3:11 PM EST

Corrine Brown, D-FL 5th

Ms. BROWN of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I want to thank the chairman for his fair and even leadership on this committee. While we don't agree on all issues, I feel he has made an effort to allow all voices to be heard, and for that I want to thank him. I thank the chairman for bringing this important legislation to our attention.

As we have seen by recent events, the VA has been challenged with major construction projects. Before they undertook the most recent medical center construction projects, it had been at least 15 years since a new medical center had been built.

This lack of experience showed and continues to show today. Not one of the major hospitals is on its original timeline. However, the VA has demonstrated they are able to do small, less complicated projects on time and under budget.

The bill also references ``a non-department Federal entity to provide full project management services for the super construction project, including management over the project design, acquisition, construction, and contract changes.''

We all know from experience that there is only one Federal entity that fits that description, and that is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

For those projects that have not broken ground yet, the VA and the Corps of Engineers are already working on plans to include the Corps in the planning and construction of major projects over $100 million. [Page: H603]

I continue to believe that the threshold for a super construction project should be at least $250 million. As a member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, I know how busy the Army Corps is in responding to the projects that the committee requires them to complete. It is important that they do not get bogged down with projects of insufficient complexity. I will continue to watch the construction process and follow the complexity issue to determine if the threshold needs to be

increased in the future.

I am pleased this legislation also includes an assistant inspector general for construction. Oversight of the projects needs a person who has the expertise to evaluate the complexity of VA's ongoing construction projects.

I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this legislation.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

3:13 PM EST

Jeff Miller, R-FL 1st

Mr. MILLER of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Colorado (Mr. Coffman), my good friend, a member of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, and somebody who has been on this from the very, very beginning.

3:14 PM EST

Mike Coffman, R-CO 6th

Mr. COFFMAN. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the Construction Reform Act of 2016, an important piece of legislation that will further reform VA's severely troubled major construction program.

For decades, the Government Accountability Office has documented hundreds of millions of dollars in cost overruns on mismanaged VA major construction projects. GAO reports from 1981, 1993, 2009, and 2013 all reflect a stunning degree of bureaucratic incompetence in VA's construction management. In my own district, a single VA hospital project is over $1 billion over budget, and years behind schedule.

VA's construction failures represent billions of wasted tax dollars that should have gone towards VA's core mission: taking care of our Nation's veterans.

[Time: 15:15]

Since 2012, the House Veterans' Affairs Committee has conducted at least six separate hearings exploring the VA's construction failures, and this bill's reforms incorporate many of the committee's findings.

First, it forces the VA to leave hospital construction to the experts--to Federal construction managers like the Army Corps of Engineers. In fact, the contractor on the troubled Aurora, Colorado, project demanded that the Army Corps of Engineers take over the project from the VA before they returned to work on the project.

Previously, in 2014, the House unanimously passed my legislation, which required the Army Corps to take over the VA's most troubled projects, including the project in Aurora. I am pleased that my colleagues in both the House and the Senate are now fully supportive of this transfer of authority.

Second, this bill introduces a much-needed improvement over the contract change order process. The GAO and the Veterans' Affairs Committee identified the VA's inept change order management as a major driver of both cost increases and project delays.

Third, the bill creates a new, independent assistant inspector general for construction who would be required to report directly to Congress when significant construction problems have been discovered.