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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

GSA Guidance Needed to Help Agencies Identify Unneeded Property in Warehouses

Three federal agencies—the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, and the Bureau of Prisons—spent over $50 million in FY 2018 on warehouses, many of which contain property (like vehicles, furniture, and computers). However, these agencies do not systematically assess whether they still need all of their property.

Federal agencies are required to use General Services Administration guidance to assess the ongoing need for property. However, the Government Accountability Office found that GSA’s guidance doesn’t describe useful practices for such assessments.

The GAO studied:

  • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) warehouses at four main sites contained items used to build and repair aviation support systems, such as wind shear alert systems. Other sites contained tools and equipment to maintain aviation support systems or housed the systems themselves.
  • The Department of Energy’s Office of Science warehouses, located primarily at national laboratories, contained items, such as large magnets, for use in scientific experiments.
  • Bureau of Prisons (BOP) warehouses, located mainly at federal correctional institutions, contained items, such as food, uniforms, and soap, for inmates.

The above agencies reported spending approximately $50.1 million in fiscal year 2018 on warehouse rent, operations, and maintenance costs.

The three selected agencies generally did not systematically assess the ongoing need for property in their warehouses and had limited guidance for doing so. For example, although two of the agencies had policies about when such an assessment should occur, none of the agencies specified how it should occur for most types of property. Instead, agencies primarily relied on agency officials’ professional judgment to assess ongoing need. GAO identified instances where agencies retained unneeded property absent relevant guidance. For example, one agency site had stored obsolete computers dating back to the 1990s. While the General Services Administration (GSA) drafted guidance in response to recent legislation, this guidance does not describe approaches or practices stakeholders identified as potentially useful for assessing ongoing need for property, such as periodic retention justifications, use of data analytics, and utilization reviews. Further, while GSA officials intend to put the final guidance on GSA’s website and provide it to agencies that participate in a GSA-chaired committee on property management by December 2019, GSA has not provided a documented plan or a timeline for broader dissemination. Guidance that incorporates such approaches could help agencies avoid retaining property that is no longer needed and, as a result, allow them to better manage their property and use of their warehouse space.

GAO recommends that GSA incorporate approaches agencies could use to assess the ongoing need for property in GSA’s guidance—such as periodic justifications, use of data, and utilization reviews—and develop a plan for communicating the guidance government-wide. GSA concurred with GAO’s recommendation.

Read the GAO report

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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