NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

WHAT'S IN THE GOVERNMENT'S ATTIC?

April 14, 2005

The federal government owns large amounts of property, but it doesn't have an efficient way of cataloguing and managing them, says John Palatiello of the Reason Public Policy Foundation.

  • Over 30 federal agencies control hundreds of thousands of real property assets worldwide worth hundreds of billions of dollars; all told, the government estimates it owns some 600 million acres of land.
  • However, none of its inventories are current or accurate (including some duplication and redundancy), resulting in the waste of taxpayer dollars; currently, it is unknown where the land is, what it is being used for, and whether it is being put to its best use.

Palatiello says the federal government should follow the lead of state and local governments, some of which have used geographic information systems (GIS) to track real estate within their jurisdictions, to record its land holdings:

  • In California, instructing state agencies to catalog all property and selling off the surplus, will lead to a projected $50 million in additional revenue next year.
  • In 1995, Philadelphia used GIS to optimize garbage truck routes, saving the city over $1 million in overtime pay.
  • Moreover, it is estimated that Santa Clara County, California could reduce staff time by 75 percent and save $720,000 per year if it adopted a multi-participant GIS system.

Source: John M. Palatiello, "What's in the Government's Attic," Privatization Watch Vol. 28, No. 7, Reason Public Policy Institute, February 2005.

 

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