OMB sets up real property advisory committee

Thursday - 5/5/2011, 12:36pm EDT

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

While Congress works on the law to create a new commission to dispose of excess federal civilian agency property, the Office of Management and Budget is getting a jumpstart on the process.

OMB Director Jack Lew issued a memo to agencies yesterday setting up a new Real Property Advisory Committee that will stay in place until the end of fiscal 2015.

"The committee will consist of three senior real property officers and four chief financial officers from major agencies," Lew wrote in the memo. "The committee members will be selected by the OMB Controller [Danny Werfel]. The committee will work closely with the OMB Controller and the Administrator of the General Services Administration to identify short-and long-term opportunities to realign and consolidate the real property inventory by looking across agency portfolios and multiple governmentwide initiatives that impact our real estate needs."

The memo comes on the heels of the White House sending a legislative proposal to Congress Wednesday to revamp the process by which agencies get rid of surplus real property.

The proposal already is gaining support on Capitol Hill. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), who is the chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure's subcommittee on public buildings, said in a statement Wednesday that the proposal appears to be a good first step. He introduced the Civilian Property Realignment Act (CPRA), H.R. 1734, today. He said he intends move the bill through Congress quickly and plans to hold a hearing on the legislation soon.

"I believe the potential to save billions of dollars is real," Denham said in a release. "Given our trillion dollar deficit and skyrocketing debt we must examine every area of government and look for ways to cut spending. My bill establishes a nine person Civilian Property Realignment Commission to take politics out of the process, increase transparency and save billions of taxpayer dollars."

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), who sits on the transportation and infrastructure committee, also praised the measure. Carper plans to introduce his version of the legislation soon as well.

In the meantime, OMB wants the real property committee to follow three basic principles:

  • Spending on inefficient real property is no longer an option. Lew wrote that Improving the management of the federally-owned property inventory could yield billions in disposal proceeds and reduced costs as well by avoiding paying millions of dollars for leased facilities by utilizing consolidation, co-location, and alternative work schedule strategies.

  • New technologies have changed how agencies work. As a result of the Telework Enhancement Act and in response to administration policy, more federal workers will be able to tap mobile technologies to work from any location to improve productivity, assure continuity of operations, and respond to the changing needs of the workforce. Lew wrote that the advances in telework and technology creates a different requirement for the federal workspace, such as "hoteling" options stations with laptop hookups.

  • Better management of real property helps achieve the government's sustainability goals. Lew said reducing the amount of space needed for workers and reducing federal workers' commute times can make a significant positive impact on the government's environmental impact.

The committee will make recommendations to OMB and provide research and analysis for the 2012 budget proposal.

Lew didn't say when the committee would be in place.

"The success of the committee and its mission will require agencies' cooperation," he wrote. "In particular, we expect that agencies will be open and forthcoming with their data, analyses, and management approaches for their real property. Agencies should also consider providing employees on detail to work with the committee in executing its mission. For its part, we expect that the committee will operate impartially and with due consideration to agency concerns and challenges."

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