Senate tentatively approves measure to allow Army Corps to manage Aurora and future VA hospital projects

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AURORA | The U.S. Senate tentatively adopted a measure Thursday that puts the Army Corps of Engineers in charge of all Department of Veterans Affairs construction projects costing more than $100 million.  

The legislation, an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2016,  is sponsored by Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner.

“This is a major reform to the VA’s construction management system – one that we hope will save taxpayer dollars and help more efficiently deliver the quality medical facilities our veterans have earned and deserve,” said Bennet, a Democrat, in a statement. 

Gardner said in a statement he has included a similar measure in the a larger VA reform bill he is sponsoring in the Senate.

Aurora Congressman Mike Coffman praised the amendment.

“As I’ve long said, the VA is not a construction entity, and their terrible track record in managing major construction projects is proof that they should not be in the business,” Coffman said in a statement. “I am very happy to see the U.S. Senate move legislation to get the VA out of managing major construction projects and will work to see this type of reform become law.”

Earlier this month, the senators also sponsored an amendment to the same defense act that instructs the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study on the administration and oversight of VA contracts for the design and construction of major medical facility projects, including the Aurora replacement hospital. 

Congress recently agreed to another short-term deal to avoid a work stoppage on the over-budget veterans hospital under construction in Aurora. The measure raised the project’s spending cap by $150 million, allowing work to continue until at least September.