Bipartisan legislation in the Senate aims to streamline the elimination of excess federal properties by setting up a council within agencies and the Office of Management and Budget and creating government-wide property disposal goals.
The Federal Real Property Asset Management Reform Act of 2012 or S.2178 would put proceeds from the sale of unneeded properties toward reducing the deficit.
“With concerns over the implications of our deficit and national debt mounting, eliminating waste and achieving cost savings in this area must be a top priority,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), one of the bill’s sponsors, in a statement.
Fellow sponsors are Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska).
In fiscal 2009, 24 federal agencies reported they had more than 14,000 excess and 45,000 underutilized buildings that cost more than $1.7 billion annually to operate, according to Carper’s statement.
The Senate bill differs from a House bill and an administration plan in that the Senate’s version establishes a Federal Real Property Council within OMB. Meanwhile, the House bill that passed Feb. 7 would create an independent commission similar to the military’s Base Realignment and Closure commission which made recommendations to Congress. Like the House bill, the administration plan creates an independent panel, but the White House has criticized the House proposal for not giving the commission enough authority.
The review council under the Senate bill would consist of senior real property officers, with the OMB deputy director for management as the council’s chairperson. Congressional approval would still be needed.
“Having a centralized decision-making body in place will better equip agencies to make decisions about property planning, acquisition, use, maintenance, and disposal,” according to a release from Carper’s office.
In an April 2011 subcommittee hearing in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, lawmakers were skeptical of OMB’s role in identifying unneeded federal properties.
The Senate bill also:
Requires agencies to justify leasing over owning properties.
Requires agencies to dispose of surplus properties within two years of the bill’s passage.
Sets investment of proceeds from sales at 80 percent to Treasury, 18 percent for property management and disposal activities, and 2 percent for homeless assistance grants.
Requires agencies with independent leasing authority to get congressional approval for high-cost leases.