Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del.

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del. Charles Dharapak/AP

GSA and Postal Service can improve property management, auditors say

GAO recommends better use of co-location opportunities.

Underused buildings and insufficient interagency coordination are causing the government’s two largest civilian property owners to miss opportunities for cost-saving collocation arrangements, auditors said in a a new report.

The General Services Administration and the U.S. Postal Service, which manage more than 400,000 properties, rely too much on leasing and could take greater advantage of space-sharing possibilities with other agencies, according to a Government Accountability Office study conducted from July 2011 to July 2012.

The survey was requested by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee on federal financial management, who has been working on legislation to reform the federal civilian property management process, as have members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“The federal government owns facilities that are underutilized in locations where it also leases space,” the auditors said. “In some cases, space within these government-owned properties could be occupied by other government agencies.”

The report said the U.S. Postal Service’s under-exploited floor and retail window space could be used by other federal agencies to generate space-use efficiencies for USPS and to expand citizen access to government services. “Collocation could also help achieve agency synergies, such as shared technology infrastructure,” GAO said. But “the ability to identify collocation opportunities is hindered by the lack of a formal information-sharing mechanism.” The Federal Real Property Council, as a national, policy-oriented body and, as such, does not manage the local-level negotiations that collocation would require.

A draft of the report was reviewed by the Postal Service, GSA, the Office of Management and Budget and other departments, whose officials generally agreed with its recommendations.