GSA to add 1,000 more people to its DC headquarters

The number of employees working at the General Services Administration’s headquarters building will grow by 1,000 over the next year.

Administrator Emily Murphy told staff Wednesday and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee lawmakers Thursday that GSA would be consolidating its National Capital Region office into its main building on 1800 F St. N.W., in Washington, D.C.

“This move is in the best interest of the American taxpayers and it directly aligns with our agency’s mission,” Murphy wrote in an email to staff obtained by Federal News Radio. “The decision was made with a great deal of careful consideration and planning, especially with regards to the quality of space our employees use to further partnership and collaboration across the agency. The primary drivers of this relocation are the achievement of significant cost savings and maximizing the utilization of two very valuable federal assets. As we encourage and lead other agencies to improve their utilization rates and save money through real estate management, it is important that we lead by example.”

Murphy said the transition from the NCR building on 7th and D Streets, N.W., will happen over the next 9-12 months.

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“We think we can accommodate them without any additional space but still give them a quality workspace to work in,” she told Senate lawmakers.

A GSA spokeswoman said in an email to Federal News Radio that NCR will continue its current operations and remain a separate regional office within GSA’s headquarters facility. NCR, or Region 11, supports agency customers and vendors in the Maryland, D.C. and Virginia metro area around all of GSA’s business lines, including acquisition, buildings and fleet services.

GSA is working on a relocation plan with NCR leaders and Murphy said she expects the transition to happen over time.

“In addition, this decision was made to improve our employees’ work environment. We will be investing some of the anticipated cost-savings to improve the workspace and facilities in our central office building,” Murphy wrote in her email. “This investment will be focused on improving the day-to-day employee experience through updated and collaborative work areas that will enable NCR employees to maintain their regional identity and more easily connect with Central Office partners. We also plan on making other needed improvements to meeting space throughout the building.”

GSA consolidated offices into the main building previously in 2013 and moved to an open office and hoteling set up.

Back then, GSA was completing a partial renovation of its headquarters building where it created 50,000 more usable square feet. It increased the number of employees who work out of the headquarters building to 3,300 from 2,200.

But that consolidation meant there are two employees for every one workstation, meaning telework was highly encouraged. Additionally, the consolidation meant centrally located copying and printing service centers on the floors, creating a 25-to-1 ratio of printer to employee.

The decision by GSA comes as many other agencies are rolling back telework options for employees, including the departments of Agriculture, Education and Veterans Affairs.

In the 2017 telework report to Congress, GSA said 85 percent of eligible employees — 9,773 out of 10,996 — teleworked in fiscal 2016.

It’s unclear if GSA will offer more telework options for employees given space already is tight.

Multiple GSA sources say adding 1,000 more people is doable, but space would be  tougher to come by and likely would require more telework options for employees, such as going from one or two days per week to two or three days per week.

GSA didn’t comment on whether it plans to expand telework for employees with the further consolidation.

One GSA source said the building feels empty on Mondays and Fridays, but is jammed in the middle of the week with employees “fighting” to reserve workspace and conference rooms.

Murphy told lawmakers today that GSA has been working with agencies to reduce and consolidate office space over the last year with a focus on leasing where the government gets the best return on results.

Murphy said agencies on average have a tenancy of 20 years in buildings, but the average lease is six years. She said 50 percent of all leases are not being renewed in timely fashion.

“By focusing on those that are the highest dollar value we have been able to save $400 million in lease payments between January and June of this year,” she said.

She also said GSA looks forward to the 2019 funding to continue to repair federal buildings.

For 2019, Senate appropriators approved just over $1 billion for construction, repairs and alterations to federal buildings to address the growing backlog.

The House approved the Financial Services and General Government spending bill on July 19 with more than $900 million for GSA to spend on construction, repairs and alterations to federal buildings.