The Department occupies more than 3,000 government-owned or long-term leased real properties at more than 260 overseas locations. It uses a condition assessment survey method to evaluate the asset’s condition, and determine the repair and maintenance requirements for its overseas buildings
SFFAS No. 6, Accounting for Property, Plant, and Equipment, requires that deferred maintenance (measured using the condition survey method) and the description of the requirements or standards for acceptable operating condition be disclosed. Fundamentally, the Department considers all of its overseas facilities to be in an “acceptable condition” in that they serve their required mission. Adopting standard criteria for a classification of acceptable condition is difficult due to the complex environment in which the Department operates.
From a budgetary perspective, funding for maintenance and repair has been insufficient in the past. As a result, the Department has identified current maintenance and repair backlog of $137 million and $152 million in 2008 and 2007 for buildings and facilities-related equipment and heritage assets that have not been funded.
A mother polar bear and her cubs rest on the frozen tundra near Canada’s Hudson Bay. An important aspect of U.S. foreign policy is our commitment to scientific inquiry and education, and attention to polar regions. The Department is involved in many initiatives including International Polar Year, running from March 2007 to March 2009, which serves to focus attention on this fascinating and beautiful region.
The first International Polar Year was launched in 1881. The polar scientists and explorers of 126 years ago, representing a dozen or so nations, provided detailed scientific information that we still use today. They demonstrated early on how science can bring people of many nations together, and how international cooperation advances scientific knowledge. This spirit of cooperation still holds true in the polar regions in our time. Researchers from over 60 nations are working together to further our understanding of the interdependency of land, oceans, and atmosphere.
Many U.S. agencies are involved in this effort. The Department coordinates federal policy with respect to the Arctic and Antarctic, and heads U.S. delegations to international fora such as the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting, the Commission on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, and the Arctic Council. We are focused on four areas: general international scientific cooperation, health, energy and indigenous groups. For example, marine science forms an important component of the International Polar Year, and our vessel clearance program ensures that marine scientific research by U.S. entities can take place in foreign Arctic waters, and vice versa.
The U.S. Government has invested considerable effort and resources in projects related to the polar regions-over $350 million per year-and we are excited about International Polar Year. For more information, see the International Polar Year website at: www.ipy.org. AFP Photo/Paul J. Richards