VA Construction Chief Retires Amid $1 Billion Boondoggle

Phoenix VA Health Care Center
The Phoenix VA Health Care Center / AP
March 25, 2015

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ top construction official retired Wednesday with a full federal pension amidst calls from Congress for his firing due to massive cost overruns on VA construction projects.

Glenn Haggstrom, the head of the VA's Office of Acquisition, Logistics and Construction, announced his resignation, effectively immediately, the Associated Press reported. The VA told the AP Haggstrom was not available for comment, as he was no longer an employee.

The Washington Post reported last week that cost estimates for a Colorado VA medical center under construction had ballooned from $328 million to $1.73 billion.

"The situation regarding the construction of a replacement VA medical center in Aurora, Colorado is unacceptable to Veterans, taxpayers and Department leadership," the VA said in a statement.

According to the VA, Haggstrom had recently been relieved of his duties and was under an internal investigation into delays and cost overruns.

The huge price tag led House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Jeff Miller (R., Fla.) to call for Haggstrom’s firing. In a statement Wednesday, Miller lamented the fact that Haggstrom will leave with a full federal pension.

"Though Glenn Haggstrom may have tried to do a good job at VA, he certainly did not succeed," Miller said. "What’s most disappointing about this situation, however, is that Haggstrom left on his own terms—with a lifetime pension—even though any reasonable person would conclude that he should have been fired years ago. VA’s entire construction program is a disaster and has been for years."

Sen. Michael Bennet (D., Colo.) said, "We've called for the VA to hold those responsible for the years of gross mismanagement of the new regional hospital accountable and are glad to see it finally doing so."

The Government Accountability Office released a 2013 report on VA contracting that found cost overruns at four projects, including the Colorado hospital, that amounted to $1.5 billion total.

Despite the cost overruns, The VA paid Haggstrom nearly $54,000 in bonuses between 2009 and 2011.

Correction: This post and headline has been updated to note that Haggstrom retired, rather than resigned.

Published under: Veterans Affairs