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Facilities and Security - Annual Report 2016

Committed to efficiency, safety, and cost containment, the Judiciary has actively reduced the space it occupies in buildings around the country, while also working with the General Services Administration (GSA) to replace outmoded courthouses with modern, secure facilities.

Space Footprint Reduction

The Judiciary’s space footprint initiative is a multi-pronged effort to contain costs by reducing rent payments and making innovative use of technology to foster efficient use of existing office and courtroom space. 

As of October 2016, the Judiciary had achieved a net reduction in its total space footprint of more than 667,821 square feet.  This represents 76.8 percent of the national goal set in 2013 by the Judicial Conference to reduce the Judiciary’s footprint by 3 percent by the end of fiscal year (FY) 2018, prorated among the circuits. Projects underway in 2016 are expected to yield an additional reduction of 399,297 square feet. If all planned projects are completed by the FY 2018 deadline, the 3 percent space reduction target would be surpassed.

Already-completed space reductions have lowered the Judiciary’s annual rent payments by approximately $19.75 million, a figure that will grow as the courts near their targets.   As an incentive to circuits to reduce space to the greatest extent possible, the Judicial Conference in March 2016 adopted a new policy that allows a circuit to “bank” any space released in excess of its prorated space reduction target for use in compliance with the Judiciary’s “No Net New” policy in fiscal years beyond 2018.

The “No Net New” policy requires any increase in square footage within a circuit to be offset by an equivalent reduction in square footage in the same fiscal year.  While the space footprint reduction policy will expire at the end of FY 2018, the “No Net New” policy will continue.  The Conference established as the baseline the square footage of total space holdings within each circuit at the beginning of FY 2013.  The policy excludes new courthouse construction, renovation, or alterations projects approved by Congress.

In addition to space reduction and the “No Net New” policies, the Conference directed each circuit judicial council to formulate a space and rent management plan for achieving space reduction and to explore opportunities to reduce court space by maximizing technology in creating flexibility as to where and when work is performed.

Service Validation Initiative

SVI Leaders

The SVI Leadership at the October 2016 capstone workshop in Washington, DC.

Another component of the Judiciary’s cost-containment strategy is the Service Validation Initiative (SVI), a partnership with GSA to assess and seek improvements in the services that GSA provides the Judiciary. It is focused on five areas:

The initiative, still in its early stages, produced an estimated $20 million in savings in 2016.

An SVI training program began in January 2016 and was designed by the Judiciary and GSA to educate court unit and GSA executives on the new policies, best practices, and online tools implemented as a result of SVI.  Thirteen workshops were completed around the country, followed by a capstone workshop in October to plan how to incorporate the policy changes into both Judiciary and GSA regulatory structures. Webinars, playbooks, and other materials were prepared to help court employees and GSA staff learn the new policies.

JSpace Cuts Costs


JSpace is a new software tool that makes tracking and analyzing court-occupied space more efficient and cost-effective. It consolidates multiple tools into one system for measuring, tracking, and charting space data and associated costs. It reduces the time and effort needed to gather information and will help the Administrative Office (AO) perform more in-depth analyses, increasing efficiency in managing the Judiciary’s real estate portfolio.

The Third Branch has approximately 30 million usable square feet of real estate to house 32,000 judges and court staff in more than 750 locations. The Judiciary pays nearly $1 billion each year in rent and is governed contractually by roughly 5,000 GSA occupancy agreements. The Judiciary recognized that systems and tools used to track and analyze court-occupied space data sometimes lacked integration with other systems; others were outmoded. JSpace was a pilot project in the California Central District in the fall of 2016 and has been undergoing testing and further enhancement based on feedback from users in the district.

New Courthouse Construction

In 2016, the AO helped coordinate the beginning phases of planning and construction for eight new courthouses funded by Congress in FY 2016. The AO brought together staff from the courts and from GSA to review each project’s requirements and to make sure that all updated space and security needs were reflected in the project designs. In April, a spending plan was prepared by GSA with AO input and transmitted to the House and Senate appropriations committees. GSA also developed prospectuses detailing each project’s scope and cost and submitted them to the congressional authorizing committees, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works. The committees authorized the projects.

The approximately $948 million Congress provided GSA for these projects, coupled with the authorizations, will allow work to begin on new courthouses in Nashville, TN; Toledo, OH; Charlotte, NC; Des Moines, IA; Greenville, SC; Anniston, AL; Savannah, GA; and San Antonio, TX. Many of these projects had been awaiting funding for more than 15 years. Congress provided partial construction funding for a ninth project in Harrisburg, PA. Securing the remaining funds is at the top of the Federal Judiciary Courthouse Project Priorities List.

Capital Security Program

Through the Capital Security Program (CSP), Congress provides funds for GSA and the Judiciary to improve security in courthouses that have deficiencies and are unlikely to receive new-construction funds in the near term. In FY 2016, funding was provided for CSP projects in Raleigh, NC; St. Thomas, VI; and Alexandria, LA (design only).  Also during 2016, the AO worked with representatives from the circuits, GSA, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the affected courts to develop a list of locations to undergo future CSP studies. In June 2016, the Judicial Conference’s Committee on Space and Facilities approved the initiation of CSP project studies in four locations: Portland, ME; Detroit, MI; Augusta, GA; and Fort Wayne, IN.

Emergency Preparedness

Several new tools designed to safeguard the Judiciary and its employees and to assist the courts with their emergency management plans were developed in 2016. These tools include new templates for continuity of operations plans, emergency management planning workshops, and emergency management exercise training packages. In addition, the AO, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Federal Protective Service, and local law enforcement agencies created an active-shooter awareness and training program.  Two videos were produced to educate Judiciary staff on emergency protocols for such situations. Finally, the Judiciary Emergency Response Team was activated during 2016 to aid and support courts impacted by flooding, hurricanes, and other emergencies.