CBO to estimate cost of real property proposal

Friday - 5/6/2011, 6:57am EDT

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

The White House has gained a key supporter on Capitol Hill for its proposal to make it easier to get rid of excess federal civilian property.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is expected to ask the Congressional Budget Office Friday for an official cost estimate of the proposed Civilian Property Realignment Act.

"According to the administration, the legislation would allow the government to realize $15 billion in gross proceeds and other savings from the disposal of federal real property over a three year period, once the board has become fully operational," Issa wrote in a draft letter to CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf obtained by Federal News Radio. "Furthermore, the administration states that if enacted in an authorization bill, the legislation would reduce direct spending and if enacted as an appropriations bill, it would have no effect on the budget under the Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010 (PAYGO)."

The White House sent the legislative proposal Wednesday to lawmakers.

The administration claims its proposal would get rid of the three main obstacles for getting rid of the properties that agencies don't need. Of the red tape, Jeff Zients, the Office of Management and Budget's deputy director for management, said there are 20 different requirements agencies have to follow when they want to dispose of real estate.

"It doesn't make sense to use the same procedure when selling a small unused warehouse as you do when you sell a large downtown office building," Zients said during a conference call with reporters earlier this week.

The administration says the political process has also been an impediment to the disposal of unneeded real estate. Members of Congress, they argue, are not frequently eager to champion the selling off or demolition of federal property in their own districts.

OMB Director Jacob Lew issued a memo Wednesday as well establishing a Federal Real Property Advisory committee made up of four agency real property managers and four federal chief financial officers. It will be led by OMB Controller Danny Werfel and the General Services Administration.

OMB says civilian agencies have about 14,000 buildings and other facilities that are considered surplus, and another 55,000 that are considered underutilized. It costs taxpayers nearly $1.7 billion annually to operate underutilized federal buildings, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Issa is the third lawmaker to voice his support for the civilian version of the Defense Department's Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) program.

Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) and Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) also said they supported the White House's initiative to get rid of excess properties.

Issa's support is key because his committee has legislative jurisdiction over policies affecting federal civilian properties.

"Our mission is to deliver American taxpayers a more efficient, effective government and implementing a streamlined process to dispose of excess federal property is crucial to achieving that goal," said Issa in a release. "The federal government has struggled for decades to manage its civilian real property assets, so the administration's framework building off the proven Base Closure and Realignment Commission is welcome. As chairman of the committee with jurisdiction over federal civilian real property disposal, I look forward to working with all stakeholders to save taxpayers potentially billions of dollars through the sale of unneeded government buildings and land."

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