On January 30, 2003, the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) designated federal real property as a government-wide high-risk area1 because current trends “have multibillion dollar cost implications and can seriously jeopardize mission accomplishment” and because “federal agencies face many challenges securing real property due to the threat of terrorism.” It declared that “current structures and processes may not be adequate to address the problems,” so that “a comprehensive, integrated transformation strategy” may be required.


As the committee reviewed the types of analyses, the processes, and the decision-making environments that private sector and other organizations use for facilities investments and management, it focused on identifying principles and policies used by best-practice organizations, as defined by the committee. The committee found that, in matters of facilities investment and management, best-practice organizations do the following:

Principle/Policy 1. Establish a framework of procedures, required information, and valuation criteria that aligns the goals, objectives, and values of their individual decision making and operating groups to achieve the organization’s overall mission; create an effective decision-making environment; and provide a basis for measuring and improving the outcomes of facilities investments. The components of the framework are understood and used by all leadership and management levels.

Principle/Policy 2. Implement a systematic facilities asset management approach that allows for a broad-based understanding of the condition and functionality of their facilities portfolios—as distinct from their individual projects—in relation to their organizational missions. Best-practice organizations ensure that their facilities and infrastructure managers possess both the technical expertise and the financial analysis skills to implement a portfolio-based approach.

Principle/Policy 3. Integrate facilities investment decisions into their organizational strategic planning processes. Best-practice organizations evaluate facilities investment proposals as mission enablers rather than solely as costs.


GAO’s high-risk update is provided at the start of each new Congress. The reports are intended to help the new Congress “focus its attention on the most important issues and challenges facing the federal government.” (GAO, 2003f)

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