Senators Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Improve Management of Federal Property

WASHINGTON – A bipartisan group of Senators introduced legislation to improve how the federal government manages its buildings and other property across the country. The Federal Property Management Reform Act of 2016, introduced by Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Angus King (I-Maine), and James Lankford (R-Okla.) last night, would 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.

“It’s been clear to me and to others for a long time now that we can get better results and save taxpayer dollars by improving the way we manage federal property,” said Sen. Carper, ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “In fact, the federal government’s property portfolio has been labeled a ‘high risk’ for waste and mismanagement by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) for over a decade. The good news is that we can solve this problem with some common sense steps that have proven to be effective. This bipartisan legislation would, among other things, require federal agencies to account for their properties and take a hard look at which assets they actually need and which could be sold or put to better use. It would also give agencies the resources they need to sell and better manage their assets. All told, this bill is a win-win for agencies and the taxpayers. I thank my cosponsors, Senators Portman, Heitkamp, Johnson, King, and Lankford, and I look forward to working with them and our colleagues in Congress to pass this common-sense bill.”

“This bill takes important steps to save taxpayers millions while also making the government more efficient,” said Sen. Portman. “It includes commonsense measures to ensure that surplus properties are moved off the books. ‎This is a smart solution to an ever-growing problem and I look forward to helping move this bill forward.”

“We need to make sure the federal government knows what property it owns and how it is being used. This bipartisan bill will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the federal government by saving taxpayer dollars,” said Sen. Heitkamp. “Our bill will also look at designing postal vehicles that are better equipped to handle the challenges of delivering mail in rural areas, which was a key provision in my bill to improve mail delivery in rural communities. By working with Senator Carper, we were also able to include a provision that directs the Federal Property Council to examine the use of public-private partnerships to better manage federal property by harnessing private sector expertise.”

“The federal government can and must do a better job managing its property. Today, too many federal buildings are under-utilized, and in many cases, agencies aren’t taking the necessary steps to maximize space or dispose of unused properties,” said Sen. King. “That’s not only wasted space, but it’s also wasted taxpayer dollars. Our legislation would take meaningful steps toward ensuring that federal agencies manage their properties more efficiently and that taxpayer money is put to better use.”

“Greater efficiency and management is sorely needed in every area of the federal government, especially in our public real estate portfolio,” said Sen. Lankford. “Some estimates show that we spend about $1.7 billion in federal funds to maintain more than 75,000 empty and underutilized buildings. This is an unacceptable level of waste and mismanagement. 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.”

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;