VA CONSTRUCTION ASSISTANCE ACT OF 2014; Congressional Record Vol. 160, No. 132
(House of Representatives - September 16, 2014)

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[Pages H7581-H7585]
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                 VA CONSTRUCTION ASSISTANCE ACT OF 2014

  Mr. LAMBORN. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the 
bill (H.R. 3593) to amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the 
construction of major medical facilities, and for other purposes, as 
amended.
  The Clerk read the title of the bill.
  The text of the bill is as follows:

                               H.R. 3593

       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
     the United States of America in Congress assembled,

[[Page H7582]]

     SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

       This Act may be cited as the ``VA Construction Assistance 
     Act of 2014''.

     SEC. 2. FINDINGS; SENSE OF CONGRESS.

       (a) Findings.--Congress finds the following:
       (1) According to testimony by the Director of Physical 
     Infrastructure of the General Accountability Office before 
     the Committee on Veterans' Affairs of the House of 
     Representatives in May 2013, schedule delays of major medical 
     center construction projects of the Department of Veterans 
     Affairs have averaged 35 months, with the delays ranging from 
     14 months to 74 months.
       (2) The average cost increase attributed to such delays has 
     been $336,000,000 per project.
       (3) Management of the major medical facility projects 
     currently underway as of the date of the enactment of this 
     Act in Denver, Colorado, Orlando, Florida, and New Orleans, 
     Louisiana, should be subject to the oversight of a special 
     project manager of the Army Corps of Engineers that is 
     independent of the Department of Veterans Affairs because, 
     according to the Comptroller General of the United States, 
     such projects have experienced continuous delays and a total 
     cost increase of nearly $1,000,000,000.
       (b) Sense of Congress.--It is the sense of Congress that--
       (1) the management of the major medical center construction 
     projects of the Department of Veterans Affairs has been an 
     abysmal failure; and
       (2) in order to minimize repeated delays and cost increases 
     to such projects, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should 
     fully implement all recommendations made by the Comptroller 
     General of the United States in an April 2013 report to 
     improve construction procedures and practices of the 
     Department.

     SEC. 3. IMPLEMENTATION OF MAJOR MEDICAL FACILITY CONSTRUCTION 
                   REFORMS.

       Section 8104 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by 
     adding at the end the following new subsection:
       ``(i)(1) With respect to each project described in 
     paragraph (2), the Secretary shall--
       ``(A) use the services of a medical equipment planner as 
     part of the architectural and engineering firm for the 
     project;
       ``(B) develop and use a project management plan to ensure 
     clear and consistent communication among all parties;
       ``(C) subject the project to construction peer excellence 
     review;
       ``(D) develop--
       ``(i) a metrics program to enable the monitoring of change-
     order processing time; and
       ``(ii) goals for the change-order process consistent with 
     the best practices of other departments and agencies of the 
     Federal Government; and
       ``(E) to the extent practicable, use design-build processes 
     to minimize multiple change orders.
       ``(2) A project described in this paragraph is a 
     construction or alteration project that is a major medical 
     facility project.''.

     SEC. 4. SPECIAL PROJECT MANAGER FOR CERTAIN MEDICAL CENTER 
                   CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS.

