oversight

Food and Drug Administration Facility: Requirements for Building on a Floodplain Met

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1999-12-15.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                United States General Accounting Office

GAO             Report to Congressional Requester




December 1999

                FOOD AND DRUG
                ADMINISTRATION
                FACILITY
                Requirements for
                Building on a
                Floodplain Met




GAO/GGD-00-17
United States General Accounting Office                                           General Government Division
Washington, D.C. 20548




                                    B-283625
                                    December 15, 1999

                                    The Honorable Bob Franks
                                    Chairman, Subcommittee on Economic Development,
                                      Public Buildings, Hazardous Materials and
                                      Pipeline Transportation
                                    Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
                                    House of Representatives

                                    Dear Mr. Chairman:

                                    This report responds to your April 17, 1999, request concerning the
                                    construction of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) facility for its
                                    Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) in College Park,
                                    MD. You asked us to provide you information on (1) the General Services
                                    Administration’s (GSA) authority to construct a new facility for FDA in
                                    College Park, (2) whether the requirements for building on a floodplain
                                    had been met, and (3) the planned placement of computers in the
                                    basement of the new building. On the computer issue, you wanted to know
                                    whether (1) steps had been or will be taken to mitigate the risk of damage
                                    from water entering the basement of the building, and (2) CFSAN staff
                                    were involved in the decision to place the computer operations in the
                                    basement.

                                    GSA’s authority to construct the FDA facility in College Park, MD, is
Results in Brief                    derived from the Food and Drug Administration Revitalization Act (P. L.
                                    101-635, 104 Stat. 4583 (1990), 21 U.S.C. 379b) and subsequent
                                    appropriations acts.

                                    The design team for the project has satisfactorily met the minimum
                                    requirements, set by the state of Maryland, to construct a building with a
                                    basement on a floodplain. The basement was necessary because of a local
                                    building height restriction due to the proximity of the site to the College
                                    Park Airport. Although basements are not normally allowed in buildings on
                                    a floodplain in Maryland, the state granted a variance, in part because a
                                    taller or wider building was prohibited.

                                    The new CFSAN facility has been designed with several systems to
                                    mitigate the risk of damage from water entering the building. With the
                                    steps taken by the design team to protect the building from an external
                                    flood, FDA officials believe that the potential for internal water damage



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              B-283625




              (broken pipe, roof leak, accidental fire sprinkler activation, etc.) is a
              greater probability than is damage from a flood condition. To protect the
              data stored on the computers, CFSAN officials plan to develop a mitigation
              plan for the new facility that they say will be appropriate to the nature of
              the systems installed, the data stored, and risk factors at the time the
              building is occupied.

              The decision to locate the main computer room in the basement of the
              building was reached by consensus of the project team—the design team
              consultants and representatives from GSA and FDA. The FDA
              representatives included CFSAN telecommunications personnel and staff
              from FDA’s Office of Information Resources Management (OIRM).

              In October 1996, GSA acquired a 13.18-acre site, immediately adjacent to
Background    the College Park Metrorail station, in College Park, MD, specifically for the
              new CFSAN facility at a cost of $4 million. Part of the site is located on a
              Prince George’s County-designated floodplain. GSA has subsequently
              demolished a building that was on the site when it was acquired.

              When the CFSAN facility is completed, it is to have four stories above
              ground and a basement; and it is to have about 410,000 square feet of
              office, laboratory, and support space. The building is scheduled to be
              ready for occupancy in October 2001. The total cost to design and
              construct the building, including the cost of the land, is estimated to be
              about $86 million.

              The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is the federal agency
              responsible for floodplain management. FEMA has promulgated
              regulations with floodplain management criteria to be used by state and
              local governments. In the state of Maryland, the Department of the
              Environment (MDE) is responsible for floodplain management.

              As part of FDA’s consolidation of its programs in the Washington, D.C.
              metropolitan area, FDA is to vacate the federal office building at 200 C
              Street, SW, Washington, D.C. FDA plans to decommission the laboratories
              in the building—clear the hazardous chemical residue—prior to turning
              the space back to GSA for reassignment. The Architect of the Capitol has
              expressed some interest in this building for congressional use.

