Senate bill would force agencies to dump unused buildings

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The bill will require the General Services Administration to maintain a publicly available inventory of all the properties owned by federal agencies and make the agencies review which are underutilized and redundant. It would also set up a pilot program to make it easier for agencies to dispose of unwanted property.


Eighty percent of the profits from the sale of unused properties in the pilot program would go to paying down the debt, while the rest would be directed toward both the agency that owned the property and homeless assistance grants.

“Against a background of record deficits and debt, reforming the federal government’s bureaucratic real property procedures is a bipartisan no-brainer,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said in a statement.

“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,” he added.

The federal government owns more than 1 million different properties across the country, many of which are unused or poorly managed.

Most property is owned or leased by the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, the Postal Service and the General Services Administration.

For 10 years, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has consistently said that poor management of federally owned properties was a “high risk” issue for the government.

For fiscal 2009, the GAO reported that 24 federal agencies operated more than 45,00 underutilized buildings that cost $1.66 billion to operate each year. 

In its report on the issue this year, the agency found that the government owns more property than it needs and leases property in areas where it already owns property.

“The federal government holds excess and underutilized property, relies extensively on costly leasing practices, and faces numerous challenges in securing real property,” the GAO concluded.

The problem has been a consistent difficulty across administrations. President Obama has repeatedly targeted unused properties as part of an effort to reduce waste and cut red tape.

In addition to Portman and Carper, Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska) are also introducing the bill.