Bipartisan Group of Senators Introduce Legislation to Better Manage Federal Property

WASHINGTON – Today, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.), Ranking Member Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Committee Members Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and Mark Begich (D-Alaska) introduced important legislation that would assist federal agencies in improving the disposal and management of federal buildings and facilities. The Federal Real Property Asset Management Reform Act of 2013 would help facilitate the disposal of unneeded federal property and establish a framework for federal agencies to better manage existing space in a more cost-effective manner.

“It’s been clear to me and to others for a long time now that we can get better results and save taxpayer money by improving the way we manage federal property,” said Chairman Carper. “Excess and underutilized federal properties cost taxpayers billions of dollars each year in maintenance, security, and others costs. The good news is that we can solve this problem by taking some common sense steps to improve federal property management. The Federal Real Property Asset Management Reform Act of 2013 will help to reduce waste and inefficiency by requiring all federal agencies to not only maintain a comprehensive inventory of their properties, but to also take a hard look at which assets they actually need and which could be sold or put to better use. The unnecessary expenses associated with maintaining unneeded properties are the type of low hanging fruit that we need to go after in order to help reduce our federal deficit and ensure that our government is financially responsible. Fortunately, both Congress and the Obama Administration are united in their commitment to address this issue and I look forward to working with my colleagues to move this important bill forward.”

“Abandoned and underutilized federal properties serve little to no purpose for the government and taxpayers alike,” said Dr. Coburn.  “This bill provides the provisions necessary for agencies to liquidate such properties effectively.”

“We’re wasting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars each year on unnecessary federal property and maintenance costs, and that needs to stop,” said Senator Pryor. “This bill is a common-sense, bipartisan way we can cut our spending and secure our nation’s economic future.”

“Against a background of record deficits and debt, reforming the federal government’s bureaucratic real property procedures is a bipartisan no-brainer,” said Senator Portman.  “The government spends billions of dollars to maintain tens of thousands of excess or underutilized properties across the country.  This is an unnecessary drain on the public purse and we can realize major savings simply by speeding up the sale of surplus and excess property and subjecting costly government leases to greater scrutiny.”

“We need better management of our taxpayer dollars across our government agencies and this bill is a great first step to managing unneeded federal property,” said Senator Begich. “It’s crazy that the federal government is throwing away money on property we don’t even use which is why I’m grateful to Senators Carper, Coburn, Portman and Pryor for coming together in a bipartisan fashion to introduce this common sense bill which, instead of wasting dollars, will help us actually pay down our debt and deficit.”

The federal government currently owns over one million properties across the county, making it the largest property owner in the United States. In fact, every year since January 2003, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has placed real property management on its list of “high risk” government activities, citing long-standing problems with excess and underutilized property; deteriorating and aging facilities; unreliable property data; and a heavy reliance on costly leasing instead of ownership to meet new needs.

The Federal Real Property Asset Management Reform Act of 2013 would address vulnerabilities in current law by requiring agencies to continually evaluate their property needs and how they manage their current property inventory. Additionally, the bill establishes a pilot project to streamline the current federal real property disposal rules in order to achieve greater efficiencies within the existing disposal process.

The legislation comes on the heels of a 2013 Obama Administration policy directive that instructs federal agencies to develop plans to restrict the growth in office and warehouse inventories and encourages increased coordination between top managers charged with managing federal property. The Federal Real Property Asset Management Reform Act of 2013 would take the directive further and provide the direction agencies need to comprehensively review existing property and determine where the government can achieve cost savings.

Specifically, the Federal Real Property Asset Management Reform Act of 2013 would:

  • Require that each agency conduct an inventory of real property under its control, continuously survey its real property to identify excess and underutilized property, report any excess or underutilized property to the Administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Federal Real Property Council, and establish goals that will lead to a reduction of the agency’s excess and underutilized real property.
  • Establish the Federal Real Property Council (FRPC) and charge the Council with creating an annual asset management plan and establishing performance measures that will enable Congress to track progress in achieving real property goals government-wide. The membership of the FRPC will be comprised of senior real property officers from each executive agency, the Controller at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the GSA Administrator. The council will be chaired by the OMB Deputy Director for Management.
  • Require the GSA Administrator to establish and maintain a single database of all real property owned by federal agencies. The Administrator is required to make the database accessible to the public at no cost within three years after the date of enactment of this bill.
  • Require agencies with independent leasing authority to submit a detailed annual report describing its leases. Although GSA is responsible for leasing property on behalf of most federal agencies, some agencies have the power to enter into leases on their own.

Establish a pilot program to expedite the disposal of surplus properties. This will provide the Director of OMB the authorization to dispose of up to 200 properties each year with priority going to those properties that have the highest fair market value. Under the pilot program, GSA is reimbursed for the costs of identifying and preparing a property for disposal. Eighty percent of the proceeds of any sale of property will be returned to the Treasury for debt reduction while 18 percent or the share of proceeds otherwise authorized to be retained under law will be retained by the agency that owned the property, and the remaining 2 percent will be used to fund homeless assistance grants.