              To determine GSA’s authority to construct a new CFSAN facility for FDA,
Scope and     we reviewed the legislation that authorized the Secretary of Health and
Methodology   Human Services and the Administrator of GSA to consolidate FDA




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                        facilities and reviewed subsequent legislation relating to the appropriation
                        of funds for the project.

                        To determine whether the project had met the state of Maryland
                        requirements for building the facility on a floodplain, we reviewed actions
                        taken by GSA and the project’s design consultants to obtain the needed
                        construction authorizations from MDE. We also reviewed the floodplain
                        studies prepared specifically for this project to show the effect the project
                        would have on the floodplain.

                        To determine whether FDA planned to place computers in the basement of
                        the new building, we interviewed GSA and FDA personnel involved in the
                        project. To determine whether steps have been taken to mitigate the risks
                        involved in placing computers in the basement and who was involved in
                        making the decision to place the computers in the basement of the
                        building, we reviewed project documents and interviewed GSA and FDA
                        project management officials, FDA managers responsible for information
                        management resources, and representatives of the firms responsible for
                        designing the new facility.

                        We also obtained from the design consultants a detailed description of the
                        features incorporated into the design of the new facility to protect the
                        building from external flood waters. We reviewed the final construction
                        drawings and construction specifications for the building to assure
                        ourselves that the features described to us had been incorporated into the
                        design of the building. We also visited the construction site to view the
                        constructed basement slab and walls and systems and equipment being
                        installed to mitigate the risk of water entering the building, to confirm that
                        the building will have some of the features described to us.

                        We did our review from May through September 1999, in accordance with
                        generally accepted government auditing standards. We requested
                        comments on a draft of this report from GSA’s Administrator and FDA’s
                        Commissioner.

                        In 1990, the Food and Drug Administration Revitalization Act became law.
Congress Authorized     The act authorized the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) and
and Provided Funds      the Administrator of General Services to enter into contracts for the
for the CFSAN Project   design, construction, and operation of a consolidated FDA administrative
                        and laboratory facility. In addition, the FDA Revitalization Act expressly
                        authorized the appropriation of $100 million for the project in fiscal year
                        1991 and authorized the appropriation of such funds as may be necessary




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for subsequent fiscal years. GSA’s fiscal year 1991 appropriations act did
not include funds for this project.

GSA’s fiscal year 1992 appropriations act appropriated $200 million for
consolidation, site acquisition, planning and design, and construction of
                                                                       1
new FDA facilities in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, MD. The
                    2
Conference Report accompanying GSA’s appropriations act stated that the
conferees provided these funds to begin the process of consolidating FDA
from its existing 34 buildings and 11 locations to campuses in Maryland’s
Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. The report further stated that
the president and Congress had expressed their support for this project by
enacting the FDA Revitalization Act that specifically authorized
construction of new administrative and laboratory facilities for FDA.

The Conference Report accompanying the fiscal year 1992 appropriations
act also contained language directing FDA, GSA, HHS, and the Office of
Management and Budget (OMB) to submit a plan for the consolidation
project’s future funding needs to the appropriations committees by no
                              3
later than December 31, 1991.
                                                                  4
The Senate Appropriations Committee Report accompanying the
Treasury, Postal Service, and General Government appropriations act for
fiscal year 1993 stated that despite clear instructions, the administration
had not expended any of the funds already appropriated, and no funding
plan had been submitted as previously directed. The Committee stated that
it strongly supported the project because, in addition to the inefficiencies
resulting from being scattered among so many different buildings, many of
FDA’s facilities were outmoded and obsolete, even hazardous.

The FDA Revitalization Act and subsequent appropriations acts,
particularly the act containing GSA’s appropriations for fiscal year 1992,
authorized GSA to construct the FDA facility in College Park, MD. OMB
approved a consolidation plan for the FDA headquarters programs on
March 15, 1994. This plan called for CFSAN to be located in Prince
George’s County.



1
    P. L. 102-141, 105 Stat. 834, 850 (1991).
2
    H.R. Conf. Rep. No. 102-234, at 25-26 (1991).
3
    Id.
4
    S. Rep. No. 102-353, at 72-73 (1992).




