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Opening Statement of Hon. Bob Filner, Ranking Democratic Member, Committee on Veterans' Affairs

Good morning everyone.  Thank you for attending and for your continued interest in veterans’ issues.  I also want to thank you Mr. Chairman for focusing the Committee on the critical issue of the VA construction program.  It is clear to me that the Department needs to shore up their process of managing the construction and completion of significant projects that are important to every single person on this Committee. 

At issue today is an all too familiar theme of these oversight hearings - lack of management, control, accountability and oversight.  I would say that most of the problems that have been encountered during the construction of the facilities we are looking at today could have been avoided with proper management and vigilant project oversight.  Let me just take Denver, for example, a facility that received appropriated funds as far back as Fiscal Year 2004.  As of November 2011 VA announced that the target completion date for this hospital is 2015 – 11 years after first receiving funds and an increase of at least 29 percent in the cost – and it isn’t even built yet.

Denver is not alone.  The Las Vegas facility has increased in cost from the original estimate by at least 110 percent; Orlando 89 percent, and New Orleans, 45 percent.  These increases represent over a billion dollars in funding.

Too often we hear of cost increases such as those I have just discussed, delayed or suspended construction activities, inadequate design plans and very little communication between VA and its partners.  Communication that I understand would have helped to clear up some misunderstandings at certain construction sites such as Orlando.

It is hard for me to believe that VA would refuse to meet with contracting officials concerning any construction project much less one that is behind schedule and beset with problems, yet that is what I am being told.

VA’s testimony points to the fact that it has been 18 years since they have built a medical center.  That may be true, but it does not excuse poor management and basic oversight responsibilities. 

I would like to hear more detail from Dr. Petzel on the integration of risk management into the core project management functions.  I believe this was one of two recommendations from the Government and Accountability Office’s December 2009 report on project cost estimations. 

I am sure everyone would agree that we have to do better than this.  We expect better than this, veterans deserve better than this and I hope today’s hearing will help shed light on the barriers and challenges that VA faces during the construction process. 

As we move forward, I look forward to working with VA on improving the construction program and ensuring more transparency and efficiency in the process.

Thank you.