       (a) Appointment of Special Project Manager.--Not later than 
     180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the 
     Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall enter into an agreement 
     with the Army Corps of Engineers to procure, on a 
     reimbursable basis, the services of the Army Corps of 
     Engineers with respect to appointing not less than one 
     special project manager who has experience in managing 
     construction projects that exceed $60,000,000 to oversee 
     covered projects until the date on which the project is 
     completed.
       (b) Duties.--A special project manager appointed under 
     subsection (a) to oversee a covered project shall--
       (1) conduct oversight of all construction-related 
     operations at the project, including with respect to--
       (A) the performance of the Department of Veterans Affairs 
     involving the prime contractors; and
       (B) the compliance of the Department with the Federal 
     Acquisition Regulation, including the VA Acquisition 
     Regulation;
       (2) advise and assist the Department in any construction-
     related activity at the project, including the approval of 
     change-order requests for the purpose of achieving a timely 
     completion of the project; and
       (3) conduct independent technical reviews and recommend to 
     the Department best construction practices to improve 
     operations for the project.
       (c) Plans and Report.--
       (1) Completion plans.--Not later than 90 days after being 
     appointed under subsection (a), a special project manager 
     shall submit to the Committees on Veterans' Affairs of the 
     House of Representatives and the Senate detailed plans of the 
     covered project for which the special project manager is so 
     appointed.
       (2) Progress reports.--Not later than 180 days after being 
     appointed under subsection (a), and each 180-day period 
     thereafter until the date on which the covered project is 
     completed, a special project manager shall submit to the 
     Committees on Veterans' Affairs of the House of 
     Representatives and the Senate a report detailing the 
     progress of the covered project for which the special project 
     manager is so appointed. Each report shall include--
       (A) an analysis of all advice and assistance provided to 
     the Department under subsection (b);
       (B) an analysis of all changes ordered by the Department 
     with respect to the project, or claimed to have been made by 
     contract between the Department and the prime contractor, 
     including the extent to which such changes comply with the 
     Federal Acquisition Regulation, including the VA Acquisition 
     Regulation;
       (C) an analysis of the communication and working 
     relationship between the Department and the prime contractor, 
     including any recommendations made by the prime contractor to 
     aid in the completion of the project; and
       (D) identification of opportunities and recommendations 
     with respect to improving the operation of any construction-
     related activity to reduce costs or complete the project in a 
     more timely manner.
       (d) Cooperation.--
       (1) Information.--The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall 
     provide a special project manager appointed under subsection 
     (a) with any necessary documents or information necessary for 
     the special project manager to carry out subsections (b) and 
     (c).
       (2) Assistance.--Upon request by the special project 
     manager, the Secretary shall provide to the special project 
     manager administrative assistance necessary for the special 
     project manager to carry out subsections (b) and (c).
       (e) Covered Projects Defined.--In this section, the term 
     ``covered projects'' means each construction project that is 
     a major medical facility project (as defined in section 
     8104(a)(3)(A) of title 38, United States Code) that--
       (1) was the subject of a report by the Comptroller General 
     of the United States titled ``Additional Actions Needed to 
     Decrease Delays and Lower Costs of Major Medical-Facility 
     Projects'', numbered GAO-13-302, and published in April 2013; 
     and
       (2) has not been activated to accept patients as of the 
     date of the enactment of this Act.

     SEC. 5. PROHIBITION ON NEW APPROPRIATIONS.

       No additional funds are authorized to be appropriated to 
     carry out this Act and the amendments made by this Act, and 
     this Act and such amendments shall be carried out using 
     amounts otherwise made available for such purposes.

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from 
Colorado (Mr. Lamborn) and the gentlewoman from Arizona (Mrs. 
Kirkpatrick) each will control 20 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Colorado.


                             General Leave

  Mr. LAMBORN. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members 
have 5 legislative days in which to revise and extend their remarks on 
H.R. 3593, as amended.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from Colorado?
  There was no objection.
  Mr. LAMBORN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself as much time as I may 
consume.
  In a moment I will yield to the bill's sponsor, Mr. Coffman, for a 
more detailed description.
  The goal of this legislation is to improve the way VA manages its 
major construction projects.
  Mr. Speaker, it is no secret that VA has a poor track record in 
managing major medical facility projects. Major construction projects 
are routinely completed years late and tens of millions of dollars over 
budget. Unfortunately, the critically needed VA hospital being 
constructed in Aurora, Colorado, for instance, has run into major 
problems, as have a handful of others around the country.
  This legislation would direct the inclusion of an outside entity, the 
Army Corps of Engineers, which has a record of on-time, on-budget 
completion of projects, to assist in the management of VA's major 
facility construction efforts.
  No longer can veterans afford to wait years for needed facilities to 
open. This bill finally would move VA away from the status quo, which 
clearly has not served veterans or the taxpayers well at all.

                              {time}  1915

  I would like to commend my colleague and friend, Representative Mike 
Coffman, and applaud his leadership on this important issue.
  With that, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mrs. KIRKPATRICK. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may 
consume.
  I am pleased that we are bringing up a bill that I introduced, along 
with the chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, 
Representative Coffman.
  This bill takes aim at two of the VA's most chronic problems: 
accountability and efficiency. It is also an attempt to make real 
reforms in the VA construction process.