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                        GSA officials knew the construction site was on a Prince George’s County-
Requirements for                                                             5
                        designated floodplain when they bought the land. Before purchasing the
Building on a           property, GSA hired an engineering firm to complete an environmental
Floodplain Were Met     assessment and floodplain studies to determine the viability of
                        constructing a facility on the site and the effect that the project would have
                        on the site. The preliminary floodplain study, which focused on the
                        viability of constructing on the site, concluded that

                      • constructing the proposed facility on the site would not increase the 100-
                                                   6
                        year floodplain elevation;
                      • the site was suitable for the proposed development; and
                      • because the building would be in the very upper reaches of the watershed,
                        the actual peak 100-year flood elevation would affect the building for only
                                                                 7
                        a short period of time before it receded.

                        FEMA has not designated a floodplain on this site. The project director for
                        the firm that did the floodplain study for GSA told us that the County is
                        more conservative in its floodplain designations than FEMA. He said that
                        the County’s designations take into account the existing built environment
                        and anticipated future developments—new construction—in the area
                        when calculating the floodplain area, but FEMA takes into account only
                        the existing built environment and open areas. Figure 1 shows the existing
                        100-year floodplain, as designated by Prince George’s County.




                        5
                         FEMA defines a floodplain as any land area, such as the lowland and relatively flat areas adjoining
                        inland and coastal waters, susceptible to being inundated by water from any source.
                        6
                         The 100-year floodplain elevation is the water-surface level (elevation) associated with a flood that is
                        equaled or exceeded once in 100 years on the average; in other words, a flood that has a 1-percent
                        chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year.
                        7
                        It would take only a little over 5 hours for the 100-year flood elevation to recede to bank full
                        conditions (the 1-year event flow).




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                                         B-283625




Figure 1: Existing Prince George’s County-defined 100-Year Floodplain in Area Surrounding the Proposed FDA Facility




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    Source: Developed by GAO; derived from a Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning
    Commission map of the College Park-Riverdale Transit District Overlay Zone.


    The floodplain study contained the state of Maryland’s and the County’s
    requirements that would have to be met for construction on the floodplain.
    State and County regulations prohibit a project from increasing the 100-
    year flood elevations outside the project site. They also require that the
    lowest floor of any structure be at least 1 foot above the 100-year flood
    elevation, unless it is in the overall public interest for it to be otherwise. If
    a variance is granted and a basement is authorized, it must be
    waterproofed.

    The State and Prince George’s County required specific documentation
    before GSA could obtain approval to construct the foundation for the
    building. This documentation had to include the floodplain hydraulic
    calculations100-year floodplain evaluations of the impact of the
    construction on adjacent properties. The required documentation also had
    to show

•   that the first floor will be at least 1 foot above the 100-year flood elevation;
•   how the basement will be waterproofed;
•   how sump pumps and other drainage systems were to be used; and
•   that the building will be able to withstand the force of the water in event of
    a flood, i.e., it will not float up.

    After receiving the required documentation, MDE’s Water Management
    Administration issued an Authorization to Proceed (No. 97-NT-
    0711/199766248) on September 11, 1997, which permitted GSA to begin
    constructing the building foundation and to relocate existing utility lines.
    Citing the great public benefit from the project and the site constraints that
    prohibited a taller or wider building, MDE agreed to a variance permitting
    a basement below the 100-year flood elevation. However, MDE required
    that the basement be waterproofed to comply with MDE and FEMA
    regulations.

    On March 2, 1999, the final floodplain study, which presented the results of
    the hydraulic analysis to determine the effect the proposed building would
    have on the site, was submitted to MDE for review and approval. The
    engineering firm that did the study used the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’
    computer program, HEC-2, to calculate the flood elevations resulting from
    the new building and grading changes on the site. The study compared the
    existing and proposed conditions and stated the following:




    Page 7                               GAO/GGD-00-17 FDA’s New Facility in College Park, MD
                        B-283625




                        The elevations for the two conditions were compared to determine the effects of the
                        project. This comparison shows that the proposed FDA development would not have any
                        adverse impact on the flood elevations upstream of the site. The computations do indicate
                        that a slight increase (0.1 foot) in the 2-year flood elevation will occur at the downstream
                        end of the site. However, the computations indicate the increase would be dissipated
                        before the upstream end of the site. The 10- and 100-year flood elevations will be lower
                        slightly in some areas for proposed conditions, because the new building will be further
                        away from the stream than the existing building. With the building further away from the
                        stream, the area available to move the flow will increase, causing the flood elevations to
                        decrease.

