Federal Agencies Waste Tons Of Money On Unused Gov’t Property, GAO Report Shows

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Eric Lieberman Managing Editor
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The federal government and its agencies had more than 7,000 “excess or underutilized” pieces of property in 2015, according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report Friday.

This comes more than a decade after GAO added the management of federally owned property to its biennial “High-Risk” list in 2003.

The GAO conducted a study detailing some of the federally owned pieces of property that have become inherently wasteful from idleness.

“Properties in the Washington, D.C., area such as the Cotton Annex building, vacant General Services Administration (GSA) warehouses, and buildings on the St. Elizabeths campus…illustrate the challenges for disposal and re-utilization of vacant federal buildings,” the full report reads.

Properties falling under the scope of the GAO study have withered from desolation, and maintaining these properties will cost resources with no tangible benefit. The 118,000-square-foot Cotton Annex was first constructed in 1936 for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to Michael Neibauer of Washington Business Journal. It has been unoccupied since 2007 and the GSA created a deal in 2015 to trade the Cotton Annex with a private developer for construction services for GSA’s headquarters and the St. Elizabeths East Campus.

But just last month, the GSA withdrew the proposed exchange because Public Buildings Commissioner Norman Dong asserted that it would be more beneficial if the two properties were destroyed.

“Continuing to maintain these unneeded facilities puts the government at risk for wasting resources due to ongoing maintenance costs as well as lost revenue from failing to sell excess property,” the study summary reads.

The GAO’s report calls for an increase in reliable data, a streamlined legal process and less stringent environmental restrictions to help solve this extensive problem.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released a similar scheme in 2015 called the “National Strategy for the Efficient Use of Real Property.” The plan outlined the need to “freeze growth in the inventory, measure performance to identify opportunities for efficiency improvements through data driven decision-making, and ultimately, reduce the size of the inventory by prioritizing actions to consolidate, co-locate and dispose of properties.”

But despite claiming it already implements some of these policies and systems, the federal government still wastes vital time and money on managing the property.

The fact the federal government admittedly cannot oversee all of the property it owns signals that it may have too much to begin with.

It owns the majority of the federal property in many western states, according to GSA statistics, including Idaho (50.2 percent), Oregon (53.1 percent), Utah (57.4 percent), Alaska (69.1 percent), and Nevada (84.5 percent). Other states like Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, California, and Arizona all have 35 to 48 percent of its property owned by the federal government.

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