[[Page H7583]]

  This bill may not have all the answers, but it is a step forward in a 
discussion we must have on addressing the facility needs of the VA and 
ensuring that we are addressing the access requirements in a timely and 
cost-effective manner.
  We have seen time and again how VA has underperformed in the 
management of its multibillion-dollar construction budgets.
  Last year, the Government Accountability Office testified to the 
committee on a number of significant cost overruns and completion 
delays.
  There may be some disagreement on the metrics and the magnitude of VA 
shortcomings in this area--and I do wish to note that VA has made steps 
in the right direction--but in the end, we are faced with a very real 
issue that VA needs additional expertise with construction management 
and the acquisition of major medical facilities.
  I believe that asking the Army Corps of Engineers to provide the 
expertise they have to the VA is a step we should explore. I am hopeful 
that we will pass this bill today and continue the discussion with the 
members of this committee, the VA, and the Army Corps of Engineers.
  This legislation shows what we can do by working across the aisle. It 
would codify some of the GAO recommendations from 2013, as well as 
other industry best practices.
  H.R. 3593 would also provide technical assistance to the VA in the 
form of special project managers and design construction evaluations 
on, particularly, troubled major construction projects.
  While I recognize the Corps of Engineers and VA have some 
reservations with the bill, I believe we can work within the confines 
of the legislative language to ensure a positive outcome for all 
parties.
  I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 3593 as part of our role as 
watchdogs on behalf of veterans and taxpayers.
  I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. LAMBORN. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the gentlewoman from 
Arizona for her support of this good piece of legislation.
  I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Colorado (Mr. Coffman), who 
is a member of the VA committee, a subcommittee chairman of the 
committee, and the sponsor of this bill.
  Mr. COFFMAN. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Colorado.
  As chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee's Oversight and 
Investigations Subcommittee, I introduced H.R. 3593, the VA 
Construction Assistance Act, along with my friend and ranking member, 
Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona, to address significant problems with the 
VA's construction practices, problems which became public knowledge 
through our subcommittee's work.
  My proposed reforms are designed to speed construction and rein in 
the out-of-control costs of three major VA regional projects under 
development in Aurora, Colorado; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Orlando, 
Florida.
  We introduced this legislation late last year based on the 
investigative work of our subcommittee and in response to a Government 
Accountability Office report that found that VA's major construction 
projects had been mired in mismanagement. The report concluded early 
last year that these projects are more than $360 million each over 
budget and almost 3 years on average behind schedule.
  The VA Construction Assistance Act implements GAO-recommended reforms 
by assigning medical equipment planners to these construction projects 
and streamlining the change order process. The proposal also goes a 
step further by requiring the assignment of an emergency manager from 
the Army Corps of Engineers, independent of the VA, to oversee these 
projects, and only these three major medical facility projects, 
currently under construction.
  The GAO specifically singled out the Army Corps of Engineers as an 
organization with a record of building similar projects within budget 
and on schedule for the Department of Defense.
  Our veterans cannot simply hope that the situation improves. We must 
get these construction projects delivered so our Nation's veterans 
receive the health care services that they have earned while at the 
same time protecting the taxpayers from massive cost overruns. Notably, 
this bill is supported by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American 
Legion.
  As such, I urge each of my colleagues to support this commonsense 
bipartisan legislation.
  Mrs. KIRKPATRICK. At this time, I yield 4 minutes to the gentlewoman 
from Florida (Ms. Brown).
  Ms. BROWN of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I thank Ranking Member Kirkpatrick 
for yielding time to me.
  I rise in opposition to this legislation. Let me just say, I 
understand I am the longest-serving member on the VA--23 years--and I 
understand--don't confuse me with too many facts--that this bill only 
includes three projects: Denver, Colorado; Orlando, Florida, one that 
we have been working on for over 25 years; and New Orleans, Louisiana. 
These projects, all of them, are far too along in the process to inject 
a special project manager. The Orlando VA Medical Center is currently 
94 percent complete and construction is planned to be completed by the 
end of this year.
  New Orleans is 52 percent complete and completion is scheduled for 
February 2016. The VA and the contractor have signed an agreement on a 
firm fixed price and are working closely together on the delivery of 
this project.
  I understand that the gentleman from Colorado is concerned about the 
Denver VA Medical Center. However, the project is 55 percent complete, 
and any efforts to change the leadership midstream would only delay 
things further and cost our veterans time and money that could be 
better spent on their health care.
  As a senior member of the Committee on Transportation and 
Infrastructure, I know firsthand the amount of critical infrastructure 
work that the Corps of Engineers have accomplished around the country. 
With nearly $6 billion in backlog of authorized civil works projects 
for the Corps of Engineers and with new, critical port-related projects 
included in the recent passage of the Water Resources Development Act, 
there are grave concerns by the Army Corps about their ability to 
participate in this project, especially the costs that it would relate 
to the Army Corps.
  Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to put the letter in the Record 
from the Army Corps.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentlewoman from Florida?
  There was no objection.

