When it comes to keeping track of facilities in what is essentially a nationwide school district, the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) knows what its right hand and left hand are doing. That’s impressive because the right hand might well be completing a school roofing project in Perry, Maine, minutes from the Canadian border, while the left hand could be building a new school on Lummi Peninsula in Washington, also just minutes from the Canadian border — but a continent apart.

What has linked together BIA’s 7,465 buildings at 350 locations in 26 states (including 186 elementary and high schools and two colleges) is the Facilities Management Information System (FMIS), a client-server system that is the life-cycle management tool assisting national, as well as location, facility managers across Indian Country. FMIS supports everything from planning construction to eventual demolition. During the past several years, the BIA has maintained asset data in FMIS for hundreds of locations that profiles ongoing projects, as well as condition, operating and maintenance needs for thousands of buildings. Instead of using manual work planning methods, BIA facility managers are now developing and tracking their annual operations and maintenance work plans in FMIS. This includes such day-to-day activities as providing scheduled preventive maintenance, unscheduled maintenance, grounds maintenance, operational services, and operational and utility expenses. They are also tracking in-house staffing levels, outsourcing or contracting services and needed supplies, equipment and materials. For BIA management, FMIS is proving to be an integrated tool for describing the complete facilities management picture, which begins with an accurate inventory and the current condition of that inventory.

“A critical component of this system is to maintain a good sense of the condition of all our facilities, and we have that now resident in FMIS,” says Boyd Robinson, deputy director of the BIA’s Office of Facilities Management and Construction (OFMC).“We are now poised to take that capability to the next level of excellence.”

The next level will be to use FMIS in creating an Asset Management Plan for the entire BIA, which will contribute to the overall OMB and Department of the Interior Asset Management Plan. The Bureau is prioritizing its facilities repair, new construction and demolition plans using a Facilities Construction Index (FCI). In addition, a programmatic assessment indices called the Asset Priority Index (API) has been added this year. With this move to comprehensive asset management, the BIA is seeking to ensure that its real property asset decisions are coordinated between facilities management and major BIA program missions. The end result will be that overall asset decisions will result in better support of BIA and Department of the Interior mission and strategic goals.

Recently, critical government reports on the conditions of detention centers across Indian Country resulted in a refocus of BIA facilities priorities in order to remediate serious operations and maintenance problems in the jails. “Remediation was effective because we had an asset management system to closely monitor restoration of the conditions of these facilities throughout the BIA,” says Robinson. “Before, the squeaky wheel would have gotten the grease while needed repairs and maintenance for lower profile programs would be given a lesser priority.” Through FMIS, BIA now has automated tracking of facility conditions based on program officials’ input. This allows management to participate in deciding whether further investing in these facilities will support the BIA’s mission and the achievement of the BIA’s strategic goals.

FMIS is highly valued and recognized by the Facility Management Programs within the Department of Interior as an innovative, practical and comprehensive information system. The FMIS program development and implementation team was primarily staffed with innovative, skilled and visionary Native American professional and technical men and women for tribes in every corner of Indian Country. As a result, many of the business practices/processes, functionality and development strategies used in FMIS set standards that provide a system that is well received and used by field personnel. OFMC is ahead of its peers in developing the FMIS management tool, which has been designed to meet the needs of BIA, Tribes, Education, Law Enforcement, Administrative Programs, Contract, Compact and Grant Facilities Programs for many years to come.

In the future, FMIS will be aligned with the Department of the Interior’s Federal Business Management System and its enterprise real property and facilities maintenance management applications. But since managing assets in Indian Country is often a unique enterprise — such as the requirement to provide stewardship of tribally owned assets and their effect on operations and maintenance formulas — the transition and migration of function is being carefully approached.

FMIS is BIA-owned software that was developed to provide 100 percent support for current and future business practices and processes for the BIA and Tribal Facilities Management Programs. FMIS has been fully operational at BIA/OFMC for the past four years. It is a modern information system that replaced an outdated and rigid database system. Developed by BIA, FMIS has been designed to improve management and planning, and provide tracking of construction, repairs, operations and maintenance, as well as dispose of assets. It provides concise, organized information to assist its users in making value-based decisions for improved project planning and management. It is used by the BIA and Tribal staff to administer and manage the entire BIA Facilities Management Program.

FMIS currently includes capabilities for collecting and reporting on data related to Inventory, Backlog, Operations & Maintenance Formula, Budget, Work Planning, Work Tickets, Project Management and Environmental Compliance service. In addition, the system continues to grow to meet the changing needs of the bureau, and is enhanced as new financial, industry, legal, regulatory and programmatic requirements impact the BIA Facilities Management, Safety Management and Environmental Management programs.

The Facilities Management Information System also provides for linking and download capabilities for other federal and departmental systems, such as FFS, FFS-Fixed Assets and GIS, as well as other commercial software, such as R.S. Means (Industry Standard) Cost Estimating and Microsoft Project, enabling it to be easily expanded as customer and BIA Facilities Management Program needs change through time. FMIS improvements and functionalities are being enhanced to meet or exceed standards set by the new departmental MMS Enterprise and Financial Business Management Systems.

FMIS improves accountability and management capabilities for local facilities managers. It identifies accurate and comprehensive funding needs for construction, operations and maintenance, and provides an improved cost estimating process that aligns with Industry standards. FMIS establishes equitable funding allocation levels based on each site’s inventory and backlog and provides prioritization and ranking capabilities for preventive and deferred maintenance projects. It provides historical construction, repair and maintenance data for planning and improves the capabilities for monitoring of new construction and facilities improvement and repair projects. The FMIS “cuff account” module tracks level of commitments, obligations and expenditures. It improves project capitalization and cost estimating that conforms with industry standards, and it allows for inflation indexing for inventory assets replacement. And, of course, it provides comprehensive reports detailing this data for every level of the organization.

A Facilities Management Systems Partnership and Asset Management Partnership was chartered in November 1999 as a forum for the bureaus and DOI to coordinate the development and use of facilities management systems and programs. These systems are important program tools for improvement of the overall condition of the constructed assets, better allocation and utilization of the limited resources dedicated to maintaining those assets, and submission of accurate and timely information to the DOI Office of Management and Budget, the Congress, and the public.

FMIS supports the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) concept of performance-based budgeting, performance measurement in facilities management are to be anchored to inventory and condition assessment data. Budget formulation, allocation and execution will influence a change in asset condition. The capability to measure that change, particularly by specific asset category, is essential for reporting accomplishments in the year end GPRA report and applicable FASAB requirements.

DOI has chosen condition assessments as the primary method to be used for determining the deferred maintenance for each class of constructed asset. To ensure that the most critical needs are being addressed, a complete inventory of the bureau’s constructed assets is stored in the FMIS, identifying the cost of correcting each deferred maintenance and capital improvement need associated with those assets. In addition, accumulation of facility data stored in FMIS provides the necessary information for compliance with the Federal Accounting Standard that requires annual reporting of deferred maintenance of fixed assets. This type of assessment is an effective way of evaluating the success of the five year planning effort. Using the data collected, an accurate evaluation can be made of the bureau's asset conditions and whether conditions are improving or declining — a critical part of the bureau’s mission.

A multiyear effort, which began in FY 2000 for the bureaus in DOI to accomplish complete condition assessments on all of their constructed assets, has been led by the BIA. The process of cyclic condition assessments will greatly improve the quality and effectiveness of the Five Year Plans as annual updates are made with better and better asset data.

Mark Hopwood Hopwood has been a communications contractor with the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Office of Facilities Management and Construction since 2000.