Upgrading federal facilities would create thousands of jobs, economist says

NOAA's energy-efficient satellite operations center. NOAA's energy-efficient satellite operations center. K. Peters/Govexec.com

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.
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:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

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