                                           Department of the Army,


                                 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,

                                    Washington, DC, Sept. 12 2014.
     Hon. Corrine Brown,
     House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
       Dear Representative Brown: I am writing in response to your 
     letter to Lieutenant General Thomas P. Bostick dated 
     September 11, 2014, requesting the U.S. Army Corps of 
     Engineers views on H.R. 3593, The VA Construction Assistance 
     Act of 2013, the best way to resolve projects covered under 
     H.R. 3593 and how the Corps is currently working with the 
     Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on other projects. H.R. 
     3593 concerns appointment, duties and reporting of an 
     independent Corps special project manager (PM) to oversee 
     completion of certain covered VA major medical facility 
     construction projects in Denver, Colorado, Orlando, Florida 
     and New Orleans, Louisiana.
       The Corps prior experience in use of a special PM with 
     another federal agency was not found to be beneficial. In 
     2011, the Corps and the Department of Energy (DOE--
     Environmental Management) conducted a one-year pilot study 
     known as the ``Project Management Partnership''. Three senior 
     `level positions for Corps persons were established: one at 
     DOE HQ, one at Savannah River, and one at Oak Ridge, to 
     support specific DOE missions and projects. DOE and the Corps 
     agreed to terminate the pilot, as the agencies processes and 
     cultures were found not well aligned It was also found that 
     inserting a Corps special PM into ongoing DOE projects, 
     especially those experiencing delays and cost growth was not 
     feasible, since the special PM did not have clearly delegated 
     authority responsibility by which to act within DOE.
       The appointment of an independent special PM in the case of 
     H.R. 3593 would present a number of problems. A special PM 
     would not have authority with the VA project delivery team or 
     VA contracting officer. A special PM would also not have 
     links to VA's project or agency automatic information 
     systems. The covered projects' direct contractual 
     relationship and fiduciary responsibility are between the VA 
     and construction contractor. The Corps is not a party to 
     those contracts. The VA is better situated than the Corps to 
     submit the detailed completion plans and progress reports to 
     the House and Senate Committees on Veterans' Affairs due to 
     its direct relationship with the construction contractor. 
     Finally, the proposed legislation, as written, is unclear 
     towards which agency must bear the administrative costs 
     resulting

[[Page H7584]]

     from the special PM's Congressional reporting requirements. 
     The Corps does not have appropriated funding sources that 
     would be legally available to satisfy reporting requirements 
     on the VA's behalf.
       H.R. 3953 effectively establishes a governance mechanism 
     for the covered projects. However, this does not appear to be 
     the matter at hand; project development, acquisition, and 
     execution appear to be the issues for these projects. An 
     alternative approach would be more appropriate to address 
     these matters. An independent review and examination of the 
     covered projects by multi-disciplined Corps design-
     construction evaluation teams would enjoy both independence 
     and the depth of necessary Corps enterprise support that 
     could recommend an effective path forward for the projects' 
     completion. Existing authorities coupled with an interagency 
     agreement in a willing partnership between the Corps and VA 
     would provide both parties sufficient authority to enable 
     them to work collaboratively, on a cost reimbursable basis, 
     towards resolving project delays and cost escalation. An 
     interagency agreement could be arrived at reasonably quickly 
     between VA and the Corps, upon formal request by VA for Corps 
     technical services, for such an evaluation of a covered 
     project.
        The Corps, as part of its interagency capabilities, has an 
     established relationship with the VA, providing support for a 
     broad range of facility construction and maintenance 
     requirements. Authority for the Corps' work with VA is based 
     on the Economy Act, which, coupled with an interagency 
     agreement, provides sufficient authorities to work 
     collaboratively. During 2007, the Corps of Engineers and the 
     VA formalized its relationship through a Memorandum of 
     Agreement (MOA) for the Corps to provide the VA support in 
     the execution of their minor construction and non-recurring 
     maintenance needs.
       Prior to fiscal year 2007, Corps execution support to VA 
     was at or below $2 million annually for work for the Veterans 
     National Cemetery Administration. In 2007, as a result of the 
     MOA, the workload grew to $7 million and rose to $377 million 
     by the turn of the decade through the expansion of the Corps 
     work for the VA. Over the last several years, the Corps 
     managed work at 74 different VA facilities nationwide.
       The Corps also is supporting the VA with the development of 
     its project governance processes. Two Corps personnel are 
     currently assigned to VA headquarters to assist with the VA's 
     development of a VA Program Review Board (PRB) framework that 
     is modeled on the PRB process used by the Corps. The PRB 
     framework will support senior VA leadership in their 
     oversight of construction programs including monitoring of 
     project performance and challenges.
       As execution funds have grown over the years so has the 
     collaborative relationship between the Corps and VA. The 
     Corps regional and local offices have developed relationships 
     with each of the 23 Veterans Integrated Service Network 
     (VISN) offices around the country. Whether and how a VISN 
     incorporates the Corps services into its projects is at the 
     discretion of each VISN.
       I hope this response has adequately addressed your 
     questions and concerns related to this matter. If you have 
     additional questions or concerns, please contact me or your 
     staff may contact Mr. Kurt Conrad, Military Programs Liaison 
     at (202) 761-0630.
           Sincerely,
                                          Lloyd O. Caldwell, P.E.,
     Director of Military Programs.
                                  ____


