SEPTEMBER 27, 2003
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear before your subcommittee at this oversight field hearing to discuss the impact of land acquisitions on the National Park Service (NPS) maintenance backlog and other priorities.
President Bush has placed a high priority on reducing the deferred maintenance backlog in our national parks. The Administration is committed to taking better care of what we have, while ensuring that new acquisitions truly meet strategic needs of the NPS. There must be a balance between acquiring new lands and meeting the operational, maintenance, and restoration requirements for the resources already in public ownership. In keeping with this priority and other priorities such as improving security at our parks, we have often opposed, or asked for the deferral of action on, legislation introduced in Congress that would create new park units or expand existing parks.
Authorizing new national park units and expanding existing ones not only can necessitate spending money on land acquisition, it may also require us to devote more money to operation and maintenance of parks, and it can often require hiring additional staff. Some acquisitions, even if by donation, add to the deferred maintenance backlog if they contain assets that are not in good condition. Because of the overall budget constraints under which we are operating, every property that is added to the National Park System negatively impacts our ability to address the deferred maintenance backlog.
As an indication of the cost that is entailed by expanding the National Park System, the operating budgets for the 34 units established during the last 12 years (1991-2002) total $25.6 million during FY 03. Some of these units are not yet fully operational, so the costs of running these parks will likely grow. For these units, NPS has identified $30 million in recurring unfunded operational needs and over $265 million in unfunded one-time projects. While all of these items will not likely be funded anytime soon, they represent new demands on the National Park System that were not there 12 years ago. About 30 percent of programmatic funding increases in recent years have resulted from the authorization of new units and boundary expansions.
Addressing the deferred maintenance backlog is the key component of President Bush's National Parks Legacy Project. The Legacy Project was initiated to ensure proper care of our National Park System and is designed to enhance ecosystems, improve outdoor opportunities, address infrastructure needs, and establish accountability through performance goals. On July 2, 2003, Interior Secretary Gale Norton and NPS Director Fran Mainella issued a report entitled "National Park Service: Partnering and Managing for Excellence" (NPS Accomplishments Report) that highlights the progress toward fulfilling the goals of the Legacy Project. A major focus of the report is the progress NPS has made in addressing the deferred maintenance backlog.
President Bush has made a commitment to provide at least $4.9 billion in funding over five years for NPS to address the deferred maintenance backlog. This figure comes from a May 1998 General Accounting Office report to Congress. The Administration is on a path to meet that goal. To put the funding increases in perspective, the more than $1 billion requested for FY 04 is nearly 45 percent more than was provided in FY 00 and more than double what was provided in FY 97. Over a five-year period, the President has proposed spending more than $760 million annually, for a total of $3.81 billion, to pay for non-road maintenance and construction, and nearly $1.26 billion during the same period for roads through the Federal Highway Administration.
Funds provided to date are achieving tangible results, and the NPS has begun
to improve the condition of hundreds of park assets using the increased funding
Congress has appropriated at President Bush's request. For example:
· $16.5 million has gone to Federal Hall National Memorial to repair cracks in the building;
· $4.1 million is being used at Everglades National Park to repair a 135,000 gallon-per-day wastewater treatment system;
· $4.1 million has gone to Lava Beds National Monument to relocate the visitor center away from fragile underground resources; and
· $2.1 million is being used at Yellowstone National Park to replace a wastewater treatment plan and relocate the sewer line in the Old Faithful area.
In the past two years, NPS has tackled approximately 900 repair and rehabilitation projects. These projects, including 60 fire safety projects, have enhanced visitor and employee safety. They have improved health protection by upgrading and repairing 186 water, wastewater, and sewer facilities. They have made buildings better and safer for visitors through over 325 general building and safety rehabilitation projects. Another 500 projects are underway in 2003 and approximately 400 more are programmed for 2004.
