Rep. Barletta wants new rules for SESers under investigation

Thursday - 8/1/2013, 2:19pm EDT

Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.)

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By Cogan Schneier
Special to Federal News Radio

Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) is cosponsoring new bills that aim to increase government oversight while also decreasing the federal footprint.

Barletta, the chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Subcommittee, said the package of bills will impact the federal workforce, as well as reform the General Services Administration by increasing transparency and space utilization.

"It's going to make the agencies become more accountable, it's going to improve the management of federal property, it's going to strengthen the transparency and oversight and most importantly it's going save the tax payers money," Barletta said Wednesday on In Depth with Francis Rose. "What it will mean to the agencies, it will eliminate the independent leasing authorities of certain agencies outside the General Services Administration."

Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.)

Barletta is a cosponsor on the Government Employee Accountability Act, which House lawmakers recently bundled in with a host of bills affecting the federal workforce. The bill, H.R. 2579, would grant agencies the authority to fire employees in the Senior Executive Service if they are found to be engaging in misconduct. The bill also allows agencies to place SESers on unpaid leave while under investigation.

Barletta said there is a possibility for other legislators to add provisions to the bill that give employees appeal rights if they are terminated.

Another bill introduced by Barletta in July would create limits on space acquisitions for GSA and freeze the agency's current physical footprint. The Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management subcommittee oversees GSA.

The committee has been working to shrink the federal footprint, including putting pressure on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the agency's high utilization rate. The rate, or amount of office space per employee, grew from 195 square feet per person to 322 square feet in the past six years. The committee said NRC was moving too slowly to consolidate its more than 1.2 million square feet of office space.

Barletta said this was a costly abuse of the agency's authority. The bill, known as the Public Buildings Savings and Reform Act (H.R. 2612), would put stricter limits on agencies with independent leasing authorities.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee introduced similar legislation Monday.

Barletta said since becoming chairman, he already sees a stronger relationship between GSA and Congress. He said the committee's work with GSA Administrator Dan Tangherlini helped establish a baseline for measuring improvement.

"The key marker is to begin to shrink the [federal] footprint. We haven't been able to get information on the inventory, and [Tangherlini] has been able to get the information," Barletta said. "Although, it was not good news because in fact the opposite was happening. We weren't shrinking the footprint of the federal government, it was actually increasing. But, by now having that information, we now have a baseline, something that we can work with, to see if in fact the federal government is shrinking that footprint. That's one of the guidelines that I believe will be the benchmark of whether or not we're successful or not."

GSA also is working internally to shrink their footprint. The agency announced in a statement Wednesday it is seeking ideas from the real estate industry for exchanging the Metro West Federal facility in Baltimore.

The agency said in a statement that it's issuing a request for information (RFI) to exchange the building for repairs and construction on other federal buildings.

The RFI will open on Aug. 8, and members of the real estate industry will have 45 days to give input.

Barletta said he has worked with both GSA and the private sector to look at innovative ways to cut costs. He said saving money does not always mean agencies have to cut programs or employees and can often mean just moving into smaller spaces.

Cogan Schneier is an intern for Federal News Radio.

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