Government Buildings Are 75% Empty — What a Waste

( – The federal government owns over half a billion square feet of office space. Executive branch agencies spend roughly $2 billion annually maintaining those properties regardless of occupancy status. Stunningly, a recent report published by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) indicated that several agencies only used 25% capacity of several headquarter buildings, creating extraordinary waste.

In July, the GAO issued two reports related to remote work. One dealt with the role and impact of “work from home” programs; the other detailed the resulting underutilization of federal buildings related to the longstanding challenges associated with increased telework.

The first report noted that remote work “became an important” component of the national response to the pandemic. That study found that overall productivity increased in workers who stayed home. However, it didn’t cover the impact on the costs of maintaining unused office space.

The second report covered that concern. GAO officials analyzed office space usage at the headquarters buildings of 24 federal agencies during three-week sampling periods from January 1 through March 31. That study revealed that 17 of those buildings operated at 25% capacity or less.

The following month, Axios obtained a copy of an email sent by White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients to President Joe Biden’s Cabinet heads directing them to “aggressively execute” plans to start returning federal workers to their offices. Zients stressed the need to increase in-person workers since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officially ended its pandemic-era public health emergency declaration in May. He also told the Cabinet heads that President Biden had prioritized this reorganization and expected them to “aggressively execute this [directive] in September and October.”

Some Republican lawmakers recently expressed concerns about the costs of the shift to remote work and the backlog of unfinished work it’s causing. They pushed the Biden administration to speed up the process of returning workers to their respective government offices.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) recently told the Daily Mail that Biden should hold a “clearance sale on unused office space” to help pay off the national debt. She’s also calling on the inspector generals of several agencies to downsize office space levels to reduce waste.

The current usage of office space at those 17 headquarters buildings remains unclear. However, the administration’s efforts to pump billions of taxpayer dollars into its green policies and social programs haven’t slowed down.

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