The Government Accountability Office (GAO) includes federal real property on their high risk report. Read more about the issues found and recommendations here.
The Federal Real Property Association (FRPA) kicked off our 2014 program with an all-star panel of GSA real property leaders.
Headed by Dr. Dorothy Robyn, Commissioner, Public Buildings Service, the 90 minute panel discussion was loaded with insights into GSA’s agenda, priorities, and challenges. I’ll plan to share highlights in the coming days.
Dr. Robyn shared two factors impeding GSA’s ability to better manage federal real property. The first issue, not surprisingly, is about money. Over the last three years, Congress diverted about $5 billion from the Federal Building Fund—GSA’s rent repository and primary fund source. The second issue is really more of what Dr. Robyn sees as a missed opportunity to get serious about disposition and
consolidation through a Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process-like process.
On funding, her plea was for Congress to stop raiding rent money to cover other programs and expenses. Losing about $1.5
billion per year over the last three years has hurt GSA’s ability to keep up with the repairs, moves, purchases, upgrades, and consolidations needed (and expected) by their federal agency customers. Part of the problem is that rent
for federal agencies is set specifically to cover operating and maintenance costs—not earn a profit. So, there
is no slack built in. Diverting funds from this core account means revamping, rescoping, and cancelling investments in these facilities that have been planned and anticipated for many years. This is not only disappointing for their federal customers but introduces additional risk to their mission, inefficiencies such as wasted energy, and added costs to run facilities in “break-down mode” (only
fixing things as they break, as opposed to, on a planned replacement cycle.)
Her second message was really more of a forward-looking request for the legislative support to initiate a BRAC process. This long discussed, seemingly politically tricky (or impossible) initiative, in Dr. Robyn’s assessment, would got a long way to address some inefficiencies and avoid future costs.
While she was speaking about GSA, these points really apply to all federal real property owners. An increased focus backed by
broader authorities for making sound management decisions is desperate needed.
Mention your professional association at happy hour and watch people squirm. Within our work circles, nothing brings on the wistful "if only I had more time" excuse faster. Actually, it's not an excuse, it's real. Attending events is one thing-- and that's great-- but getting involved in driving and shaping the agenda and priorities is another entirely.
Involvement beyond membership in your professional association (typically conferences) can be hugely rewarding but a time sink
if you're not on your best defensive game when chatting up the volunteer board. In addition to being exceptionally talented, nice, good
looking (and humble), they're constantly in recruiting mode trying to find extra hands to help.
I wanted to share some thoughts on how to get involved but manage your time in a way that benefits both you professionally, as well as, the organization. When members are actively engaged, programming is better, conversations are richer, and networking opportunities are expanded. With that goal in mind, here are a couple of things you can do to help in an hour or less.
So do-able, right? Don't be afraid to volunteer for these or any other great things you think of. Your contribution matters.
By Robin Camarote