Sen. Carper Encouraged by Administration Initiative to Reduce Inventory of Federal Property; Plans to Introduce Legislation to Move Effort Forward

WASHINGTON – Today, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, applauded the Obama Administration’s announcement to streamline the portfolio and reduce the management cost of federal property. Sen. Carper plans to introduce legislation in the coming weeks to help achieve the cost savings goals set forth by the President in his budget proposal and in executive orders.

“I welcome today’s announcement by the Obama Administration,” said Sen. Carper. “For too long, federal property management has been on the Government Accountability Office’s high-risk list, in part due to the overwhelming number of underutilized and vacant facilities held by federal agencies. Clearly this is an area where the federal government gets better results for less money by reducing the amount of property we own and by better managing the property we keep. As our nation’s largest property owner and energy user, it is critical that agencies remain vigilant in identifying ways to improve the way federal property is managed. Unfortunately, our failure to effectively manage our assets and agencies’ tendency to hold on to property they no longer need costs us millions of dollars every year.”

“The Administration, as they have in several other key management areas, has begun to address these problems and some initial progress is being made toward improving federal property management,” continued Sen. Carper. “This is a good start, but I feel that we can do more. We need to try to effect a legislative solution so that we can handle real property in a way that makes sense and that does not cause us to continue to spend tremendous amounts of money maintaining buildings that we do not need, while giving agencies the tools and maybe sometimes the push they need to give taxpayers the kind of property management system that they expect and deserve. Moreover, we need to ensure the buildings we do need are the highest performing and most energy efficient possible in order to bring the greatest value for the taxpayer.”

“That’s why, in the coming weeks, I plan to introduce legislation that will help reach the cost savings outlined in President’s budget and help agencies meet the mandates and goals set out in the President’s various executive orders,” continued Sen. Carper. “My bill will streamline many of the rules in the current disposal process enabling agencies to sell property more quickly. Agencies would also be able to keep all of the sales proceeds and be reimbursed for their costs. In closing, the government has many excess and underutilized properties that cost billions of dollars each year to maintain. Despite efforts to reduce this inventory, multiple obstacles remain that preclude quick and easy solutions. Until these obstacles are overcome, this issue will remain high risk.”

According to the Federal Real Property Council, the federal government owned 429,000 buildings in fiscal year 2009. Of these assets, more than 55,000 were underutilized or vacant. Holding on to these properties costs taxpayers nearly $1.8 billion in annual operating expenses. In June 2010, President Obama issued a memorandum urging federal agencies to dispose of unneeded properties by establishing a new government-wide target of $3 billion in savings through disposals and other methods by the end of fiscal year 2012.

In fiscal year 2008, the federal government spent over $24.6 billion on energy and over $7 billion was spent on energy to operate federal buildings alone. In January 2010, President Obama issued a memorandum setting tough energy and carbon reduction goals for agencies, helping to map the path forward for a more sustainable federal government.

More recently, the President included language in the fiscal year 2012 budget request that creates a Civilian Property Realignment Board modeled after the Base Closing and Realignment Commissions charged with addressing military assets to further assist agencies in streamlining the federal real property disposal process.