Statement in Support of Public Buildings Reform and Savings 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. 4487, “Public Buildings Reform and Savings Act of 2016”
May 23, 2016
I yield myself as much time as I may consume.
I rise in support of H.R. 4487, the “Public Buildings Reform and Savings Act of 2016”. This bill begins the process of reforming the General Services Administration (GSA) Public Building Service and the Federal Protective Service.
I would like to thank Chairman Barletta for being a partner in developing this important legislation directing GSA to improve the management of federal real estate. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has consistently listed the management of federal real property an area of “high-risk”. The provisions contained in today’s legislation will address many of the concerns that GAO has documented.
Specifically, the bill will direct GSA to reform the leasing process and tighten oversight of the construction program. The centerpiece of this legislation is a five year pilot program designed to streamline the GSA leasing procurement process. By raising the threshold for simplified lease acquisitions, I believe GSA will be able to reduce their workload on smaller leases and focus their staff on the execution of larger leases that can provide even more savings to taxpayers.
While owning is often the most cost effective option for housing Federal agencies, there will always be a need for the federal government to lease space. The pilot program, and the GAO reports authorized by this bill, is expected to provide the Transportation Committee with definitive data about the most efficient way to lease federal office space. The interim reports on the pilot program, and the effectiveness of GSA’s use of commercial brokers, will be instructive as to which new authorities Congress should let expire in five years, and which we should keep.
I am also pleased that today’s bill includes several of the reforms I authored in H.R. 1850, the Federal Protective Service Improvement Act of 2015. In the aftermath of the 1995 Murrah Building bombing in Oklahoma City, the Department of Justice, or DOJ, assessed the vulnerability of Federal office buildings in the United States, particularly related to acts of terrorism and other forms of violence. DOJ made several recommendations, including upgrading the Federal Protective Service (FPS) and bringing each Federal facility up to higher minimum standards for its security level.
The reforms in today’s legislation include creating a national framework for the 13,000 contract guards who protect federal buildings, employees, and visitors every day. It mandates a minimum level of training for Protective Service Officers, or PSOs, while providing authority for PSOs to carry firearms and detain suspects accused of a felony on federal property. As a former law enforcement officer, I can’t over-state the importance of strong training standards for security personnel at every federal facility across the country.
The bill also requires the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to study whether it has a sufficient number of law enforcement officers and inspectors necessary to regularly conduct security assessments of federal facilities. Another provision requires a study of whether FPS’s fee structure is sufficient to fund the strong law enforcement presence needed today. I expect that when these reports are completed, they will help guide the Committee’s efforts to address FPS’ long term funding and staffing issues.
I believe it is imperative that we do everything possible to protect the millions of federal workers and daily visitors to federal buildings. With increased oversight and additional legislative authority, I believe the Federal Protective Service can fulfill its mission.
I hope that we can continue to work in a bipartisan manner on these matters. I thank the Chair and Ranking Member of the full Committee who both co-sponsored and supported this legislation. Together, we can continue to put forward common sense reforms that allow both GSA and FPS to be good stewards of our Nation’s public buildings.
I reserve the balance of my time.