                        MDE requested that the following three items be submitted to it for review
                        and comment before it would authorize the superstructure of the facility to
                        be built.

                      • Final HEC-2 backwater computations of the floodplain: these were to
                        include all new changes made to the floodplain due to the new FDA
                        facility. GSA advised us that this was submitted to MDE on March 2, 1999.
                      • Structural design calculations of the basement walls and foundations:
                        these were to show that the design took into account the additional
                        hydrostatic forces that would result when high water tables are
                        experienced. GSA advised us that the structural calculations were
                        submitted to MDE on August 9, 1999.
                      • Two sets of final signed construction plans: these were to indicate what
                        will be built on the site as well as what topographic changes will occur on
                        the site. GSA advised us that these construction plans were submitted to
                        MDE on August 27, 1999.

                        On September 7, 1999, MDE approved the construction of the
                        superstructure.

                        Computer operations are to be housed in the basement of the CFSAN
Computer Operations     facility. There are to be between 15 and 20 servers located in the basement,
Are to Be Housed in     along with other building support components—e.g., mechanical space,
the Basement of the     fitness center, health center, and laboratory storage. FDA officials
                        informed us that after an exhaustive review of the related constraints,
New CFSAN Facility      alternatives, and opportunities, the decision to locate the main computer
                        room in the basement of the new facility was reached by consensus of the
                        project team. This team consisted of the architect-engineering consultants
                        and representatives of GSA and FDA. The FDA representatives were
                        selected from FDA’s Division of Facilities Planning, Engineering and
                        Safety and from CFSAN, which is to occupy the new facility.




                        Page 8                              GAO/GGD-00-17 FDA’s New Facility in College Park, MD
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                       Every kind of data that CFSAN maintains could potentially be stored in
                       these computers. This would include data relating to all CFSAN programs,
                       such as premarket approval, research, industry surveillance, finance,
                       personnel, and any other data generated and/or used by CFSAN. If the
                       computers were damaged by a flood, FDA officials estimated that it would
                       cost about $4 million to replace and install the computers, peripherals,
                       network, and other computer-related equipment; load the software; and
                       retrieve and restore the data.

                       CFSAN currently backs up the data on its servers daily, with a copy
                       transferred to an off-site storage area on a weekly basis. CFSAN officials
                       told us that backup and off-site storage for the new facility will be
                       developed that are appropriate for the nature of the systems installed, the
                       data stored, and the risk factors at the time the new facility is occupied.

                       FDA officials told us that no matter where the computer room is located,
                       there is always the potential for water damage from internal sources. They
                       believe that with the steps that have been taken by the design team to
                       protect the building from an external flood, the likelihood of internal water
                       damage (e.g., broken pipe, leak in the roof, or accidental fire sprinkler
                       activation) will be greater than the likelihood of damage from a flood
                       condition.

                       The new facility will have several different, but complementary, systems to
Steps Have Been        mitigate damage from water entering the building. It has been designed
Taken to Protect the   and is being constructed essentially as a hull of a ship, with the top of the
Building From an       basement wall and waterproofing extending to the floor slab of the first
                       floor of the building, which is 1-1/2 feet above the 100-year floodplain level.
External Flood
                       Initially, the design team intended to construct a building of five stories
                       above grade with no basement. However, as the design process evolved
                       with involvement from the local communities, a height restriction of 84
                       feet was placed upon the site by the College Park-Riverdale Transit District
                       Development Plan for the area surrounding the College Park Airport. To
                       accommodate this limitation, the building program had to include a
                       basement.

