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Senate Developing Legislation to Shed Excess Federal Property

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  • July 20, 2011
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Norfolk, Va. — The chair of the Senate subcommittee overseeing federal real estate is crafting legislation to encourage federal agencies to dispose of thousands of unneeded properties, a member of his staff said during a special session Wednesday at the ADC 2011 Annual Conference.

The bill Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs’ Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, is considering would help the government trim its inventory of 10,000 excess properties and 45,000 underutilized ones, said Velvet Johnson, a committee staff member.

There is a consensus that “something needs to be done,” Johnson said.

The legislation would enhance federal agencies’ existing authorities for disposing of unneeded property. For example, only some departments are allowed to retain the proceeds realized from selling property. Extending that authority to other agencies would increase their incentive to get rid of their excess holdings.

The legislation also would weigh in on federal leasing, another area of concern of Carper’s. There are many examples of agencies that lease property when it would be more cost effective to purchase space, she said.

Johnson did not say whether the bill under consideration would incorporate a civilian version of the BRAC Commission, the most notable feature of legislation now moving in the House.

In May, the House Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management passed the Civilian Property Realignment Act. Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) introduced H.R. 1734, which would establish a framework through which an independent commission would review federal properties and make recommendations for consolidations, co-locations, redevelopment, selling or other actions to minimize costs and produce savings for the taxpayer.

In 2007, Carper introduced a bill, S. 1667, requiring the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to establish a five-year pilot program for the expedited disposal of federal real property. It called for agencies to recommend candidate properties for disposal but gave OMB the authority to make final selections. The bill would have mandated that properties not be sold for less than fair market value. It also would have provided for agencies to receive funding to cover associated administrative expenses along with 20 percent of the remainder of the sale proceeds, with the rest going to the Treasury.

The bill passed out of committee but was never taken up by the full Senate.

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