 Ms. Stella S. Fiotes, Executive Director, Office of Construction and 
      Facilities Management, Office of Acquisition, Logistics and 
 Construction, Department of Veterans Affairs Witness Testimony 03/25/
2014: Legislative Hearing on H.R. 3593, the VA Construction Assistance 
                              Act of 2013

       Section three of the bill would institute certain 
     requirements for VA major medical facility projects, 
     including mandates for the use of a medical equipment 
     planner, use of a project management plan, and use of a 
     construction peer excellence review. It would also require 
     development of a metrics program to enable the monitoring of 
     change-order processing time and goals for the change order 
     process consistent with the ``best practices'' of other 
     federal agencies.
       Section four of the bill would mandate that within 180 days 
     VA enter into an agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of 
     Engineers (USACE) to procure a ``special project manage'' on 
     a reimbursable basis to oversee three named current VA major 
     construction projects for facilities in Denver, Colorado, 
     Orlando, Florida, and New Orleans, Louisiana. The bill 
     enumerates the duties of the special project manager and 
     requires that plans and progress reports be provided to the 
     House and Senate Committees on Veterans' Affairs. It also 
     establishes that VA provide the special project manager with 
     the requisite information and administrative assistance 
     necessary to carry out their tasks.
       VA has a strong history of delivering facilities to serve 
     Veterans. In the past 5 years, VA has delivered 75 major 
     construction projects valued at over $3 billion that include 
     the new medical center complex in Las Vegas, cemeteries, 
     polytrauma rehabilitation centers, spinal cord injury 
     centers, a blind rehabilitation center, and community living 
     centers.
       VA appreciates the strong interest and support from the 
     Subcommittee to ensure that our major construction projects, 
     and more specifically the Denver, Colorado, New Orleans, 
     Louisiana, and Orlando, Florida facilities, are delivered 
     successfully. While there have been challenges with these 
     projects, we have taken numerous actions to strengthen and 
     improve our execution of all VA's ongoing major construction 
     projects, including the three projects that H.R. 3593 
     addresses. For the reasons expressed below, VA does not 
     believe that the approach outlined in the bill will achieve 
     the desired results, and thus does not support it.
       VA believes the creation of a special project manager would 
     be problematic in the management and supervision of these 
     projects. Specifically, the special project manager adds more 
     levels of management and may complicate, if not confuse, the 
     project delivery process. The bill raises serious questions 
     about the contractual relationship between the VA and its 
     contractor, the lines of authority the special project 
     manager will have vis-a-vis VA and the U.S. Army Corps of 
     Engineers (USACE), and the effect upon the independent 
     exercise of discretion by the VA contracting officer, who is 
     ultimately responsible for managing the contract on behalf of 
     the Government. The legislation we believe will also lead to 
     increased management and overhead costs associated with 
     funding the special project manager and support team.
       VA continuously evaluates its processes and delivery 
     methods for each lease and construction project on its 
     merits, and we benchmark industry best practices with several 
     agencies including the National Institute of Building 
     Sciences, General Services Administration and the USACE. When 
     VA determines that the best delivery strategy is to employ 
