Zients: Gov buildings for sale

Thursday - 3/3/2011, 5:55pm EST

Jeffrey Zients, federal chief performance officer

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The "for sale" sign may be going up in front of a federal building near you. The Obama administration moving forward with its plan to get rid of federal property the government doesn't need.

The administration proposing an independent board that would make recommendations on shedding that property. The White House plans to sell some of it.

Jeffrey Zients, federal chief performance officer, said $15 billion could be saved over just three years.

From Wednesday's briefing, Zients said:

So why does the federal government continue to own and pay for properties it just doesn't need? Three main reasons. First: red tape. There are over 20 requirements to sell or get rid of a federal property, each with its own rules, guidelines and bureaucratic processes. It's all well intentioned and, in some cases, it probably makes sense. But it doesn't make sense to use the same procedure when you're selling a small warehouse and when you're selling a downtown office building.

Second reason: financial barriers. Ironically, agencies often don't have the money they need to sell a property. They can't cover the short-term costs, things like moving expenses and transaction costs. This often prevents agencies from capturing the obvious ongoing savings from getting rid of a property they no longer need.

Third reason: political interests. While local politicians and leaders love to reside over ribbon-cutting ceremonies, getting rid of property can be a much less rewarding experience. Not surprisingly, these same leaders are hard-pressed to support the elimination of federal properties in their local areas. Too often these political interests slow down or sometimes, in some cases, completely stop the effort to get rid of unnecessary property.

So red tape, financial barriers, political interests -- that's why the government owns thousands of properties it doesn't need and is wasting taxpayer dollars.

Read the post on the White House blog.