NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

GOP Blasts Property Oversight

November 4, 2010

Led by ranking minority-party member John L. Mica (Fla.), Republicans on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee recently issued a report, criticizing the management of real estate and other assets by agencies including the General Services Administration (GSA), Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers and Federal Emergency Management Agency, says the Washington Post.

  • The federal government is the country's largest real estate owner, with a portfolio of about 1.2 million facilities nationwide.
  • An audit conducted during the George W. Bush administration found that the government owns 14,000 vacant buildings and underuses 55,000 other locations.

The Republicans also lamented the government's inaction in repurposing some prominent Washington properties, says the Post.

  • In the report, they point to the Old Post Office Pavilion, a partially occupied historic building on Pennsylvania Ave. NW that the government spends about $12 million annually to maintain, producing an annual operating loss of more than $6 million.
  • During the real estate boom, developers expressed interest in transforming the property into a hotel, but the government has not moved to sell or lease the property.
  • A new annex to the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse, at 333 Constitution Ave. NW between the Mall and Judiciary Square, is also on the underutilized list.
  • Though federal courts occupy the courthouse and annex, the buildings house 10 fewer judges than projected, and two fewer "than it had when the new annex was proposed," according to the report.

The criticism could have an effect on current and future GSA searches for office space.  The report criticized the new headquarters of the U.S. Transportation Department, which the government leases, as well as plans to lease 427,000 square feet for the Federal Trade Commission, arguing that buying a building instead could save the government as much as $300 million over the life of the facility.

Source: Jonathan O'Connell, "GOP Blasts Property Oversight," Washington Post, November 1, 2010.

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