GSA trying innovative approaches to disposing of real property

Wednesday - 6/19/2013, 6:11pm EDT

By Cogan Schneier
Special to Federal News Radio

The General Services Administration isn't waiting for Congress to act to improve how quickly it can dispose of unused or underutilized federal properties.

In his Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday before the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, GSA acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini said if confirmed, he's ready and willing to work with Congress to change the law governing disposal of federal property to make it less arduous.

"I think the three ingredients you need to cook anything up in Washington are there. You have a proposal from the administration, you have a version of the bill from the House and you have your own version of a bill here in the Senate," Tangherlini said. "So the question is can we work together going forward to coalesce around some basic principles. I think we all share the view that we need to more efficiently and effectively use these federal assets."

But in the meantime, Tangherlini told committee members that GSA is using its own office space as a test bed to maximize its use. Additionally, GSA is being creative in its approaches to dispose of other buildings in an attempt to reduce the federal footprint.

Tangherlini said agency has had multiple conversations with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and Office of Management and Budget policy officials about using federal buildings efficiently. He said an important aspect of doing so involved not only fully utilizing space, but also disposing of assets quickly when agencies are finished. He said GSA and Congress need to work together on such issues.

There also is a push for agencies to ensure no one else has the need for an asset before they dispose of it, as well as discerning whether an asset could be of use to the homeless. Tangherlini said that while he and others are continuing to work on legislation for these issues, there still is much that can be done under current authorities to dispose of assets quickly and thoughtfully.

As an example, Tangherlini pointed to GSA's recent request for proposals in cooperation with NASA, to lease out historic Hangar One, located at Moffett Field in California. According to the RFP, qualified entities would lease limited airfield use in exchange for badly needed renovations of Hangar One. Tangherlini said this is a case of working with the private sector.

"Here we're taking an asset that we can't afford to do the next bit of maintenance on, that isn't fully utilized, and we're asking the private sector if they could partner with us to get the historic preservation investment made," Tangherlini said.

GSA offered similar opportunity through a recent request for information (RFI) for the current FBI headquarters. GSA would like to look at the option to exchange the current headquarters, which cannot fully meet the needs of the FBI, for a new or partly new headquarters.

In addition to the efficient disposal of assets, Tangerhlini said GSA wants to minimize the federal footprint by maximizing the potential of office space. He said that the agency uses its own headquarters to exhibit modern techniques.

"As we've demonstrated in our own headquarters building, you can get nearly twice as many people into a standard federal office building by implementing more modern mobile office approaches," Tangherlini said.

These approaches include "hoteling," a system in which employees can rent desk space, as well as eliminating single offices and using more collaborative spaces. Tangherlini said that the GSA has reduced its footprint significantly, boasting 140 square foot per person; however, the openness and lighting in the office keep employees from feeling cramped.

Cogan Schneier is an intern with Federal News Radio

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