Defence real estate plan poorly explained

The Ministry of Defence’s Strategic Real Estate Plan (SVP) is intended to put an end to long-lasting problems regarding the management and maintenance of Dutch barracks, training areas, offices, ammunition storage sites and air bases. The SVP provides for the transfer of ownership of all the ministry’s real estate to the Central Government Real Estate Agency (RVB). However, the government has not explained how this alternative will improve real estate management and maintenance. The RVB currently provides management services for the ministry’s real estate but it has been unable to maintain the real estate to a satisfactory standard in recent years, partly because of lack of capacity. Furthermore, there is no integrated plan on what real estate should be retained and what should be disposed.

Management of the ministry’s real estate, valued at approximately €25 billion, has been problematic for some time. This not only harbours risks for personnel and equipment but can also frustrate the recruitment and retention of staff. Since 2019, the Court of Audit has concluded that inadequate funding has exacerbated maintenance arrears and led to more problems. The 2020 and 2021 Accountability Audits qualified Defence real estate management as a ‘serious shortcoming’. At the end of last year, the State Secretary for Defence announced that the problems would be addressed by means of a strategic real estate plan.

No reason given for transfer to RVB

The state secretary has proposed the transfer of all the ministry’s real estate to the RVB. The RVB would then be responsible for providing all real estate services to the Defence organisation and the army. This is just one potential solution to the problem; the state secretary has not explored other options for the House of Representatives. Nor has he given reasons for his preferred solution. Within the ministry, opinions on this option are very divided.

Too little capacity at RVB

The RVB has already indicated that finding the personnel capacity necessary to carry out the SVP will be a major challenge for both the organisation and the market. The ramifications of this for the implementation of the SVP are uncertain. 

No integrated plan on the retention and disposal of real estate

The state secretary has decided not to include an integrated plan in the SVP that sets out what real estate should be retained or what should be disposed. The reason for this, according to the state secretary, is that he wants to respond flexibly to changing circumstances. In the Court of Audit’s opinion, there is a risk that the House of Representatives will not have a full understanding of the intended outcome or of the costs and benefits.

The letter is only available in Dutch.