Issa threatens subpoena over real property data

Tuesday - 3/25/2014, 5:07pm EDT

Top-ranking Republican members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee say they are considering compelling the Office of Management and Budget to hand over documents related to excess or unused federal properties.

Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chairman of the oversight committee, and John Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the Government Operations subcommittee, want OMB to provide data to the committee on excess federal properties valued at $50 million or more.

The committee has been seeking this information for more than two years, "yet these requests have consistently gone unfulfilled," Issa and Mica wrote in a March 24 letter to OMB Director Sylvia Burwell.

The lawmakers now say they're considering subpoenaing the agency for the documents.

"Should OMB continue to ignore the committee's requests, we will have no alternative but to consider the use of compulsory process to obtain the requested documents and information," the letter stated.

Committee has asked for data since 2011

In each of the last two years, the oversight committee has approved legislation making it easier to offload underutilized federal buildings from the books. The Excess Federal Buildings and Property Disposal Act, sponsored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), would create a five-year pilot program to expedite the disposal of the federal government's 15 highest value excess properties.

But the Office of Management and Budget has refused to hand over any information on what those properties are, according to Issa and Mica's letter.

That data should be kept in the Federal Real Property Profile, a database of buildings owned by the feds maintained by the General Services Administration. But despite repeated requests from Issa's committee dating back to December 2011, OMB hasn't turned over the requested information, the March 24 letter stated.

In a January 2012 letter to the committee, then acting OMB Director Jeff Zients said the agency was "prepared to transmit to the committee a data file" that would include data on high-value surplus federal properties. But the information was never provided, Issa said. Committee staff followed up with OMB twice in May 2012 and once again in November of that year — all to no avail, Issa said in the letter.

OMB spokesman Frank Benenati told Federal News Radio OMB is reviewing the letter and would respond accordingly.

Competing proposals on Capitol Hill

The Obama administration, meanwhile, has pushed for a competing proposal to help agencies dispose of properties that have outlasted their usefulness to the government.

In recent years as much as 10 percent of the buildings and structures owned by the federal government were considered either excess or underused even as they continued to rack up millions in upkeep and maintenance costs.

In 2011, the administration proposed the Civilian Property Realignment Act (CPRA), which would have set up an independent panel tasked with identifying excess federal properties and making recommendations on whether to dispose of them. Congress would then be required to vote, all-or-nothing, on the panel's recommendations — similar to the BRAC process used to shutter military bases.

Congress however never took the measure up and instead seemed more intent on working on its own solutions to the real property riddle. In February 2012, the House approved a Republican-supported measure introduced by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) that also modeled federal property disposal on the BRAC process. But the White House objected that that measure didn't go far enough.

A Senate real-property bill, sponsored by Sen Tom Carper (D-Del.), the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, is part of the postal reform bill approved by that committee last month.

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