The General Services Administration, shaken by revelations about a costly 2010 conference held by its Public Buildings Service and subsequent changes in top management, will be on the hot seat next week on Capitol Hill as congressional committee hearings gear up for hearings on the Nevada meeting.
For design and construction firms, a key question is whether the controversy, and departure of Administrator Martha Johnson and PBS Commissioner Robert Peck, will affect the agency's construction budget—or what's left of it.
The new hearings may not answer that question, but well before the latest news broke, GSA's construction account has been a target of congressional budget cutters, particularly in the House. The program received $894 million in 2010, but was slashed to $82 million in 2011 and trimmed this year to just $50 million.
The Obama administration has asked Congress for only $56 million in 2013 and that may be the most that the House and Senate will approve.
Final numbers won't emerge until late this year, when 2013 appropriations are wrapped up, maybe in a post-election session.
But the disclosure of what a GSA Inspector General's report termed "excessive and wasteful" spending on a conference sponsored by the public-buildings unit won't help the agency in the coming budget battles.
The House GOP-drafted 2013 budget resolution, which the chamber approved March 29, also has bad news for GSA construction. Though the measure doesn't specify funding for individual federal programs. But the Budget Committee report accompanying the legislation does have a series of "Illustrative Policy Options." One of those calls for barring new GSA construction for a year.
A relative bright spot for GSA has been its account that funds building renovations. It received $280 million for 2012, the same as in 2011. The White House requested $495 million for 2013.
Well before news broke about the Nevada meeting, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's Republican leaders had been criticizing GSA for having too many underutilized buildings, in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold the first of the new congressional GSA hearings on Monday, April 16. Johnson is among those scheduled to testify
The Transportation and Infrastructure panel will follow with a hearing the next day.