Committee Approves Bipartisan Legislation to Improve Management of Federal Property

WASHINGTON – Today, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee unanimously approved legislation to improve how the federal government manages its buildings and other property across the country. The Federal Property Management Reform Act of 2016, which was introduced by Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and cosponsored by Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Angus King (I-Maine), and James Lankford (R-Okla.) was approved by voice vote in a committee business meeting this morning. The legislation will establish a framework for federal agencies to better manage existing space in a more cost-effective manner and help facilitate the disposal of unneeded federal property.

Specifically, the Federal Property Management Reform Act would require federal agencies to maintain an up-to-date inventory of the property it owns, incentivize agencies to dispose of excess property by allowing them to retain and reinvest sale proceeds, and establish a Federal Property Council to develop uniform guidance for agency property managers to follow and share best practices in property management among agencies.

“This bipartisan, common-sense legislation will save billions of taxpayer dollars and improve the way we manage federal property,” said Sen. Carper, ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “I thank my cosponsors, Chairman Johnson and members of the Committee for moving this legislation quickly. The federal government’s property portfolio has been labeled ‘high risk’ by the Government Accountability Office for far too long. This legislation would require federal agencies to account for their properties and help the government get a handle on its vast assets. I look forward to getting this bill through the Senate and on to our colleagues in the House shortly.”

“I’m pleased that our bill that will save taxpayers millions and make the government more efficient has advanced in the Senate,” said Sen. Portman. “It includes commonsense measures to help see that the government moves surplus properties off the books. This is a smart solution to an ever-growing problem and I look forward to working to get it over the finish line.”

“Today, we’re another step closer to making sure the federal government knows what property it owns and how that federal property is being used. We can save taxpayer dollars by advancing this bipartisan bill to make government more efficient and effective,” said Sen. Heitkamp. “What I’m particularly excited about is that this legislation will also examine the feasibility of designing postal vehicles more capable of delivering mail in rural areas – a key part of my bill to improve mail delivery for North Dakota and all of rural America.”

“I’m glad to have worked with Ranking Member Carper and Senator Portman on this common-sense, good government bill,” said Sen. Johnson, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “In addition to the Federal Asset Sale and Transfer Act, which has already been approved by the committee, this bill will give federal agencies the management tools needed to cut wasteful spending on unneeded federal government real estate.”

“Maine taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill for government property that goes unused, and the Committee’s unanimous approval of our bill is a solid step toward ensuring they won’t,” said Sen. King. “With far too many unused or underutilized federal buildings draining vital resources, our common-sense legislation will make sure that the federal government manages its properties more efficiently and that taxpayer dollars are spent more effectively. I applaud the Committee for its vote today and look forward to advancing this legislation in the Senate.”

“This Committee continues to report out legislation that would ensure greater transparency and efficiency of federal government resources,” said Sen. Lankford. “The Federal Real Property Asset Management Reform Act is needed to enhance federal property management practices and to provide incentives for agencies to remove unneeded property from the taxpayer dole. I’m pleased this bill has passed Committee and I urge the full Senate to take it up for a vote right away.”

The federal government’s real property holdings are vast and diverse, incorporating hundreds of thousands of buildings and permanent structures across the county, and making it the largest property owner in the United States. In fact, every year since January 2003, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has placed real property management on its list of “high risk” government activities, citing long-standing problems with excess and underutilized property; deteriorating and aging facilities; unreliable property data; and a heavy reliance on costly leasing instead of ownership to meet new needs.

Specifically, the Federal Property Management Reform Act of 2016 would:

  • Require agencies to maintain a current inventory of real property, including information about the cost and use of their facilities and how these properties fit into the agencies broader management plan;
  • Codify and expand the duties of the Federal Real Property Council to ensure this body develops guidance and ensures the implementation of strategies for better managing federal property;
  • Incentivize agencies to dispose of excess property through retention of the net proceeds of sale as long as those proceeds are used to further disposal activities, investments in federal buildings personnel or for deficit reduction;
  • Codify the broader management framework of the Administration’s National Strategy for the Efficient Use of Real Property, ensuring these actions become a permanent framework for agency property management;