GSA budget focuses on selling property, green buildings and citizen IT

President Obama's fiscal 2012 budget would boost the General Services Administration's budget by $200 million from fiscal 2010 and stabilize it during the next five years. It would task GSA with continuing its effort to sell off excess federal properties, pursue greener federal buildings, and achieve savings through paperless communication that allows reductions in spending on office supplies and printing.

Appropriations represent only 2.5 percent of the government landlord's budget because the lion's share comes from fees from other agencies for goods and services. The Obama budget for GSA focuses on spending on the federal buildings fund, the public buildings service supply and technology enhancements. The biggest winner under the budget request would be the federal buildings fund, which would increase by some $276 million over its fiscal 2010 level.

GSA also would receive $62 million for its inspector general, $34 million for its interagency electronic government fund, $3.7 million for offices of former presidents, $17 million for its federal acquisition workforce initiatives fund, and nearly $40 million for the federal citizen services fund, which promotes innovative information technologies for doing business with the government.

The Obama team retains high hopes for following through on the president's June 2010 announcement of an effort to accelerate the sale of underused federal buildings.

"Federal agencies operate and maintain more real property assets than are needed," reads the fiscal 2012 budget document titled, "Putting the Nation on a Sustainable Fiscal Path." It counted 55,000 properties as "under- or not utilized." (The Government Accountability Office in February gave a slightly lower number of 45,190 underused buildings.)

Since the president's directive, the budget said, "Federal agencies have identified $1.7 billion of the $3 billion in nondefense savings opportunities that the president has requested. The Department of Defense is also on track to achieve $5 billion in real property cost savings through the base realignment and closure process in the same time period. . . . Over the past 20 years, the government has used a process to dispose of military real estate holdings, and the administration will pursue a similar one to more quickly dispose of civilian properties and realize savings."

The Obama budget also keeps up its pursuit of greener buildings, in government as well as in the private sector. The governmentwide GSA fund for this purpose is $105 million. "The budget proposes to make American buildings more energy efficient through three new initiatives," the budget stated. They include "redesigning the current tax deduction for commercial buildings and upgrades to a credit and increasing the program to an estimated $1 billion; launching a new loan guarantee program at the Department of Energy to increase financing opportunities for universities, schools and hospitals; encouraging use of the Small Business Administration's 504 Certified Development Company loan guarantee program to support energy-sufficiency retrofit investments in commercial buildings; and creating a $100 million 'Race to Green' competition for state and municipal governments to implement innovative approaches to building codes, standards and performance measurement so that commercial building efficiency will become the norm."

In a section on governmentwide administrative efficiency, the president's budget noted that GSA "plans to achieve $10 million in savings in 2012 by deploying advanced teleconferencing technology, consolidating and co-locating conferences, and reducing nonmission critical travel." In addition, "GSA is leading governmentwide efforts to obtain the lowest prices for all agencies on certain common commodities such as office supplies." Further savings could materialize in greater use of online venues for required advertising of forfeited property under programs in GSA and the Homeland Security and Justice departments, the budget said.

GSA staff were disappointed to learn the budget does not include their requested $20 million to design a new federal center in Kansas City, Mo., the Kansas City Business Journal reported on Monday.

Citizens in Kansas City have long hoped for a new $211 million, 493,000-square-foot federal building to anchor a major downtown redevelopment project. When word reached GSA that Obama's budget omitted the funds, GSA spokesman Charlie Cook said in a written statement to the Kansas paper: "Our proposal for a new federal building in Kansas City remains a priority for the GSA. We will continue work toward making it a reality. Our GSA project planners will continue, for example, to work to secure and carry out an environmental assessment on a site and to conduct a study of federal agency tenant needs."

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