Surplus DOD Real Estate and Infrastructure

thumbnail_defenseThe Department of Defense (DOD) owns more than 562,000 military support facilities including barracks, commissaries, labs, and office buildings. These facilities are located on more than 5,000 sites covering more than 28 million acres worldwide.

As DOD has recently requested additional  rounds of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), we explore why DOD’s management of its real estate has been on our High Risk list for 19 years.

Strategies for Improving Infrastructure Management

In our 2011 High Risk report, we narrowed DOD support infrastructure management to 2 major areas for improvement—reducing excess and consolidating facilities on joint bases.

star1BRAC is DOD’s primary way to reduce excess infrastructure. However, the most recent round that started in 2005 and was completed in 2010 reduced only a small portion of DOD excess, and cost more than initially estimated. Further, more than half of the excess facilities in fiscal year 2010 were long-standing excess—some sites have not been needed since the 1960s.

DOD has made progress in this area, closing 57 major bases in the previous BRAC rounds (1995 and 2005) and reporting in fiscal year 2013 an additional net reduction of 7.7 million square feet through other efforts, but inaccurate data and other problems may hamper future efforts.

star2The second strategy for achieving efficiencies in DOD real estate involves consolidating support services—everything from environmental preservation to snow removal—for joint bases, separate bases run by different branches of the military that were combined because they are near to each other.

In 2012, we found that joint bases reported meeting common standards for consolidated functions more than 70 percent of the time in fiscal years 2010 and 2011. And in 2014, we found that the joint bases reported partially consolidating 80 percent of their functions.

However, as shown in our star rating, DOD has made less progress in this area than in reducing excess infrastructure. We’ve outlined multiple steps the department can take to improve, for example, by providing clear directions to its bases that include goals and time frames.

Excess Property=Excess Spending

As we continue to find in our reviews, DOD must better manage its real estate and get rid of facilities it no longer needs. If it does, the money it spends to maintain those unneeded facilities could be used on other priorities or eliminated from DOD’s budget.

Interested in more? Check out our full High Risk page, with videos and other materials.

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Know before You Go: Weighing the Costs of College

cash1Ah, springtime—when high school seniors’ thoughts turn to checking their real and virtual mailboxes for news from colleges and universities. But the college selection journey doesn’t end with an offer of admission. Prospective students and their families must also consider the costs of higher education. Today’s WatchBlog explores the issues, and offers some ways to avoid college cost pitfalls.

Students and Families Shoulder More Tuition Costs

Students and their families, states, and the federal government all play important roles in financing higher education. We recently found that state funding for higher education has decreased, so public colleges increasingly rely on tuition from students and their parents for funding, as shown below.


(Excerpted from GAO-15-151)

Moreover, published tuition and fees for public colleges increased by more than 50% in the past decade, and families are spending a larger portion of their budgets to pay for college. Our podcast talks about what the federal government is doing to help temper the growth of tuition costs:

Thinking beyond Tuition

Although they’re a big one, tuition and fees are not the only factor affecting college affordability. For students heading off to college, and their families, we’ve identified some other financial issues to consider as you calculate the potential costs of that college diploma:

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Podcast on IRS Controls over Financial and Taxpayer Data

GAO Podcast IconThe Internal Revenue Service relies extensively on computer systems and information security controls to protect taxpayers’ sensitive personal and financial data.

Hear our podcast with by Greg Wilshusen, a director in GAO’s Information Technology team, who led a recent review of IRS information security policies, plans, and procedures.

Posted in Information Security, Information Technology, Podcast

Our Annual “Quick Look” at DOD’s Weapon Programs

thumbnail_defenseLast week, we issued our annual review of the Department of Defense’s (DOD) major weapon programs. This review assessed 78 programs that will cost a combined $1.4 trillion to acquire. Read on for highlights of our latest DOD “Quick Look” report.

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Podcast on Oversight of DHS Acquisitions

GAO Podcast Icon

In fiscal year 2014, the Department of Homeland Security planned to spend about $10 billion to acquire tools to protect against terrorism, disease, natural hazards, and border violations.

Hear our podcast with Michele Mackin, a director in GAO’s Acquisition and Sourcing Management team, who led a recent review of DHS’s oversight of its major acquisition programs.

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U.S. Railroads: On the Right Track?

train1With over 780 passenger and freight railroads, more than 230,000 employees, and 200,000 miles of track, the U.S. railroad system plays a critical role in our nation’s infrastructure.

Today’s WatchBlog explores how safe our rails are, and what the future holds for the U.S. railroad system.

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Hazardous Driving: Unsecured Loads on Our Roadways

thumbnail_transportationHave you ever nervously driven behind a car with a mattress loosely tied to its roof, or a pickup truck with the bed filled to overflowing? These unsecured loads can pose a serious hazard to other motorists, potentially leading to injuries, property damage, and fatalities. For example, in April 2012, a pedestrian in Florida was seriously injured after being hit by a mattress and metal frame that fell off a vehicle.

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Big Data 101: Using Large-Scale Data Mining to Find Fraud

thumbnail_itYou may have heard the term “big data” or “data mining,” but what do those terms mean? Today’s WatchBlog sheds light on how GAO analyzes large amounts of data to identify instances of potential improper payments or fraud.

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Podcast on TSA’s Prohibited Items List

GAO Podcast IconThe Transportation Security Administration keeps a list of items that airline passengers aren’t allowed to carry onto planes. Two years ago, TSA raised concerns among stakeholders when it suggested removing small knives from its Prohibited Items List.

Listen to our podcast with Jenny Grover, a director in GAO’s Homeland Security and Justice team, who led a recent review of TSA’s procedures for modifying its Prohibited Items List.

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Podcast on Federal Efforts to Reduce Antipsychotic Drug Use

GAO Podcast IconAntipsychotic drugs are sometimes used to treat the behavioral symptoms of dementia in older adults. The Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning against giving these drugs for this condition, citing an increased risk of death.

Listen to our podcast with Katherine Iritani, a director in GAO’s Health Care team, who led a recent review of federal efforts to reduce the use of these drugs among older adults.

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