OVERSIGHT STATEMENT OF DONALD W. MURPHY, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, ON THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE BACKLOG IN DEFERRED MAINTENANCE AND RELATED ISSUES

JULY 8, 2003


 


Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear before your subcommittee to discuss the National Park Service (NPS) backlog of deferred maintenance and related issues.

We are pleased to have the opportunity to share our successes in addressing the deferred maintenance backlog, which is an important 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. As the President said in his first address to a joint session of Congress in 2001, "Our national parks have a special place in our country's life. Our parks are places of great national beauty and history. As good stewards, we must leave them better than we found them."

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 President Bush's National Parks Legacy Project. A major focus of the report is the accomplishments NPS has made in addressing the deferred maintenance backlog.

The President has committed significant funding to address both the repair and management aspects of the deferred maintenance backlog. He is proposing more than $760 million annually over a five-year period, for a total of $3.84 billion, to pay for non-road maintenance and construction and nearly $1.26 billion during the same period for road maintenance. In addition, for the first time ever, NPS has established the Asset Management Program which l 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 funds.


A May 1998 General Accounting Office report ("Efforts to Identify and Manage the Maintenance Backlog" GAO/RCED-98-143) stated that the NPS "does not have a routine, systematic process for determining its maintenance backlog" and cited concerns about the accuracy of the NPS estimate of $4.9 billion (excluding new construction). Using the only estimate available, President Bush committed to provide at least $4.9 billion in funding for NPS to address the deferred maintenance backlog. 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 50 percent more than was provided in FY 00 and double what was provided in FY 97.

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 Old Faithful sewer line.

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.

As part of the President's Legacy Project, park roads, too, will be 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 to the parks. 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. The Asset Management Program will give us the capacity to generate information about our assets on a service-wide basis. To accomplish this goal, NPS is implementing a new off-the-shelf software system, the Facility Management Software System (FMSS). This system is now operational in some parks and will be fully implemented by 2006. NPS has developed a CD-ROM that explains the asset management program. We have provided a copy to this subcommittee and hope that you will have an opportunity to view it.

NPS is taking the necessary steps to ensuring effective and efficient implementation of the Asset Management Program. The first step is to better understand the condition of the NPS infrastructure at each park by conducting an 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 to provide, for the first time, a complete inventory of maintenance needs. Facility condition assessments at 125 parks were completed by December 2002. By the end of FY 03, facility condition assessments will be completed at all but four of the largest parks. The NPS will complete the final facility condition assessments on these parks in FY 04.

Our current estimates of NPS infrastructure show that it includes more than 26,000 historic structures and other buildings, 8,500 monuments, over 12,000 miles of trails, some 1,200 water systems, and about 1,400 wastewater treatment plants. Our road network is estimated to consist of nearly 5,500 paved miles of road, more than 6,000 miles of unpaved roads, and some 1,700 bridges. The facility condition assessments, completed as part of the Asset Management Program will allow NPS to refine and validate these numbers further.

The next step in implementing the Asset Management Program is to determine the Facility Condition Index (FCI) for park assets, except for roads which use the Pavement Condition Rating (PCR). The FCI is a performance measure used to help quantify or determine the condition of a particular park asset based on the cost of repair and the current replacement value. To determine the cost of repair of an asset, NPS uses FMSS to link information derived through the facility condition assessments to an industry-standard cost-estimating tool. Thus, NPS can measure progress against the industry-standard measure of a FCI for certain types of assets such as buildings. Other assets, however, such as monuments and cultural landscapes do not have industry-standard measures and are more difficult to compare.

Once the FCI is determined for individual assets, NPS will be able to establish a service-wide FCI baseline, and then use the baseline to determine FCI target ranges for improved future conditions. NPS has established an initial FCI baseline by using statistical modeling on the facilities condition assessments completed thus far for eight major categories of regular assets (i.e., buildings, campgrounds, trails, paved roads, unpaved roads, water systems, wastewater treatment plants, and employee housing). FCI target ranges are NPS performance goals. NPS is still working to verify these numbers and determine the FCI levels for fair and good condition, so we are not yet in a position to discuss the total costs of bringing the facility average up to fair or better condition. We expect to be able to use FCI performance measures and targets to support the President's 2005 Budget. This process will allow NPS to evaluate the impact of particular funding levels on asset performance and condition and quantify the consequences of delaying or not accomplishing repairs.

The final step in implementing the Asset Management Program is to use FCI, the Asset Priority Index (API), and other policy considerations to prioritize the maintenance needs of park assets. The API is used by park managers to identify the importance of the asset in accomplishing the park's mission. Through the Asset Management Program, NPS will have to articulate clearly and consistently its asset priorities, the investment needed to sustain them, and the rate of deterioration over time. Other important reasons to invest in a facility include such considerations as critical health, safety, and resource protection needs, partnerships, and visitor services requirements. Likewise, it may be appropriate to demolish structures for which the costs to improve the condition are prohibitive.

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.

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.

The efforts outlined in the NPS Accomplishments Report demonstrate the President's commitment to taking better care of the parks already under our stewardship. Because this effort focuses on addressing the deferred maintenance backlog, the Department has been asking Congress to defer action on bills that would establish new units of the National Park System, despite the fact that some of these proposals might otherwise merit our support. We have taken this position because we are concerned about the demands each new unit could create on the NPS budget.

When Congress authorizes new units, additional funding for operation, maintenance, and usually, land acquisition and construction are ultimately required. Additional personnel are also usually required. Existing authorizations to acquire land for new units and boundary expansions exceed available funds.

During the last twelve years (1991-2002), 34 new units of the National Park System were established. Congress created 31 of the new units and President Clinton established three by Presidential Proclamation. For FY03, the operating budgets for these new units total $25.6 million. Some of these units are so new, they are not fully operational, so their operational costs will likely grow. For these 34 units, the current system of identifying needs in the park contain over $30 million in recurring unfunded operational needs and over $265 million in unfunded one-time projects. While all of these items will not be funded anytime soon, they represent new demands on the National Park System that were not there 12 years ago. The President's FY 04 request includes $5.1 million or 36 percent of the total request for programmatic increases for parks with new responsibilities. A portion of this amount includes planning and start-up money for some of the newly authorized units.

We are trying to slow the growth of the National Park System so that we can focus our resources for the time being on reducing the deferred maintenance backlog. In advancing President Bush's National Parks Legacy Project, the NPS has substantially reduced the deferred maintenance backlog and instituted measures to prevent its recurrence. We are also taking other steps to be the most effective and efficient agency possible with the financial resources we have at our disposal.

We appreciate this opportunity to outline the vision of caring for and enhancing the special places in our National Park System, as set forth in President Bush's National Parks Legacy and the "National Park Service: Partnering and Managing for Excellence" Report. We will continue to work with this subcommittee as we move forward with our efforts to address the maintenance backlog and improve the management of the National Park System.

Mr. Chairman, that concludes my statement. I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.