at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., said the upgrades to federal facilities proposed in the stimulus plan would have broad impact because such buildings are located across the country.

"This is something that probably would have been done anyway, but they're going to do it much faster if this money is available and that benefits the economy, irrespective of the energy savings," he said.

Fuller's research, based on data collected by the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis, suggests that for every $1 billion spent on making federal facilities more efficient, 28,100 jobs will be created.

"This is construction work. It just happens to be green construction," Fuller said. About half of the jobs created would be in the construction sector itself, while the other half would be in other sectors, such as retail, he said.

Of the jobs created in the construction sector, about one-third of those would be on-site workers; the other two-thirds would be in trades that support the on-site activity, such as the people who truck materials to the area or the employees who manufacture materials.

"You've got to order stuff, then you hire people to install it, then they spend their payroll at some point and it shows up in the economy. It doesn't happen all in one day," he said.

Because the construction sector has lost about 900,000 jobs since peaking in 2007, the most visible impact of the stimulus with regard to federal facilities likely would be the rehiring of unemployed construction workers.

Another benefit of spending money to upgrade federal facilities is it can be done reasonably fast, Fuller said: "GSA knows how to manage these projects and we'd be able to get this stuff going."

It's critical that the money be spent quickly to begin to stabilize the economy, Fuller said. "But the agencies shouldn't be allowed to be sloppy either. They know how to do this. We ought to be careful because these are limited funds."

Fuller likens the economy to a patient who is bleeding seriously. While the stimulus is necessary to stem job losses, it won't get the economy healthy and running again. "We're buying time so we can work on other parts of the economy where the real problem lies -- the credit crisis and the liquidity of the banks," he said.

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

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

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


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