Senate committee introduces bill to mark up real property legislation

Wednesday - 7/31/2013, 6:28am EDT

By Cogan Schneier
Special to Federal News Radio

Senate lawmakers are looking to improve the disposal and management of federal buildings and facilities after the process has been at issue for more than a decade and on the Government Accountability Office's "high risk" list.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee introduced legislation Monday that would help facilitate the disposal of unneeded federal property and provide a framework to help agencies manage existing property, a committee statement said.

"Excess and underutilized federal properties cost taxpayers billions of dollars each year in maintenance, security and others costs," said committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) in a statement. "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."

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.)

The committee will mark up the bill Wednesday as part of its business meeting that also will feature five other bills, including the GAO Improvement Act and the Security Clearance Oversight and Reform Enhancement Act.

In addition to Carper, the real property bill is co-authored by Ranking Member Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), and Sens. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska).

The legislation would establish a Federal Real Property Council to create an annual plan to manage federal assets and establish performance measures for the plan.

The act also would create a pilot program to speed up the disposal of unused properties, granting the Office of Management and Budget director the authorization to dispose of up to 200 properties a year.

Priority would go to properties with the highest market value, and 80 percent of proceeds would be returned to the Treasury for debt reduction. The agency that originally owned the property would retain 18 percent, and 2 percent would be used to fund homeless assistance grants.

Additionally, the bill would require agencies to pay more attention to which buildings they own. Agencies would need to conduct an inventory of real properties under their control. If agencies have independent leasing authority, they also would need to submit a detailed annual report describing the leases.

Under the bill, the GSA administrator also would be required to create and maintain a single database of all of the real property owned by federal agencies.

The statement said the legislation comes after a 2013 policy directive from the White House that instructed federal agencies to restrict their growth in office and warehouse inventories. The president's directive also encouraged more agencywide coordination between officials responsible for the management of federal property.

The House also has made efforts to reduce waste in real property management, including passing a "civilian BRAC" bill last year. This year, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved in July the Public Buildings Savings and Reform Act of 2013.

The Senate committee said the government currently owns more than 1 million properties across the country, making it the largest property owner in the United States. Real property management has been on GAO's "high risk" list since 2003.

Cogan Schneier is an intern for Federal News Radio

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