House Hearing Considers Alternate Proposals for Pruning Excess Properties

Two proposals for expediting the federal government’s disposal of unneeded real property were highlighted during a hearing Wednesday by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The two bills were introduced by members of the committee earlier this year. At the hearing, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said his bill, H.R. 665, would eliminate burdensome requirements giving priority claim on excess properties to public users, reported The measure would allow agencies to retain 20 percent of the revenue generated by selling properties and dedicate the remainder to debt reduction.

Rep. Mike Quigley (R-Ill.) also testified before the panel. His bill, H.R. 1205, would require the General Services Administration to submit a list of surplus properties to Congress annually, according to

To date, the oversight committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), had not been leading the effort in the House to reform federal property disposal. That campaign has been spearheaded by the Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management whose chairman, Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), also testified yesterday.

Denham earlier introduced a measure establishing an independent commission that 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. The economic development subcommittee passed Denham’s bill, H.R. 1734, on May 25.

Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs’ Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, is expected to introduce similar legislation shortly.

CBO Questions Savings

Issa used the hearing to unveil a recent analysis by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) concluding that the Obama administration’s proposal to streamline property disposal would cost the government money over the next 10 years in stark contrast to the $15 billion in savings it had touted. Denham’s proposal is similar in many respects to the administration’s; both, for instance, would create a civilian BRAC commission.

The administration’s plan would allow agencies to spend up to 40 percent of the proceeds gained from selling excess properties. As a result, the proposal would increase direct spending by $60 million, CBO concluded, because some of the revenue going to agencies would have accrued to the federal government under current law and could not be spent. In addition, CBO estimated that carrying out the proposal would cost $420 million over the next five years to prepare properties for sale.

“There is broad agreement that the federal government should stop wasting money on properties it doesn’t need and that taxpayers should reap the benefits,” Issa said after yesterday’s hearing. “For a monumental undertaking like this to work, the administration must back up their claimed savings and partner with Congress and private and non-profit stakeholders to forge consensus,” he added.

Testimony from the hearing is available on the oversight committee’s website.

Dan Cohen
Dan Cohen

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