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GAO: FDA's White Oak Campus Poses Security Risk

Posted 09 January 2017 | By Michael Mezher 

GAO: FDA's White Oak Campus Poses Security Risk

According to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), parking and cramped offices at the US Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) White Oak campus in Maryland pose a security risk for the agency.

In its report, GAO calls on FDA to implement a parking security system in line with the Department of Homeland Security's Interagency Security Committee standards for high risk facilities. The report also calls on the agency to work with the General Services Administration (GSA) to more explicitly link its facilities planning to the its strategic mission.


In 1990, Congress passed the FDA Revitalization Act, which required the agency to consolidate its numerous offices and laboratories to a consolidated facility.

This eventually led to the ongoing development of FDA's White Oak campus, which serves as the agency's headquarters and consolidated campus.

Currently, the campus houses more than 10,500 FDA staff and contractors, far more than the 8,889 included in agency's 2009 master plan, and not accounting for two uncompleted buildings expected to house nearly 600 personnel.

Parking and Security

Additionally, due to FDA and GSA's choice to prioritize the construction of laboratories over other structures, two parking garages, which would account for more than half (51%) of the 6,926 planned parking spaces at the campus have not been built. Instead, FDA has relied on temporary parking lots, which bring its total parking space deficit to around 940 spaces.

Figure 1. FDA White Oak Campus With Unconstructed Buildings as of 2016

FDA White Oak Campus Map

"Due to concerns about managing traffic and parking, FDA has faced challenges implementing the required vehicle separation system and controlling visitor access to parking," GAO writes, adding that "In absence of these recommended security features, FDA is not in compliance with guidance and may put the campus at risk."

These security features include barriers around parking areas, card access gates, and separated visitor and employee parking areas.

According to GAO, FDA officials say they plan to institute these systems in the near future, but do not have any specific plans in place to do so.

Space Management

The GAO report also finds that FDA is experiencing growing pains at the White Oak campus due to the growth in staff over the figure expected in the 2009 master plan.

As a result of space constraints, FDA has resorted to relocating an office that had been relocated to White Oak to leased space, and has delayed bringing the majority of staff from the Office of Regulatory Affairs to White Oak.

Furthermore, GAO says that FDA has implemented "alternative office strategies, such as desk sharing, office sharing, and hoteling," and has even placed cubicles in building lobbies to accommodate more staff.

These measures, according to FDA staff that GAO interviewed for its report, pose challenges for staff dealing with sensitive or proprietary information.


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