                       GSA and FDA officials told us that if they could have obtained a waiver
                       from the height limitation and were able to build a five-story building, the
                       main computer room would have been located on the first floor. However,
                       because a basement was necessary, they felt the use of the basement space
                       for support areas was consistent with common building design practices,




                       Page 9                        GAO/GGD-00-17 FDA’s New Facility in College Park, MD
  B-283625




  met the needs of the program, and provided better control for the ambient
  temperature requirements of the computer room.

  The design team decided to give priority to window space for offices and
  laboratories. The design consultants and FDA officials told us that putting
  the computer operations on another floor higher up in the building would
  have forced program space, either offices or laboratories, into the much
  less desirable basement space with no windows. The design team
  explained that with the way the building has been designed, every
  laboratory and laboratory office will have the benefit of natural daylight.
  Half of the offices are to have direct natural light, and the other half are to
                                                       8
  receive indirect natural light through clerestories in the office corridor
  walls. They told us that they also considered physical security needs to
  ensure that the computers would not be vulnerable to vandalism or
  interference from outside sources.

  During our review, we visited the construction site near the end of the
  foundation construction phase of the project to observe how the basement
  was being constructed and verify that some of the design features we were
  told about had been incorporated into the facility. We also reviewed the
  final construction drawings and the specifications for the construction of
  the superstructure of the building to confirm that the plans included the
  systems and equipment we were told had been designed into the facility to
  mitigate the risk of water entering the building. This work verified that the
  following features have been built into the facility, or are included in the
  construction drawings and specifications to be used to complete the
  facility.

• The basement walls and floor slab have been constructed of reinforced
  concrete. The waterproofing system that has been installed creates a
  waterproof envelope under the basement slab and up the basement walls
  to protect the basement from water infiltration.
• The building has a complete underslab and perimeter drainage system to
  remove water coming up from below the structure, as well as water
  approaching the outside of the facility at ground level. The piping system
  installed to remove water terminates in a pumping station located outside
  the waterproofed basement and therefore will not bring groundwater into
  the building. Four pumps capable of pumping 500 gallons per minute each
  are to be installed in the pumping station. These pumps are to be
  sequenced to come on as the water inflow increases. The water is to be

  8
  A clerestory is that part of a building that rises above the roofs of the other parts of the building, with
  windows for admitting light to the central interior area.




  Page 10                                   GAO/GGD-00-17 FDA’s New Facility in College Park, MD
  B-283625




  discharged into the stream located to the south of the site. All pumps are
  to have emergency power backup in the event of a power failure.
• Additionally, the main mechanical room, also located in the basement, is 3-
  1/3 feet deeper than the rest of the basement floor, resulting in a very large
  retention area if a catastrophic event took place and water entered the
  building. Emergency drains are located about 1 inch above the depressed
  floor. These drains discharge into two sump pumps that discharge into the
  storm sewer in the parkway at the perimeter of the property. These pumps
  are also to be on emergency power.
• The computer room is to have a raised floor. The concrete slab
  constructed beneath the raised floor is depressed 12 inches below that
  portion of the basement outside the main mechanical room. Emergency
  floor drains have been provided in this depressed area that are connected
  to two sump pumps.
• Finally, the discharge pipes from all six of the sump pumps in the
  basement were designed to have check valves and alternate discharge
  pipes. Should flood waters rise above the level of the discharge pipes, the
  check valves would prevent this water from entering the pumps and divert
  the water from the sump pumps to the alternate discharge pipes, which
  discharge outside the building above the 100-year floodplain level.

  When we visited the construction site we also observed the structural
  system being installed to prevent the building from floating as a result of
                     9                                    10
  the buoyancy force caused by the hydrostatic pressure of flood waters.




  9
      The power of a fluid to exert an upward force on an object placed in it.
  10
       The pressure exerted by water on an object.




  Page 11                                     GAO/GGD-00-17 FDA’s New Facility in College Park, MD
                                             B-283625




Figure 2: Photographs of Construction Site




                                             Page 12    GAO/GGD-00-17 FDA’s New Facility in College Park, MD
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Source: GAO.




