GAO Reports All Federal Agencies at Less Than 50 Percent Occupancy

Government Accountability Office

More than half of the federal workforce is not working in their agency offices, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) released a list this week based on the GAO data that shows federal space utilization percentages range from a low of 7% to 49% with most agencies using less than 30%. (Agency list | Sen. Ernst news release | DailyMail, Dec. 6)

Federal Employees’ Return to Office

  • The GAO statistics released by Sen. Ernst, the Ranking Member of the Senate Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee, covers 24 agencies for one week between January and March 2023. Sen. Ernst told Federal News Network this week that she is pushing the federal government to get workers back to their offices or sell their unused space.
  • In August, Ernst demanded investigations into federal departments and agencies to determine the impact of telework on the delivery and response times of government services. That same month, White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients directed cabinet officials to increase the return of federal employees to their offices. (Federal News Network, Nov. 30 | (Government Executive, Aug. 7 | Roundtable Weekly, Aug. 11)
  • Since the pandemic, Congress has held multiple hearings and introduced legislation in both the House and Senate about the government’s remote work policies. (Roundtable WeeklyDec. 1)
  • The General Services Administration’s (GSA) Robin Carnahan recently told the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability that her agency sees an opportunity to reduce the government’s real-estate footprint by up to 30% in the coming years. (Federal News Network, Nov. 14)

Roundtable Response

  • RER Chair John Fish (Chairman & CEO, Suffolk), above, expressed the industry’s concern about government employees’ reluctant return to their offices in last week’s Wall Street Journal. “Other parts of the country with large federal workforces are also struggling to bring back workers. Whether you’re talking about downtown Boston, or Denver or Northern Virginia, occupancy is down substantially,” said Fish. (WSJ, Nov. 28)

Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer has consistently emphasized that federal policies promoting remote work undermine the health of cities, local tax bases, and small businesses. The Real Estate Roundtable has urged President Biden and national policymakers to end government policies that encourage remote working arrangements for federal employees. (RER letter to President BidenDec. 2022; RER letter to Senate, April 2023)

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