Better Reporting Needed to Improve DOD Facility Utilization Data, GAO Says

Despite some improvements in its real property records, DOD data on utilization of its buildings continues to be incomplete and inaccurate, limiting the department’s ability to identify opportunities to consolidate facilities, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded in a new report.   

Reported utilization rates were available for only 53 percent of DOD’s real property assets as of fiscal 2013. That figure, however, was an improvement from FY 2010, when officials had utilization rates for only 46 percent of the department’s assets.

The congressional watchdog agency found a number of inconsistencies in the facility utilization data. Analysts identified 7,596 buildings with zero utilization rates according to DOD’s real property assets database with a status reported as active. The department manages a global portfolio of more than 557,000 facilities with an estimated value of $828 billion.

From visits to 11 installations, GAO found that the military services do not maintain accurate real property records. For example, Army officials showed the agency more than 45,000 errors within the real property database for one of the installations it planned to visit. Also, installation officials from across the department told the agency they do not systemically update their facility utilization data, primarily due to a lack of manpower or other resources.

Officials at the 11 locations GAO visited told the agency they use the utilization databases to identify space requirements and potential consolidation opportunities, but acknowledged that incomplete and inaccurate data limits their usefulness. Instead, the installations typically rely on physical verification following requests for space, changes to force structure, or new or changing mission requirements.  

The report recommends DOD establish a strategic plan to manage its property efficiently and help identify unutilized and underutilized facilities. The department’s long-term goals could focus on correcting inaccurate and incomplete facility utilization data to improve reporting on the status of facilities, identify consolidation opportunities and trim operations and maintenance costs.

DOD concurred with the agency’s recommendation and said a strategy review is under way, with initial guidance and initiatives to be identified by the end of the calendar year.

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