The Republican-controlled House is getting ready to deliver another punch to the General Services Administration's construction budget, following the Appropriations Committee's June 23 approval of a bill that would zero out fiscal 2012 GSA funds for new federal buildings.

The full House is likely to pass the bill after July 4. But the Senate, where Democrats hold a majority, has yet to act on a GSA spending measure. The agency and construction industry officials are hoping for better numbers from that chamber.

But if the House committee's figure becomes law, it would be the second heavy blow to GSA construction funds this year. A 2011 spending bill enacted on April 15 slashed the account for the current fiscal year by 91%, to $82 million.

The GOP wants to trim many domestic programs, but it seems to have made GSA buildings accounts prime targets. Besides wiping out GSA's 2012 new-construction aid, the House panel chopped the agency's $869-million request for repairs and renovations by 68%.

Democrats warn that the GSA cuts could cost 16,000 construction jobs, delay projects and may lead to lease terminations with expensive penalties. “We're greatly concerned,” says Marco Giamberardino, senior director of the Associated General Contractors federal and heavy construction division. “Clearly the needs are still out there. A very large number of federal buildings still need urgent attention.”

The House panel's bill would have “huge implications,” says David E. Foley, deputy commissioner of GSA's Public Buildings Service. He says it would cause delays in several ongoing jobs, including a multi-phase Dept. of Homeland Security headquarters project in Washington, D.C., two Federal Bureau of Investigation buildings and five inspection stations on U.S. borders.

Meanwhile, Foley says, “We're trying to keep as many [2011 projects] going as possible.” But with only $82 million in construction funds, GSA has few options. It is using $30 million for an operations center at the DHS site and $44 million for a Food and Drug Administration biologics evaluation and research facility in Maryland. But GSA will hold off on $480 million in other DHS and FDA projects it had wanted to proceed with this year.

Projects GSA Proposes to Fund in 2012Total: Numbers are rounded. Source: Office of Management and Budget
Project ($ millions) AmountRequested
DHS complex, Washington, D.C.: 217.7
Infrastructure, building repairs 100.0
Highway interchange 55.4
East Campus road development 20.4
West Campus infrastructure 41.9
Land ports of entry: 370.1
Alexandria Bay, N.Y. 173.6
Laredo, Texas 74.9
Columbus, N.M. 59.6
Dunseith, N.D. 35.9
Brownsville, Texas 26.1
FBI consolidation, San Juan, P.R. 145.5
FBI records center, Frederick County, Va. 97.1
Federal center remediation, Lakewood, Colo. 9.3
Total: 839.7