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                       FDA officials informed us that the decision on where to place the
Some CFSAN             computers was a part of the decision on the overall design and layout of
Employees Were         the building. The representatives from the design consultants told us that
Involved in Computer   this decision was made primarily by the design team on the basis of a
                       thorough analysis of specific program needs, workplace factors, security
Room Placement         requirements, and site constraints. The design team made
Decision               recommendations, which included the basement location for the
                       computers, to GSA, FDA, and CFSAN personnel for a decision. We were
                       told that a number of computer telecommunications personnel from
                       CFSAN and OIRM were involved in periodic meetings to plan the
                       telecommunications space needs in the new building and develop
                       telecommunication design guidelines with the telecommunications
                       consultant and were involved in the decision on the placement of the
                       computers.

                       FDA officials told us that some computer staff expressed concerns in
                       October 1997 about the placement of the computers. They said these
                       concerns were forwarded to GSA and to the design team. Also in October
                       1997, the telecommunications consultants gave CFSAN and OIRM officials
                       a copy of their College Park Design Guidance for Telecommunications
                       Infrastructure for comment. In December 1997, FDA provided comments.
                       CFSAN’s telecommunications representative expressed satisfaction that
                       all items noted in the review documents were discussed and either
                       clarified or modified for inclusion in a revised design for the
                       telecommunications infrastructure.

                       Further, FDA and CFSAN officials told us that the design of the new
                       facility was presented to representative groups of employees during the
                       design process, as well as to the National Treasury Employee’s Union
                       stewards from FDA. In March 1999, FDA initiated a series of employee
                       briefings on the new building. These briefings, we were told, were being
                       conducted for employees from one or more of CFSAN offices at each
                       session. They covered such topics as the basic design of the building; the
                       current status and schedule for completion; and features of interest to
                       employees, such as the food service area, library, auditorium, training
                       rooms, employee parking, layout of laboratories, and office sizes.

                       The Director of CFSAN said that the briefing sessions would continue until
                       all of the employees moving to the College Park building have had an
                       opportunity to attend a session. It is also planned that there will be some
                       mock-ups of laboratory and office designs. In addition, the Director of
                       CFSAN said that an e-mail address had been set up to which employees
                       can send questions concerning the new facility, and FDA’s Office of



                       Page 14                      GAO/GGD-00-17 FDA’s New Facility in College Park, MD
                      B-283625




                      Facilities has set up a Web page where progress is to be updated and
                      CFSAN photos are to be archived. He said that employees have access to
                      the Internet and can access this information. Further, once a month the
                      Director is holding 1-hour meetings with all interested employees who are
                      given the opportunity to raise questions and receive answers. A member of
                      the planning team for the College Park facility has been asked to attend
                      each of these latter meetings to answer any questions about the building
                      and move.

                      We provided copies of a draft of this report to the Administrator of General
Agency Comments and   Services and the FDA Commissioner for comment.
Our Evaluation
                      On December 1, 1999, we received oral comments from GSA’s National
                      Capital Region Assistant Regional Administrator for the Public Buildings
                      Service and from the Public Buildings Service’s Office of Portfolio
                      Management. They concurred with the report without further comment.

                      On December 2, 1999, we received oral comments from the Directors of
                      CFSAN and FDA’s Division of Facilities Planning, Engineering and Safety.
                      They concurred with the information as presented in the report and
                      provided some technical clarifications that we have incorporated where
                      appropriate.

                      We are sending copies of this report to Representative Robert E. Wise,
                      Ranking Democratic Member, House Subcommittee on Economic
                      Development, Public Buildings, Hazardous Materials and Pipeline
                      Transportation; Senator George V. Voinovich, Chairman, and Senator Max
                      S. Baucus, Ranking Minority Member, Senate Subcommittee on
                      Transportation and Infrastructure; Senator Paul S. Sarbanes; Senator
                      Barbara A. Mikulski; Representative Steny Hoyer; the Honorable David J.
                      Barrum, Administrator of General Services; and the Honorable Jane E.
                      Henney, Commissioner, FDA. Copies will be made available to others upon
                      request.




                      Page 15                      GAO/GGD-00-17 FDA’s New Facility in College Park, MD
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If you have any questions about this report, please call me or Ron King on
(202) 512-8387. A key contributor to this assignment was Shirley Bates.

Sincerely yours,




Bernard L. Ungar
Director, Government Business
  Operations Issues




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