June 22, 2022

Chair Titus’ Statement from Hearing on the Risks to GSA Facilities

Washington, D.C. — The following are opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, from Chair of the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Dina Titus (D-NV) during today’s hearing titled, “Capital Investment Program: Identifying Risk to GSA Facilities.” 

Video of opening remarks from Chair Titus can be found here

More information on the hearing can be found here.

Chair Titus:
I’d like to welcome everyone to today’s hearing and thank our witness, Ms. Nina Albert, for joining us to discuss risks to the General Services Administration’s real estate portfolio.  

The past 27 months have been overwhelming for families, businesses, schools, and workers. While adapting to remote work was challenging for many, its adaptation has been widely considered a success, and is prompting workers and employers to reimagine how and where work gets done moving forward.  

How much office space will federal agencies need? This question is particularly relevant to this subcommittee because we authorize the acquisition of space for the General Services Administration also known as the GSA.

The GSA provides workspaces for 1.2 million federal employees, in every state and territory, across more than 50 federal agencies. GSA’s Public Building Service owns over 1,500 federal buildings and leases approximately 8,100 office buildings, courthouses, land ports of entry, data processing centers, laboratories, and specialized space around the country.  

With sixty percent of Public Building Service leases expiring in the next few years and agencies contemplating new ways of working, the government needs to rethink its real estate portfolio.

Currently, when agencies seek workspace, GSA considers the amount of space needed; the type of space; the location; the neighborhood amenities; disaster risks such as seismic safety and fire protection; and most of all, the price. 

That last part is important because we need to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. That’s why I introduced the House companion to the BRIGHT Act (H.R. 7636) which would direct the GSA to install cost-effective and energy-efficient lighting in public buildings, a simple change that is estimated to save millions in taxpayer dollars and make federal buildings more sustainable.

As a result of the pandemic, GSA will also have to reconsider resilience, sanitation, air flow, spatial planning, and telework policies. This pivot will require GSA to consider how the built environment can help the government provide better services, attract and retain employees, and protect workers’ health.

The built environment also needs to account for the challenges and disasters we face today as a result of climate change. Approximately 53% of PBS’ portfolio is over 50 years old, and many of these buildings were constructed without considering the extreme weather risks which are present today. I am interested to learn more about how the GSA is managing climate risks and how this factors into the repair backlog. 

GSA also has other challenges which need to be addressed. Persistent underfunding of the Federal Buildings Fund, outdated and damaged facilities, underutilized buildings, frustrated tenants, expensive short-term lease renewals, insufficient funding for new construction, damage to buildings from extreme weather events, and a slow prospectus approval process make it extremely challenging for GSA to modernize and right-size the portfolio.

I am aware of GSA’s frustrations with Congress preventing full access to the revenues collected into the Federal Buildings Fund, but let me point out that since I became Chair of this subcommittee we have eliminated the multi-year backlog of prospectuses and have already passed the FY23 Climate and Resilience, Consolidation, Energy and Water Conservation, Fire Protection and Life Safety, Seismic Mitigation, Conveying systems, Fire Alarm Systems, and Judiciary Capital Security Program prospectuses. Having passed these prospectuses before the passage of the FY23 appropriations bills means that the authorizers have returned to regular order.

Commissioner Albert, I thank you for being with us and for participating in today’s discussion. I am grateful for your testimony, and I look forward to learning more about the risks facing GSA’s real estate portfolio.