Here in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area has been one of the beneficiaries of the Administration's emphasis on addressing the maintenance backlog. Between FY 01 and FY 03, the park received $2.4 million to repair facilities. This was about three times as much as the park had received during the three previous fiscal years. This funding was used to improve the condition of a number of assets to a safe and acceptable condition.
As part of the President's Legacy Project, park roads, too, are being brought into good condition. In 2001, just 35 percent of park roads were in good condition. Under the proposed highway transportation bill, which would provide $1.89 billion over six years for the Park Roads and Parkways Program, over 80 percent of paved park roads would be brought into good or excellent condition, and virtually no paved road would be in poor condition.
An essential component of the National Parks Legacy Project is to prevent future backlogs by bringing state-of-the-art facility management practices to the parks through the Asset Management Program. As part of this program, NPS is conducting a system-wide inventory, identifying deficiencies, and estimating the cost of repair and current replacement value of park assets. NPS is accelerating its efforts to complete these facility condition assessments at all 388 park units and has completed the facility condition assessments on all but the nine most asset-intensive parks this fiscal year. NPS is accelerating its efforts to complete these facility condition assessments at all 388 park units and has completed the assessments on all but four of the largest this year, with the balance to be completed by the end of FY 04.
The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, incidentally, was one of the first units of the National Park System to complete a comprehensive inventory and condition assessment of all of its facilities. That inventory includes 11 miles of paved and unpaved roads, 33 paved and unpaved public parking areas, 104 miles of recreation trails, 62 public buildings, 10 water systems, 8 wastewater systems, and other assets. The total replacement value of all facilities at the park is $26 million. This is the kind of information we will soon have for the entire National Park System.
The Asset Management Program includes the implementation of the Facility Management Software System (FMSS), an off-the-shelf system to monitor and prioritize ongoing maintenance needs that will allow NPS to manage the backlog and prevent a recurrence of maintenance backlogs in the future. Most importantly, through the establishment of this program, NPS will be able to measure performance in improving facility conditions through a Facility Condition Index (FCI). This will allow us to track progress in achieving results, rather than just counting dollars or projects.
Professional facility management also requires regular maintenance to prevent facilities from gradually falling into disrepair. In FY 03, funding for cyclic maintenance increased from $22 million to $42 million, and in FY 04 is slated to increase to $56 million under the President's budget. By ensuring cyclic and preventative maintenance at regular intervals, this investment will help prevent a maintenance backlog recurrence. While new park facility maintenance needs will continue to emerge, the combination of increased funding and management reforms instituted through the Asset Management Program will allow the NPS to find the point where sustainable funding levels will cover an asset's life cycle maintenance and capital replacement costs.
Another component of the President's Legacy Project and the NPS Accomplishments Report recognizes NPS' special connection to the American people and its unique ability to engage the public, establish partnerships and promote volunteerism. The NPS is serving as a catalyst and encouraging many individuals and organizations to leverage resources and information, overcome organizational and procedural barriers, and increase cooperation and consultation. The President is encouraging the American people to participate in the protection of natural and cultural resources through such programs as Land and Water Conservation Fund stateside grants, the Preserve America Initiative, Take Pride in America, and the creation of public and private partnerships. Through these programs, our goal is to create a seamless national network of parks, historic places, and open spaces. As part of that effort, the Department will be sponsoring a major conference on partnerships here in Los Angeles in November.
The President's Legacy Project also seeks to improve visitor service and keep the parks safe. The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States and the resulting world events require increased security for our national parks and monuments throughout the National Park System. As the principal steward of our nation's most treasured cultural icons, the NPS has assigned nearly 200 additional protection rangers to meet increased security needs. Secretary Norton has issued directives to improve the management of the law enforcement program within the NPS and across the Department of the Interior. NPS also has developed a comprehensive Emergency Preparedness and Response plan to protect public health in the unique settings of the national parks and is coordinating with other bureaus and agencies to ensure complete communications integration. NPS will continue to strengthen security efforts through better training of personnel and improved equipment.
Mr. Chairman, that concludes my statement. I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.