Reason: The Federal Government Spent $3.3 Billion on Office Furniture as Employees Worked From Home 126_Reason_-_furniture

October 5, 2023 01:25 PM



By Joe Lancaster | Published at

More than three years since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, it appears that working from home is here to stay. A March 2023 Pew Research survey noted that of all Americans who have the option, more than one-third work entirely remotely—a fivefold increase from pre-pandemic levels. Another 41 percent work a hybrid schedule of both remote and in-person work, an increase from 35 percent in January 2022.

Federal employees are no different: According to a November 2022 survey, one-third of federal employees work entirely remotely while 60 percent work a hybrid schedule; most of the hybrid group go into the office one day per week and work remotely the other four days.

So why, then, is the federal government still spending billions of dollars on office furniture?

According to a new report by the government watchdog organization, the federal government has spent $3.3 billion on office furniture since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The report found "no material difference in the amount federal agencies collectively spent on office furniture between the years 2018 and 2022." In fact, the government spent considerably less in 2018 than in any of the subsequent four years.

July 2023 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) surveyed the 24 federal agencies that occupy most of the federal government's buildings. It found that 17 out of the 24 agencies "used an estimated average 25 percent or less of their headquarters buildings' capacity in a three-week sample period across January, February, and March of 2023."

In fact, none of the agencies surveyed—which included the Departments of Defense, Commerce, State, Justice, Homeland Security, and the Treasury, among others—used more than 49 percent of their capacity in an average week.

The GAO report notes that none of the surveyed agencies have returned to pre-pandemic staffing levels and have instead embraced the hybrid model. The situation presents a cost-saving opportunity, according to the report, as "the federal government retains more space than it needs" and did so even prior to the pandemic.

Not that the government seems to be paying attention. Using the GAO report's ranges, compared expenditures on office furniture with the agencies' respective levels of in-person staffing. In one example, despite only using around 9 percent of its office space, found that the Department of Agriculture spent almost $57 million on furniture between 2020–22. The General Services Administration—which manages federally owned buildings, including the purchase of office furniture—also uses only around 9 percent of its total office space, and yet it spent $308 million on furniture.

The biggest pandemic purchaser was the Department of Defense, which spent $1.2 billion on furniture although it only uses 23 percent of the space at its administrative headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, according to

"Most federal headquarters are barely a quarter full on a given workday, and no major agency is at more than half capacity," founder and CEO Adam Andrzejewski said in a statement. "Yet for some reason we've bankrolled [billions of] dollars in desks, chairs, couches and more – while employees clock in from their own living rooms."

Government furniture scandals are nothing new: In 2017, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) spent over $31,000 on a dining room set for Secretary Ben Carson's office. The HUD inspector general later reported that it "did not find sufficient evidence to substantiate allegations of misconduct" as Carson canceled the expenditure once it was reported in the media.

In 2018, the West Virginia House of Delegates impeached members of the state's Supreme Court of Appeals over lavish spending of state funds. The justices reportedly spent more than $3 million on furnishings and renovations as the struggling state made tens of millions of dollars in budget cuts. One justice in particular spent over $500,000, including $28,000 on rugs; another spent $32,000 on a blue suede sectional sofa.


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