Oral Statement of Robin C. Carnahan, Administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration before the Committee on Oversight and Accountability U.S. House of Representatives November 14, 2023
Good morning Chairman Comer, Ranking Member Raskin, and Members of the Committee. My name is Robin Carnahan, and I am the Administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration.
Making government work better for the people we serve, and saving money while doing it, is GSA’s North Star. That’s why we’re focused on three priorities:
First, optimizing and modernizing the Federal Government’s real estate footprint;
Second, making it easier, faster, and cheaper for agencies to buy goods and services; and
Third, delivering simple, secure, and accessible digital services for the public.
My written testimony goes into greater detail about how we’re working to achieve these goals. So today, I’ll highlight some of the opportunities and challenges we’re seeing at this unique moment to deliver better value to the people we serve and save money for taxpayers. I know this committee shares those goals, and I’d like to focus on ways we can partner together to get this done.
First, GSA is laser-focused on right-sizing the federal real estate footprint. Right now, agencies across the government are rethinking how much space they need. And while GSA does not make space decisions for them, we do work closely together to leverage our team’s expertise and help agencies plan, and whenever possible, downsize.
GSA has a track record of success doing this…since 2013, we’ve helped to reduce the federal footprint by disposing of 12 million square feet of owned space, and giving up 18 million square feet of leased space. We’re building on that record by continuing to consolidate and dispose of unneeded property and leases – in fact, we see an opportunity to reduce the government’s footprint up to 30%, and save $60 billion over the next decade.
Just last week, GSA announced 23 properties to begin the disposition process. This represents a potential reduction of 3.5 million square feet and more than $1 billion in cost avoidance over 10 years. And that’s just a start. But we need your help to do even more.
So, what needs to happen?
GSA needs Congressional support for our full FY ‘24 budget request, and for key legislative reforms to speed up progress.
Consolidating agencies and disposing of buildings can only happen if we have modern and functional space for agencies to relocate into. The good news is that years ago Congress came up with a solution to do just that when it established the Federal Buildings Fund in order to use agency rent payments to fund building maintenance. The bad news is that for the last 12 years, on average roughly $1 billion annually in agency rent payments has been diverted away from building needs to fund other agencies. As GAO noted in their September report, the largest impediment to improving federal building utilization is lack of funding. Bottomline… we’ve missed opportunities to shrink our real estate portfolio because we haven’t had upfront money to reconfigure and modernize facilities we plan to keep…even though we know those investments will pay back many times over through lower real estate costs.
This is an important moment for the American people to reap billions of dollars in future savings, but it can only happen if we work together. That’s why we are also asking for Congress to support a scoring fix to the Federal Buildings Fund – to ensure that the rent we collect can be reinvested into our public buildings to save taxpayers money.
GSA also works to make it easier, faster and cheaper for our agency partners to buy the goods and services they need. While purchasing decisions are ultimately up to agencies themselves, those that buy through GSA get the benefit of knowing they’re getting good value and satisfying procurement rules. Last year alone GSA helped agencies save $6 billion by leveraging the government’s buying power to get lower prices.
Our FY24 budget request also includes several proposals to improve the acquisition process and I want to work with you all on these common sense proposals as well.
Additionally, GSA is helping agencies deliver a better digital experience for the public.
The fact is, there are common challenges that all agencies face when it comes to technology. So building shared technology services is the smart way to address those challenges. That’s why GSA offers services like FedRAMP, Login.gov, and the U.S. Web Design System, and we’re continuously expanding and improving our products to meet agency needs. And that includes things like offering a NIST IAL2 compliant identity verification option for agencies through Login.gov beginning next year, and launching a new text messaging notification system that should save thousands of hours and millions of dollars for agencies and the public.
I also appreciate the Committee’s support for extending the Technology Modernization Fund’s authorization. It’s one of the smartest tech investments we can make in government, and I want to work with you to get that done.
Finally, as you may know, last week GSA concluded its Congressionally-directed site selection process for the FBI’s new headquarters campus. GSA determined the site in Greenbelt, Maryland to be the best site for the FBI and the government because the site was the lowest cost to taxpayers; provided the greatest transportation access to employees and visitors; gave the government the most certainty on project delivery schedule; and also provided the highest potential to advance sustainability and equity. I encourage everyone to review the materials we have posted online, which includes our decision-making official’s full 40-page analysis that led to her final decision – we have always said we are committed to transparency, and we mean it. I am proud of the process we ran, and stand behind the decision and all of the public servants who carefully followed that process and selected the site most advantageous to the government. I know this is a topic of great interest to members of this Committee, and I look forward to discussing this further with you.
Thank you again for the opportunity to testify before you today and for your willingness to partner with GSA to make our government work better for the people we serve, and save money doing it. I look forward to answering your questions.