     another agency such as the USACE, this strategy is used. VA 
     and the USACE have a long history of working together to 
     advance VA facility construction and share best practices, 
     and our current discussions are a logical evolution of that 
     relationship.
       Since 2008, VA has engaged USACE to support maintenance and 
     minor construction projects at more than 70 of our medical 
     facilities. VA engaged USACE to review the contracts for the 
     New Orleans and Denver projects, and they continue to assist 
     in schedule evaluation in Orlando. More recently, USACE is 
     supporting VA in establishing a Project Review Board process, 
     similar to the process used by USACE districts, and 
     supporting the VA National Cemetery Administration in its 
     maintenance and minor construction program.
       As outlined in the cited Government Accountability Office 
     (GAO) testimony and April 2013 report, the delays and cost 
     increases on the Denver, New Orleans and Orlando projects 
     occurred in the planning and design phases; each of these 
     projects is now in the construction phase. Last year, VA took 
     aggressive action on the recommendations in the April 2013 
     GAO report and all recommendations were closed as of 
     September 2013. Their recommendations included the addition 
     of medical planners, the streamlining of the change order 
     process, and clearer definition of roles and responsibilities 
     in the project management.
       In addition to closing the GAO recommendations, VA has 
     worked diligently to address and close all of the 
     recommendations identified through the VA's Construction 
     Review Council (CRC), which was established in 2012 and is 
     chaired by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to serve as the 
     single point of oversight and performance accountability for 
     the VA real property capital asset program. With the personal 
     commitment of the Secretary, and the diligent efforts of 
     senior staff and management, all CRC recommendations have 
     been implemented since October 2013. These recommendations 
     include improvements in the development of requirements, 
     measures aimed at improving design quality, better 
     coordination of funding across the Department to support VA's 
     major construction program, and advances in program 
     management and automation. Through the CRC and the VA 
     Acquisition Program Management Framework that provides for 
     continual project review throughout the project's acquisition 
     life-cycle, VA will continue to drive improvements in the 
     management of VA's real property capital programs.
       Our focus across the spectrum of construction project 
     management has led to advancements in our overall 
     construction program. Areas of increased effort include 
     improving requirements definition and acquisition strategies, 
     assessing project risk, assuring timely project and contract 
     administration, partnering with our construction and design 
     contractors, early involvement of the medical equipment 
     planning and procurement teams, and engaging in executive 
     level on-site project reviews. Additionally, the monthly 
     updates provided to the Committees on key projects have 
     increased the transparency in our program.
       The way the Department is doing business today has changed 
     significantly since the Orlando, Denver and New Orleans 
     projects were undertaken. The lessons learned and the 
     improvements made have resulted in positive changes and are 
     being applied to help ensure the Department's capital program 
     is delivered on time and within budget.
       The costs associated with enactment of this legislation 
     cannot be predicted with specificity, as they will depend on 
     the scope

[[Page H7585]]

     and details of the arrangement mandated to be concluded with 
     the USACE under the bill.

