House Republicans Prod OMB on Federal Property Data

Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., a senior Republican on the House Oversight Committee Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., a senior Republican on the House Oversight Committee J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Two top members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee are pressuring the Obama administration to turn over documents on federal property holdings, threatening a subpoena if the Office of Management and Budget does not comply.

As part of its ongoing monitoring of administration handling of vacant and outmoded federal buildings that continue to cost public dollars to maintain, the panel had first requested the data in December 2011.

“On March 20, 2013, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform reported to the full House, H.R. 328, the Excess Federal Building and Property Disposal Act of 2013,” wrote committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Operations Subcommittee Chairman John Mica, R-Fla., wrote to Obama administration budget director Sylvia Mathews Burwell on Monday. “In order to inform this legislation and to assist in our ongoing oversight efforts in this area, the committee has repeatedly requested Federal Real Property Profile data held by OMB, and yet these requests have consistently gone unfulfilled.”

After their first request, the lawmakers received a reply from Jeffrey Zients, then-OMB deputy director for management and now director of the National Economic Council, who said OMB was “prepared to transmit to the committee a data file that will include all domestic civilian assets that are listed in the FRBB inventory as ‘underutilized’ or ‘not mission critical’ that have a [plant replacement value] of higher than $50 million.”

Issa and Mica summarized their record of hearings on vacant properties and their committee’s passage of a bill to create an independent civilian property oversight board, a project that OMB has supported, though with differing details. The Republicans also mentioned two federal properties that have been vacant for years: the David W. Dyer Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Miami, which they said requires $1.2 million a year in maintenance, and the L Street Warehouse in Washington, which costs $70,000 a year in maintenance.

“Should OMB continue to ignore the committee’s requests,” the letter states, “we will have no alternative but to consider the use of compulsory process to obtain the requested documents and information.”

OMB spokesman Frank Benenati told Government Executive, “We are currently reviewing this letter and will respond accordingly.” 

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