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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Real Property Disposition: Overview and Issues for the 111th Congress

Garrett Hatch
Analyst in American National Government

Federal executive branch agencies hold an extensive real property portfolio that includes nearly 900,000 buildings and structures, and 41 million acres of land worldwide. These assets have been acquired over a period of decades to help agencies fulfill their diverse missions. The government's portfolio encompasses properties with a range of uses, including barracks, health clinics, warehouses, laboratories, national parks, boat docks, and offices. As agencies' missions change over time, so, too, do their real property needs, thereby rendering some assets less useful or unneeded altogether. 

Real property disposition is the process by which federal agencies identify and then transfer, donate, or sell facilities and land they no longer need. Disposition is an important asset management function because the costs of maintaining unneeded properties can be substantial, consuming billions of dollars that might be applied to pressing real property needs, such as acquiring new space and repairing existing facilities, or to other policy issues, such as reducing the national debt. 

Audits of agency real property portfolios have found that the government holds thousands of unneeded properties, and must spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually to maintain them. Agencies have said that their disposal efforts are often hampered by legal and budgetary disincentives, and competing stakeholder interests. In addition, Congress is limited in its capacity to conduct oversight of the disposal process because it lacks access to reliable, comprehensive real property data. The government's inability to efficiently dispose of its unneeded property is a major reason that federal real property management has been identified by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) as a "high-risk" area since 2003. 

This report begins with an explanation of the real property disposal process, and then discusses some of the factors that have made disposition inefficient and costly. It then examines real property legislation introduced in the 111th Congress that would address those problems, including the Federal Real Property Disposal Enhancement Act of 2009 (H.R. 2495), S.Amdt. 1042, and the President's FY2011 budget request. The report concludes with policy options for enhancing both the disposal process and congressional oversight of it

Date of Report: July 27, 2010
Number of Pages: 17
Order Number: R41240
Price: $29.95

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