Denham introduces bill to shed excess federal properties

Denham, who worked on a similar initiative on the state level, said the plan would “take politics out of the process, increase transparency and save billions of taxpayer dollars.” 

“Given our trillion-dollar deficit and skyrocketing debt we must examine every area of government and look for ways to cut spending,” he said in a statement.

The bill establishes a nine-person Civilian Property Realignment Commission, similar to the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) that closed more than 350 installations between 1989 and 2005, that would determine the fate of more than 12,000 federal properties. 

On Wednesday, the White House announced that President Obama is sending similar legislation to Congress this week to accelerate the clearance of excess federal properties off the government’s books.

Once properties are designated for sale, Congress would then take an up-or-down vote on whether to accept the board’s recommendations. Congress also has to approve creation of the board.

White House officials called the method “a proven approach to the process of dispensing with unused federal properties” although it’s the first time the process has been applied to civilian properties. 

Denham, whose bill is similar to the administration’s plan, first proposed a civilian BRAC commission in February while the president proposed a panel in his fiscal 2012 budget. 

In early April, Denham and the administration reached an agreement on his proposal to develop principles into bipartisan legislation.

Denham has said that any plan to reduce the number of properties should provide a way to consolidate the footprint of federal real estate, house more federal employees in less overall space, reduce the reliance on costly leased space, sell or redevelop high-value assets that are underutilized or too valuable for housing federal employees and dispose of surplus property more quickly.

Denham has gotten broad support from his subcommittee in the past when requesting a complete list of all federally controlled properties.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, expressed support for the overall plan to clear out excess property. 

“Getting rid of the federal property we don’t need and better managing the property we have so we spend fewer taxpayer dollars is a no-brainer, especially when we’re struggling to curb a massive federal deficit,” Carper said. I welcome the administration’s leadership in this area and will introduce legislation in the coming weeks that will include this initiative as part of a comprehensive plan to save money by better managing federal property.”

Carper said his panel will hold a hearing in June.  

The White House released a map on Wednesday with the locations of 14,000 excess federal properties, 12,000 domestic, in urban and rural areas that range from empty warehouses to underutilized office buildings. The Obama administration is seeking public input on buildings already listed and others that should be added.

The federal government owns and operates more than 1.2 million buildings costing about $20 billion a year to operate, he said.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg; we’re moving well beyond this list,” said Jeff Zients, the federal chief performance officer and the deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget during a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. 

A majority of the savings from the plan would go toward deficit reduction with the remainder used for investment improve efficiency in federal buildings. 

“The legislation provides a big opportunity to downsize the federal government’s footprint,” U.S. Controller Danny Werfel said during the call. 

Tags Tom Carper

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