AOC Answers Criticism With New Execs, Master Plan

Posted January 28, 2003 at 6:37pm

Following criticism by some Members last spring, the Architect of the Capitol is devising a plan to improve its management practices, including adding several administrative posts and creating a master plan for the Capitol complex.

Architect Alan Hantman outlined the plan in a recently published General Accounting Office report examining the office. The fiscal 2002 legislative branch appropriations bill mandated the GAO report.

Hantman said the AOC will address long-term planning for the Capitol complex through three programs:

o A 20-year master plan for the entire campus. AOC officials are working with the National Academy of Sciences to prepare the plan. The last version of the master plan was completed in 1980.

o A series of building evaluations, beginning with the Capitol and House and Senate office buildings this year. The Library of Congress buildings and the Botanic Garden will be examined in fiscal 2004 and 2005, respectively.

o A five-year capital improvement plan.

The AOC came under fire last April during a hearing of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the legislative branch, then chaired by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). Durbin criticized AOC for its failure to produce a long-term plan, which was required by the fiscal 2001 appropriations bill.

Although an AOC spokeswoman did not return calls seeking comment, Hantman said in his letter to the GAO that the agency has created a director of project management position, though it has yet to fill the post. In April, AOC had 200 projects under way, including the 580,000-square-foot, subterranean Capitol Visitor Center.

In addition to planning, the Architect will also focus on communications and financial management-related issues.

To coordinate an “agency-wide approach to information technology management,” Hantman wrote, the office may add a chief information officer or similar senior administrative position.

The Architect also will begin publishing two annual reports “to strengthen accountability and transparency.” The reports, published at the start and end of each fiscal year, will put forth the agency’s goals and accomplishments, respectively.

Christopher Mihm, GAO’s director of strategic issues, said of report’s recommendations: “It’s a pretty ambitious agenda that we believe they need to undertake for transformation efforts.”

Perhaps most important to that transformation, Mihm said, is for the agency to implement a strategic plan which puts forth its goals and performance measures.

In addition to broader management issues, GAO’s report also examined specific programs such as recycling and worker safety.

AOC plans to issue a draft of its management plan to GAO and the Congressional subcommittees that oversee the Architect’s office.