Yellowstone national park sign

Federal Facilities Continue to Struggle with Maintenance

  October 4, 2019

By Dan Hounsell

Few institutional or commercial facilities can escape the burden of deferred maintenance. Public school districts and higher education facilities face some of the toughest challenges, given their reliance on taxpayer funding to improve the conditions of buildings. The deferred maintenance struggles of the national parks have been in the news lately, along with a glimmer of hope that the public might be ready to provide additional support for upgrades and repairs.

Unfortunately, deferred maintenance on the national level is hardly limited to national parks.

The Smithsonian Institution has almost $1 billion in outstanding maintenance needs across the more than 600 facilities it oversees, an issue that concerned lawmakers at a recent House Administration Committee hearing and one that the recently appointed head of the museum complex pledged to address, according to Roll Call. The Smithsonian Institution is making some progress on that backlog. Currently, the National Air and Space Museum is undergoing a $650 million renovation, of which more than $250 million is going to deferred maintenance.

Also, the National Institutes of Health needs a “substantial infusion of funding” to address the “deteriorating condition” of many of its facilities, according to a congressionally mandated report, according to Roll Call. Although the NIH received more than $600 million for facilities in 2002 and 2009, and in 2016 it received nearly $300 million, in most years since 2004 it has gotten around $100 million, according to the academies.

“This level of spending has not been sufficient to address the overall campus needs,” the report said. The academies found that 72 percent of NIH facilities are more than 20 years old. The maintenance and repair backlog includes upgrading power and water systems, roof repairs, roads, parking and security infrastructure. 

Dan Hounsell is editor-in-chief of Facility Maintenance Decisions.



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