Click here to watch Ranking Member Capito’s opening remarks from the committee hearing.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing titled, “Oversight of the General Services Administration: Examining the Federal Real Estate Portfolio.”
Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) as delivered.
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And welcome to our witnesses. I want to thank you for calling this hearing. It’s something I am interested in.
“Even before the increased telework policies that followed COVID-19, there was a need to reduce the federal real estate portfolio.
“This expansion of remote work has led to a renewed focus on modernizing that portfolio as communities across the country watch our federal buildings continue to sit empty.
“This summer, Mr. Marroni, who is one of our witnesses, shared preliminary results from GAO’s work on the space utilization of federal buildings before a House Committee.
“As we will discuss today, GAO found that – these numbers are stunning in my opinion – 17 of the 24 federal agency headquarters they reviewed – this is in the Washington, D.C. area – used an estimated average of 25 percent or less of their respective buildings’ capacity.
“GAO found that GSA was only utilizing an estimated 11 percent of the space in their headquarters building.
“I know that GSA has taken actions to improve their space utilization, but clearly more work needs to be done.
“GAO also found that a particular federal agency, if all assigned staff entered the building on the same day would then still only be using 67 percent of the building’s capacity based on usable square feet.
“Each year, it costs billions of taxpayers’ dollars to operate and maintain these federal buildings, regardless of their utilization.
“This is simply unacceptable.
“I was encouraged to see the Biden administration call on federal agencies to increase the amount of in-person work following the release of this result.
“Anecdotally, however, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is being jammed by its employees’ labor union into consideration of policies that would actually further reduce time spent in the office. Literally two days every two weeks. A day constitutes 4 hours.
“My concerns with the federal real estate portfolio remain and grow as more time passes and resources continue to be wasted to heat, cool, and maintain under-utilized buildings.
“The Committee has done a lot of legislative work to support policies that will reduce emissions.
“I would be interested to know the emissions associated with heating and cooling these buildings that are unoccupied.
“It is clear that federal agencies have too much space, and significant changes must be made to our federal real estate portfolio to prevent unnecessary costs.
“Approximately half of all active leases in the Public Building Service’s leased inventory are expiring in the next five years.
“This provides us a unique opportunity to course correct and right size the portfolio.
“GSA will play a very important part in this modernization effort.
“And other agencies will play an equally important role.
“In order for GSA to make appropriate investments in existing buildings and evaluate lease options, federal agencies must identify their current and future space needs.
“Providing these agencies with better benchmarks regarding space and an understanding of what ‘full utilization’ is would help with these efforts.
“The process for disposing or consolidating federal buildings can be lengthy.
“Congress passed legislation to try address this issue.
“Unfortunately, this legislation has yet to produce the intended results.
“The Committee is willing and eager to work collaboratively with GSA and other federal agencies to ensure that they have the modern workspaces they need to carry out their missions, while generating significant savings for our taxpayers.
“However, this needs to be a partnership, and greater communication between all parties is critical to achieving success in this matter.
“I appreciate the monthly calls that are occurring between GSA staff and staff on the committees of jurisdiction.
“I feel this is a step in the right direction.
“However, I do believe that GSA needs to be more forthright and responsive to this Committee.
“I understand there has been, at times, a lack of transparency from GSA on routine oversight questions.
“Last Congress, the Inflation Reduction Act, which I did not support, provided GSA with $3.4 billion dollars.
“As GSA requests more funding, it is important to understand how the agency is using these existing resources.
“I was disappointed to hear that GSA did not provide my staff with an update on their efforts to develop low embodied carbon material standards when it was requested.
“Despite the known interest from this Committee, GSA released interim requirements several weeks later with very little advanced notice to my staff, even though we had expressed interest in this.
“GSA’s lack of transparency and responsiveness underscores the ongoing need for improved communication.
“I understand that GSA has put forward legislative changes to the agency’s authorities that may help to modernize the federal real estate portfolio as part of their Fiscal Year 2024 budget request.
“If GSA would like this Committee to give full consideration to their legislative proposals, including one that provides them with more authority, they need to be more responsive to the Committee.
“I look forward to a productive discussion on how we can work together to modernize the federal real estate portfolio.
“And thank you both for being here.”
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