Statement in Support of H.R. 4465, Federal Assets Sale And Transfer Act of 2016, May 23, 2016
the Honorable André Carson
Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
H.R. 4465, “Federal Assets Sale And Transfer Act of 2016”
May 23, 2016
I yield myself such time as I may consume.
I rise in support of H.R. 4465.
First, I’d like to commend my friend and colleague, Mr. Denham, for his work to bring this bill before the Transportation Committee, and now the full House. As the former chairman of our Subcommittee on Public Buildings, I’d like to recognize his work on this issue for a number of years.
Today’s legislation has the potential to be a valuable tool in right-sizing the federal footprint. It authorizes an independent Board that could provide a source of revenue for the federal government to invest in its existing buildings, and to better manage its real estate portfolio. The Board would make recommendations to dispose of unneeded and underutilized real estate, and it would make recommendations to consolidate federal real estate functions where appropriate.
H.R. 4465 is consistent with several government-wide memoranda issued by the President that ordered agencies to reduce and freeze their real estate footprints. These directives represent the Administration’s sustained priority of improving the management of federal real estate. I believe H.R. 4465 dovetails well with the Administration’s priorities and begins to address the issue in a meaningful way.
Both the Transportation Committee and the Government Accountability Office have repeatedly raised serious concerns about the way federal real property has been managed. The proposed Board would be highly instrumental in reconfiguring, co-locating, and realigning the federal real estate portfolio with best practices.
Although I believe the Board can serve an important role in disposing of unneeded real estate, I also urge the Board to not sell real estate assets in a soft market, or sell properties that hamstring the government’s ability to house federal employees in the future. Expert and specialized skill is necessary to dispose of underutilized real estate assets while avoiding selling property the government could need in the future. Without this expertise, we could end up with transactions leading to future long-term leasing because of the haphazard disposal of underutilized real estate.
It is also important to note that today’s legislation contains several checks and balances. As a result of concerns expressed on my side of the aisle, there were several changes made to the bill while negotiating the final version. Instead of the bill requiring six annual recommendations as originally proposed, the Board will now make three sets of detailed recommendations over six years so that Congress can conduct oversight of the Board’s actions and properly gauge the alignment of the Board’s goals with Congressional priorities.
In addition, the aggregate value of transactions is capped at no more than $8 billion. Each potential real estate action with a value above $20 million will require an appropriation and will go through the normal GSA prospectus approval process. Federal agencies will also be required to coordinate construction and alteration projects with GSA. I appreciate that the sponsor of this legislation was willing to work with me to address my concerns and I look forward to continuing to work with him as this program is implemented.
In conclusion, I support today’s legislation. It creates an independent Board to make recommendations on how to meet the goal of right-sizing the federal real estate portfolio and saving taxpayers millions of dollars. I intend to conduct vigorous oversight of this Board and the actions taken by GSA, in conjunction with other land holding federal agencies, in order to make it a success.
I reserve the balance of my time.