Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., was the bill's primary sponsor.

Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., was the bill's primary sponsor. Evan Vucci/AP

Bill to Revamp Federal Property Disposal Headed to Obama’s Desk

Bipartisan plan debated for years would create new board, asset database.

After more than four years of back-and-forth with the White House budget office, Congress on Saturday passed bipartisan legislation aimed at streamlining the disposal of unneeded federal properties.

The Federal Assets Sale and Transfer Act (H.R. 4465), which cleared the House in May and the Senate this weekend, would require the Office of Management and Budget and the General Services Administration to improve the inventory of excess properties by creating a new database based on agency reports of eligible sites. 

In addition, it would set up a six-year Public Buildings Reform Board to use standards created by OMB to prepare a report that identifies five additional properties that could be sold on the open market, eventually to generate billions in revenue. It also consolidates federal office space and continues the federal policy of giving organizations working to curb homelessness a shot at using surplus buildings as shelters.

In its bid to “shrink the federal footprint,” the Obama administration spent years in stalemate with members of Congress over the make-up and authority of the buildings reform board.

“Empty buildings are costing taxpayers billions and should be divested or redeveloped to help pay down our national debt as quickly as possible,” said Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., the bill’s primary sponsor who worked with the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “My bill will cut through the red tape and put in place systems to make property management work for taxpayers.”

Though Republicans have been especially critical of the seeming slow pace of General Services Administration-led property sales, the bill on its way to President Obama’s desk is bipartisan. The bill “reflects a collaborative effort to improve real estate management in the federal government,” said House Transportation and Infrastructure Ranking Member Peter DeFazio, D-Ore.  “This legislation provides for a rigorous inventory and analysis of federal real property, creating a board to provide an objective perspective on the value and usefulness of the federal government’s real estate assets while streamlining the real estate disposal process.”