The Congressional Budget Office has cast a skeptical eye on President Obama’s proposal to shed excess federal real estate through creating a special Civilian Property Realignment Board. CBO says in a June 27 letter to a House committee chairman that the White House proposal is unlikely to bring in the $16 billion in additional revenue that the Office of Management and Budget projects.
But the proposal has supporters in the administration and in Congress, who contend that the current system for disposing of excess federal property isn’t working and that a civilian panel, modeled after the military Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) program, is needed to streamline the process.
Construction industry sources say that the plan, if enacted, would create work for design firms and contractors, and their employees, at a time when projects still are too scarce.
But CBO told House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), that there would be an upfront cost of $420 million between 2012 and 2016 to prepare properties for sale or transfer. CBO also disputed the Obama administration’s claim that the real estate sales would reap more than $3 billion per year from properties’ sales.
CBO said it reviewed past federal real estate sales efforts and determined the new White House plan “would probably not result in a significant increase in proceeds from the sale of federal properties over the next 10 years because we expect that the number of properties sold would not be significantly higher than what would be sold under current law.”
But CBO did say the proposal could result in additional properties being disposed of in ways that would reduce the need for federal funds to maintain them.
Nevertheless, backers of the proposal remain convinced a legislative fix is needed. Moira Mack, an OMB spokeswoman, says the plan, if put in place, would “cut through the red tape and politics that have long blocked or slowed the sale of excess property the federal government no longer needs.”
She adds, “The same long-standing barriers to selling off unneeded property that give the CBO pause are precisely the barriers the President is committed to tearing down.”
Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), who chairs a House subcommittee that oversees public buildings policy, has introduced a bill that is similar to the OMB proposal. He has been a vocal advocate for eliminating what he sees as too much unused space in federal buildings. Denham’s subcommittee cleared the measure on May 25. There was no further House action on the bill before the July 4 recess.
No comparable bill has yet been introduced in the Senate.