Anthony Principi, the star witness at a House hearing Wednesday evaluating the adoption of a BRAC-like process to unload thousands of excess federal buildings, told lawmakers he supports the White House’s proposed Civilian Property Realignment Board for expediting the disposal of surplus property.
He told the Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management Subcommittee of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, however, that he had several suggestions to improve the administration’s proposal. For one, Congress should establish criteria for the board to follow during its deliberations, said Principi, who chaired the 2005 BRAC Commission and served as secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department.
He also suggested that all of the board’s deliberations be open to the public. The 2005 BRAC Commission maintained a website for that purpose, Principi noted.
The administration’s proposed legislation calls for the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to manage the selection process, including the authority to approve or disapprove the board’s recommendations. Neither the president nor the OMB director should have the ultimate authority to approve or disapprove the recommendations. If the president disagrees with the recommendations, they should be returned to the board which could modify them or send them directly to Congress for approval, Principi said.
He also stressed the need for an effective tool to estimate the cost savings of proposed realignments and closures. “In the case of BRAC 2005, transformation and not cost savings was the key driver in the secretary’s recommendations to the commission,” he noted in his written testimony.
To read the written testimony submitted by Principi and the hearing’s other witnesses, or to view a video of the hearing, visit the subcommittee’s website.