  Ms. BROWN of Florida. Mr. Speaker, with prior experience, the Army 
Corps has indicated that this kind of agreement does not work. They 
presently have all of the authorization they need to work with VA. And, 
in fact, they--the VA--spent $377 million at 74 projects they already 
participate in nationwide, so they don't need an additional 
authorization.
  What this bill would do would only slow down the project in Orlando. 
I have spent--and all of the Members from the Orlando area and from 
Florida--we have spent years on this problem, and it is not just the 
VA's problem. For years, we did not have any construction going on with 
the VA. These projects, these last projects, we hadn't done any 
construction in the VA in 15 years, so certainly a lot of the expertise 
was gone.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentlewoman has expired.
  Mrs. KIRKPATRICK. Mr. Speaker, I yield the gentlewoman an additional 
2 minutes.
  Ms. BROWN of Florida. But now it is not a benefit to have additional 
responsibilities placed particularly in Orlando at this time. We have a 
project that is close to completion. We want to bring this project in 
on time. By the time this bill is ever passed and signed into law, I am 
hoping that the veterans will be in the VA facility in Orlando, 
Florida.
  In addition, we have worked with them--and the people who are 
handling it are not just the VA--the construction people. It has been a 
problem all along. I am not saying that the Army Corps could not be 
helpful, but at this time they absolutely cannot be helpful in this 
project.
  So as we move forward, take Orlando out of what you are proposing. It 
is too late. We are ready for our VA facility to open up in Orlando, 
Florida, and to serve the veterans of the central Florida area. May God 
continue to bless America, and certainly the veterans deserve to be 
able to move into the VA facility in the Orlando, central Florida, 
area.
  Mr. LAMBORN. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from 
Nebraska (Mr. Terry).
  Mr. TERRY. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank Mr. Coffman for bringing this 
bill. I think it is extremely important, and it directly affects the 
Omaha VA in-patient facility, as well as veterans all around the 
Midwest area.
  The cost overruns of the Denver, or the Aurora hospital, as well as 
Orlando and others, have been noted in the GAO report showing that 
these hospitals on average are 35 months delayed and somewhere between 
300 and $400 million over budget. It shows a serious inability of the 
VA's construction and management subagency to manage and run these 
projects.
  I am pleased that this legislation would require the VA to employ at 
least one special project manager from the Corps of Engineers. It has 
been noted by every speaker here today that the Corps of Engineers has 
a specialty, a somewhat amazing ability to get projects done on time 
and on budget, so having their level of expertise injected into this, 
even if it is just an advisory or a consulting role, I think is an 
important first step.
  I would prefer that we just turned it all over, the VA hospital 
construction, to something like the Corps of Engineers, but this is a 
legitimate good first step in this process.
  Now, our Omaha facility remains number 23. It has been in that area 
now for 6 years, and it looks like unless we improve this process and 
get their spending under control that it could be more than a decade 
before our new VA in-patient replaces an over 60-year-old building 
where they had no water for one 24-hour period because of the poor 
infrastructure. So that is how we are harming our veterans by not 
getting these projects done on time and within budget.
  Again, I want to thank the gentleman from Colorado for taking charge 
of this issue and all of the conversations you and I have had about 
this over the last couple of years.

                              {time}  1930

  Mrs. KIRKPATRICK. Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. LAMBORN. Mr. Speaker, I yield such time as he may consume to the 
gentleman from Colorado (Mr. Coffman).
  Mr. COFFMAN. I thank the gentleman from Colorado (Mr. Lamborn).
  I think, again, going back to this Government Accountability report, 
it says that, on average, these projects are $366 million over budget; 
on average, these projects are 35 months behind schedule. There are a 
number of recommendations that are taken right from this report that 
are part of this bill.
  One recommendation that wasn't specifically in the bill, but it was 
mentioned in the bill by referencing that the Army Corps of Engineers 
basically builds the same projects for the Department of Defense--the 
hospitals--on schedule and within budget.
  We are talking about, again, hundreds of millions of dollars wasted 
in every single facility that is not going to the health care our 
veterans have earned; so I think it is only right that we move forward 
with this, not only to be fair to the men and women who have served us 
in uniform and sacrificed so much in defense of this country and giving 
them the benefits that they have earned through their service, but also 
out of respect to the taxpayers of the United States who have basically 
had their hard-earned dollars wasted in building these projects with 
these incredible and massive cost overruns.
  I have had countless meetings with the Corps of Engineers, and they 
said that they could not publicly state their support for this, but I 
have given this legislation to them and said, ``Come back to me if you 
have any issues with it.''
  They did not other than to say they feel prospectively they should be 
the ones managing these projects, period. My bill does not address that 
prospectively.
  Mrs. KIRKPATRICK. Mr. Speaker, I hope my colleagues support H.R. 3593 
and work with our partners in the executive branch to improve the 
delivery of facilities for our veterans.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. LAMBORN. Mr. Speaker, I too thank the gentlewoman from Arizona 
once again for her bipartisan support of this good piece of 
legislation.
  I urge all of my colleagues in the U.S. House to support H.R. 3593, 
as amended, and I yield back the balance of my time.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion offered by the 
gentleman from Colorado (Mr. Lamborn) that the House suspend the rules 
and pass the bill, H.R. 3593, as amended.
  The question was taken; and (two-thirds being in the affirmative) the 
rules were suspended and the bill, as amended, was passed.
  A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.

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